Book covers: balancing the author’s opinion & readers’ perceptions

I really liked the first cover for Lethal Inheritance. My daughter said, “I know it’s what you want, and I know you like it, but …” I didn’t hear the rest.  I was too busy thinking about all the things I liked about and why I thought it was good. I won’t bore you with the list here, every author who hangs onto their cover and is defensive in the face of suggestions has their reasons, and they all have value, but what I forgot to look at, and what Kimberley Rose was trying to tell me was to consider what the reader sees.

I first reconsidered the cover when an early reviewer said she didn’t like the cover, but I dismissed it as just a personal opinion. That’s easy to do, and it stops you having to really consider the person’s opinion. Basically, a cop out.

A mother who bought You Can’t Shatter Me for her son told me that he wouldn’t read it because it was a girl’s book. That was when it had just a girl on the cover. I soon changed that one because half the book is from the boy’s POV! Lethal inheritance isn’t a girl’s book, but the original cover had just a girl on the front as well. Still, I didn’t see what was staring me in the face, ie it’s not what I think of the cover that’s important, it’s what the reader reads into it.

As time wore on, I began wondering why Lethal Inheritance wasn’t selling better than it was. With the awesome reviews and the AIA Seal of Excellence, shouldn’t it be flying out the door? I redid the blurb, made it much better, but it didn’t help. Then I had a big wake up, when I did an advert for A Matter of Perception and it sold really well. But it’s just short stories, I thought. It has a really good cover though, good enough to sell something that isn’t a popular genre.  Soon after, I did an advert for Lethal Inheritance on a major site and it didn’t do as well as a book with all it’s accolades should. Only after that failure did I look at the cover with the reader in mind.

What are they seeing? I liked all the things that hinted at the story, but they didn’t leave much to the readers imagination. Is it possible that the visuals might diminish, rather than enhance the story? If all is shown, the reader doesn’t need to read it to find out what it’s about.

I loved that the photo was of a girl looking strong, but actually readers probably just found it confronting. The photo is young and female, a fact that may put off anyone over the age of 16 or male. Masses of people in those categories would love this book, perhaps more than the 16 yr old girls. I can’t afford to have a cover that cuts off a good chunk of my readership. That realisation did it.

Okay, I said to Kimberley, what kind of cover would you do?

What she came up with was much less prescriptive and not at all confronting, yet it was still eye-catching and had the  atmosphere of the book without giving any details away. It’s a much more mature cover, one with more appeal for the older age group that I know will love the book. During the Awesome Indies opening party that happened soon after the cover change it sold really well, more than all the other books.  Why, I wondered, didn’t I listen to the artist in the first place?

Cover One.


Cover Two


These are both good covers. There isn’t anything wrong with cover one. It’s a fabulous cover, but cover two simply works better in terms of appealing to a wider variety of people, and no matter how beautiful, or arty or well-designed  a cover is, what’s important is that it does its job ie sell your book.

Do you agree that cover two sells the book better?

If you need a cover or are interested in a new one, you can see some of Kimberley’s work on the Centrepiece Productions Design Studio Website. You can get a good looking simple cover for $12 and a more complex one for $22.

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