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What’s in a cover?

This week, and coming soon to an Amazon near you – honest! I just have a few hoops to jump through first – I updated the cover to Inish Carraig. I’ve also, a few months ago, had a new cover designed by Gary at Tickety boo for the Abendau trilogy – and this is the cover I think best represents the trilogy.

Here’s that cover: 

I’ll talk about why we went from a spaceship to a picture of a person, looking determined and dogged first.

A spaceship is a great cover image for many Space Opera books. It tells, clearly, what genre the book is in, it states who its target audience is. But! There are a zillion Space Opera books with space ships on them and, frankly, they don’t tell the reader much about the story. Which is fine if you’re playing with the SO tropes and writing a conventional, space-based, story.

Which Abendau isn’t. It’s a big sprawling story about people, centred on one man. Anyone picking it up to read about space battles will be sorely disappointed. Which is why, when it came to packaging the trilogy, it had to be Kare on the front cover, and nothing but Kare. After all, I put him through hell: he may as well get something from it.

That was an easy one – or easier – than when I started to look at Inish Carraig.

Now, I love the original cover of Inish Carraig. 

It looks especially good on the paperback – and I don’t intend to update the paperback (unless the new cover has a big enough impact on sales to make me think it might be worth it.) The paperback mostly sells in Northern Ireland, where it ticks over nicely, especially around the Belfast area. The cover screams Belfast. No one who has lived there, or visited it there, needs to be told that the cover image is of Samson and Goliath, the cranes that dominate the Belfast skyline.

But, I’m trying to sell a science fiction book. And when your title doesn’t scream science fiction, your cover image needs to. Frankly, in thumbnail size (which is the size you see on Amazon) Inish Carraig’s cover didn’t. The spaceship detail was lost in thumbnail.

The title wasn’t easily dealt with. I don’t want to change the title. It has become synonymous with me, in some ways. But it isn’t the easiest sell for a sci fi book. I have added An Alien Invasion Novel to the title line, but I’ve kept – and, for now, will continue to – the title.

Which meant I needed the cover to scream out that this was science fiction.

Around the time I was thinking about this, Facebook decided to give me £30 to use on ads, which I did. Those ads told me that the people clicking on it where in the 18-30 age range, and mostly women – which surprised me given Inish Carraig has a male protagonist and is probably the ‘blokey-ist’ (watch how un-PC I am) of all my books.

Now, let me be blunt. We know female readers will buy books written by male and female writers. And we also know male readers – as in the great mass, not individuals, where I know loads of blokes who don’t follow this next stereotype – prefer books by male writers and need significant pull to pick up something by a woman writer.

Now, I’m a lady in case you hadn’t realised, which meant I needed my new cover to scream that ‘this is for men, too!’ (Inish Carraig is a pretty universal story with a couple of blasting female characters in there, too – particularly Josey and Neeta).

Whilst musing on all this, Amelia Faulkner, author of Jack of Thorns, gave me some well thought out advice. The colour was a disadvantage, she felt, and the book needed a person on the cover, preferably one that will appeal to the younger demograph.

Which is the brief I went back to Gary with. And this is the cover we went to: 

Now, some thoughts. Is this a better cover than the first. Aesthetically, as a picture, I actually don't think so. I think the first is an amazing piece of art. But is it a better book cover? That's a different question....

I think so. I’ll know better when it goes live and I see what sort of sales I get on it, but I think there is more in this to draw a reader in and tells them more about what the story is.

Is the figure on the front representative of either John or Henry? Not really. Nor are they meant to be – I’m sure my image of John is different from others. But it is supposed to represent someone caught in the desolation of an invasion, someone who is ready to fight. I think it does that. It also has a gamer-esque feel to it, and I wanted that, too – because Inish Carraig is visual and visceral and has that feel to it.

I don’t know if it will do better as a cover. The other cover does well and ticks over nicely – so it is a risk to change it. But I do know the only way to learn what DOES work is to try things. And try them again. And keep going until something sticks. We’ll see if this does.


Anonymous said…
As a sci-fi fan and a gamer, may I suggest that the pose of the figure reminds me of someone squatting at 'rest' rather than someone in fight or flight mode. Apologies, but if it's not too late, perhaps the pose of the figure could be altered to one that looks a bit like a runner on the starting blocks, but from the front...or perhaps with one hand and knee on the ground, as if about to explode up and away. The gritty feel and the huge spaceship hovering overhead are great however.
Joanne Zebedee said…
The figure is the one part of the cover I can do little about - but your comments make a lot of sense, especially the idea of more action.