What to do when your book cover sucks!

It is not just about the reviews!

Learning to market your book as a self-published author is an interesting and sometimes painful journey. There is so much to learn and so much to do. The book cover, the story itself, the categories and keywords, SEO, social media marketing, Twitter, Instagram. BookBub, etc. … and getting reviews. The list of things to do can quickly become rather extensive.

The reviews I get tell me my story is pretty darn good.

Of course, you always get a few bad reviews. Not everyone will like your book. That is just a fact of life.

However, most of your reviews have been 4 and 5 stars. Some of the reviews have been absolutely outstanding. So why is your book not selling a little better?

Yes. It does take time. When first starting out, you are not exactly Tom Clancy, Lee Child, or Vince Flynn! At least not yet!

You do have to keep plugging away at finding what marketing ideas work for you. There is no way you can do it all. You have to have a plan and then you have to work the plan.

Enter the experts

Through ALLi (Alliance of Independence Authors), I have been exploring and learning about marketing for self-published authors. I have been working with Beth Kallman Werner at Author Connections and now with Jim Kukral at Authors Marketing Club.

The book cover story

book cover

About a week ago, while on the phone with Jim Kukral, we went through my book’s categories and keywords and at Jim’s suggestion, made some smart changes there. I learned about KDP Rocket and if you are a self-published author, I think this tool is indispensable.

We also looked at the book cover. Jim’s comment was that the book cover looked like exactly what it is … a first cover attempt by a newbie self-published author.

I must admit it hurt just a bit. After all, I was kind of proud of the cover. I mean, I designed it myself. Jim then suggested I take a look at other book covers in the same genre; essentially military action thriller.

I did this and his point became painfully obvious. A lesson learned. Jim explained the concept of “cover to market.”  Essentially, this means your cover has to stand out in the market you are competing in. Kind of a “duh” moment actually.

So … back to the cover drawing board we went. And, about a week later, voilà!  I must admit, I love the knew cover. It fits the genre and stands out among the book covers of my competitors. It gives clues to the story line with out being a “spoiler.”

In addition, many people I have shown the book cover to really like it.  A few have not. But when I dug a little deeper, I realized this is not a genre they read very much of. That kind of clicked as well.

The unveiling!

book cover
The new cover

I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this new book cover.

I think there are several good lessons in this post. Self-publishing is an interesting new venue for aspiring authors. It is very cost effective when you are just getting started. But being self-published does not mean that you have to remake the same mistakes as everyone else.

You most certainly can if you want to!

And, we will all make our share of mistakes. However, there are legitimate experts out there who really love helping authors succeed and it does not have to be prohibitively expensive. Talk to a few people who know. Check out the competition. Learn about concepts such as “cover to market.” Check out tools like KDP Rocket. And always remember, it is not a sprint to instant success  … it is a marathon where endurance and training count.

5 thoughts on “What to do when your book cover sucks!”

  1. Hey DC, I love your new “D.C.” cover! I must say the White House has me intrigued. I agree with your revision and the advice you must have received. Remember, I have not read your book yet. However, I am more interested now by that cover. I’m big on names and covers, from restaurant names to band names to everything. What’s in a name?……Plenty. Nice work. Thanks for your honesty and candor. Good luck!

    1. Hey Reid. Thanks for your supportive feedback and thoughtful insight. There certainly is so much to learn and so much more to being a successful author than just writing a good story! Comments like yours are very motivational and really appreciated.

  2. Hey DC! I loved this post. The new cover is really well done and I very much like it! The one you designed is also good and still says something about your story but the new one does indeed convey more of the plot. I find the whole book cover marketing an interesting topic. I know a lot of YA books are colorful and aesthetically pleasing to acquire more sales but I think it’s more difficult in certain genres (as well as in self-publishing) to find a good cover that will sell, especially when you’re new or choose to pay an artist out of pocket. The tools you provided seem very helpful to authors starting out.
    I’m glad you like the new cover yourself. Regardless of how good a book looks, it’s still important for the author to love how it looks as well.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Karley!

      Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts. While I personally did like the original cover, I think it is hard to be objective with your own work. I do like the new design as well and it does seem to be making a difference.

      Again, thanks for stopping by and your really great comment!

      Best wishes,

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