Wednesday, 29 May 2013

People DO judge a book by its cover!

People do judge a book by its cover -
And by its title
The title of my first book has gone through a number of incarnations. When I first published in e-book format the title was Barricades – the Road to Les Misérables. Having published, feedback suggested that the inclusion of Les Misérables was something of a two-edged sword. For those readers who disliked the original Les Misérables novel, it would be an immediate kiss of death.
     After some thought, I decided to lose Les Misérables from the title. The novel Barricades stands alone. Some principal characters  are drawn from Victor Hugo’s novel, but there is very little overlap. Also, the writing style is very different. This is not intended as a criticism of Mr Hugo, to whom I owe a great debt, but writing styles – and reader preferences – have changed greatly since Les Misérables was written.
     I finally settled on Barricades – the Journey of Javert. People who know Les Misérables will, hopefully, pick up on the connection. For those who are not familiar with Mr Hugo’s novel, it doesn’t matter. The reader does not need any knowledge of Les Misérables
     For those about to publish with Amazon, a word of warning! If publishing in paperback, it is obviously not easy to change a title, once the publishing process has commenced. But even changing titles on the e-book version is not as straight-forward as it seems. Certainly you can change the title that appears next to your book. Changing the cover of your e-book is also simplicity itself – just upload the new cover, and it will magically appear a few hours later. But when anyone searching for your book enters your title and clicks, the link will display the original title. As far as I can see, the only way to erase that permanently is to unpublish and republish - and that would mean losing all those good reviews and starting from scratch. Learn from my mistakes and give lots of thought to your title before publishing.
      Okay, the title is cast in tablets of stone.  Now for the cover. Most people with some experience and expertise suggested getting a professionally designed cover, but I thought I could design my own. After all, I have Photoshop Elements and I enjoy playing around with drawings and photographs. Since making that decision, I have lost count of the number of cover designs I have tried. My poor friends have been bombarded with endless variations (most with lots of red in them) as I prepare to launch in paperback format.
     My friends have been very patient, but I now realise that for the most part, they have either been guarded in their response, or have told me what I wanted to hear (or maybe I just didn’t hear what they were really telling me). In any case, I settled on a cover that I personally liked, and prepared to go for gold and launch into the world of p-books.
     At this stage – at this late stage, almost the 11th hour – I was very lucky. A new acquaintance offered to design my cover for me at a very reasonable cost. Since the lady in question is a professional designer, I was delighted to accept. She actually used the same original image  - which is great, because it meant I still feel some ownership of and affinity with the cover. But there the resemblance ends. Rachael’s cover is less complicated and ‘busy’, the text is much better and more balanced. The cover design is extended to the spine (which in a bookshop, may be all that people can see). In simple terms, it looks what it is – a professionally designed cover. One of my more outspoken friends summed it up beautifully –
 Thank goodness the lady volunteered her
services to you and the fiery red is no more!
All the evidence suggests that people DO judge a book by its cover, even if they are not conscious of doing so. Unless you are a professional designer or an extremely talented amateur, I would certainly advise trying to get your cover professionally designed. It is something that I will always do in the future.
 Coming shortly, the hardest thing of all. How can self published indie authors effectively promote their books?