Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

By Lisa Harris

Except I confess, I do.

I love covers. I love them so much, in fact, that there have been times that I've chosen to buy a book simply because I loved the cover. But the opposite is true as well. I've dismissed books because I didn't like the cover. And while that might not be fair to the author, covers speak to me.

In fact, I think that was the hardest part of switching to an ebook reader for me. (And I only did so because we are hundreds of miles from the nearest bookstore!) I could no longer study the front and back of a cover before diving into a novel. Covers set the tone and give the reader a glimpse into the story's world. As an author, one of the most exciting moments in the book process is that moment when I click on the file from my publisher and see my cover for the very first time. I just love covers.

I'm currently in the processes of putting up on line a number of my older books that I've been given the rights back to by previous publishers as ebooks. And while the content is mine, I don't have the rights to use the covers. Which means brand new covers. And while I could have paid someone to design the new covers, in trying to learn the entire process of Indie publishing, I decided to take on the task of making my own covers.

Here are two things (of many) I've learned.

1. People DO judge a book by it's cover. 

After doing a bunch of research, I realized that the new covers I had made--and loved--for my Mission Hope series didn't fit their genre of romantic suspense. At all. Which also meant the books weren't selling well. They showed that the setting was Africa, but there was nothing to indicate that this was a suspense novel, expect perhaps the title which hadn't changed. What surprised me the most--and proved to me how important cover really is--was how changing the cover made my sales go up.



2. Covers MUST fit the genre you're writing for.

The first time I attempted to make covers for my books was several years ago for a cozy mystery series I got the rights back on. At the time, with limited resources out there, they were okay. But definitely didn't scream COZY. And today. . .they really fall short. I just changed these and don't think they've switched yet, so I haven't seen sales change yet, but I think they will.

BEFORE (Book two)

AFTER (Books 1-3)

Over the past few months, I've jumped into another writing project. This time I'm going Indie on a book I wrote about ten years ago with another author. This has meant that except for edits, we're doing everything ourselves. Once again, it's been fascinating and a bit terrifying. The book has been totally rewritten, edited, formated, cover made, ads made, marketing planned. . .I could go on and on. It has really made me appreciate greatly my traditional publishers--that I hope to never leave--while at the same time it has forced me to learn to do a lot of technical things I never imaged doing. And I have to say, I'm so glad I did. But once again, it's always a bit scary as you wait to see what people think about the new cover.

So what about you? Do you love covers as much as I do? Have you ever bought a book just because of it's cover? Have you passed on a book because of it's cover?

Let me know what you think!


(Find out more about my books at my website.)


  1. Yes, I'm a sucker for good cover and it will influence me to buy a novel of an author I haven't read. But for an author who's work I enjoy the cover will have little impact expect an appreciation for the artwork itself.

    I bought Blood Ransom in its latest form but funnily I really like the African cover more. But you're right because that one makes you think you're going to read something like "Out of Africa" or similar not a suspense story which the 2nd cover does.

    And I'm very excited for your new one with Lynne. Sound like a lot of fun.

    And when I go down the Indie route (we all will at some stage) I'll seek you out for counsel.


  2. That's a really good and interesting point, Ian. If I love the author and hate the cover, I'd still buy the book. Which reminds me of that point that no matter how great your cover is, content really is king.

    I also really loved the first cover for Blood Ransom as well, but what has shocked me is how a new cover--more genre specific--changed my sales. It might simply mean as well that suspense sales are stronger in the market than as you put it, someone looking to read something like "Out of Africa." Very interesting. This Indie route is definitely an adventure of it's own. Huge learning curve, and yet I'm so glad I'm learning what I am. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing the cover for Ghost Heart ... but I'm looking forward to reading it even more!

  4. Thanks, Iola! It's definitely given me a huge appreciation for all the work that goes into it. Just a few weeks left now before it's out there. :-)

  5. I hear you, Lisa. I've bought books I already had b/c of the great new cover (only a couple). I love your new covers.

  6. Glad I'm not the only one, Janice. :-) Glad you like the new covers.

  7. Thanks for this post, Lisa. I am currently doing a series of eBooks and like you, decided to do the whole thing, learning how to do covers. I love the covers I've done so far, but having read your post, I think I should have less of the "woman's photo" and more of the background. Ah well, as you keep saying, it's a learning curve!

    1. Definitely a huge learning curve, Shirley. I do like the covers you've done for your series. :-)