Some Thoughts on Book Covers and Titles

Local postbox with a knitted crown

Hello and I hope you’ve had a lovely Jubilee weekend!

Shame today was a bit damp, at least around here. (It rained so much overnight that our little gazebo – which, admittedly, we should have had the foresight to pack away – got so much water on the roof that it ripped and is basically dead).

And our village ‘do’, originally planned to be held on the village green with a steel band and BBQ and everyone picnicking, had to be moved inside, which was a real shame and I’m sure it was the same for lots of events.

But never mind, it was still a great weekend and although I’ve been working for most of it – I know, I’m starting to bore myself now – there’s been a real feeling of celebration and happiness which, let’s face it, have been in short supply for quite a while.

So I make no apology for sprinkling this blog post with Jubilee photos (no, I wasn’t in London at the parade. Some of these have been photographed from the TV!).

A decorated bike!

Covers & Titles

Not a lot of people know this – and I certainly didn’t until fairly recently, but authors have little control over either the title or the cover of their book.

This doesn’t apply if you self-publish, of course.

And even if you’re traditionally-published, the more successful you are as an author, the more power you will have. I’m sure, for example that Sir Ian Rankin and JK Rowling have the final say on both their titles and covers.

But for the rest of us, the publishers have the final say on both cover and title.

So, the next time you think a book has a weird title or an unattractive cover, bear in mind that the author may well have agreed with you but was overruled!

Does it matter if a book has a similar cover to yours? I don’t think so. It might actually help with sales.

For example, Kath McGurl’s WW2 novel ‘The Girl From Bletchley Park’ – has a cover that’s not all that dissimilar to mine. We are both published by HQ (Harper Collins), so the covers may even have been designed by the same person.

If someone likes Kath’s book, they’re fairly likely to like mine (and vice versa). So, seeing a cover that’s rather like Kath’s, might persuade someone to look at my book and take a chance on an unknown author.

I read a good tip on Twitter the other week, which was, (I’m paraphrasing), ‘follow all the authors who write books that are similar to yours and retweet their book tweets to your followers’.

That might sound counter-intuitive because my first thought – and perhaps yours, too – is that those other writers are my ‘competition’ but actually, they’re not.

Other WW2 saga novelists (and most of them are much more successful than me, so you could say I’m unashamedly riding on their coat tails), are actually more like my colleagues and co-writers.

Readers don’t buy one book, do they? They buy and read lots of books. And if they like WW2 sagas, they will be interested in books in that genre by other authors.

And within minutes of retweeting my fellow author’s tweets, some of them (most of them, in fact), retweeted some of my tweets, about my book, to their followers who like WW2 fiction, in a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ kind of way.

Cover Price

Apparently, lots of people (who even are they?!) think that the author of a book receives the cover price of every book sold. So, if the RRP on the back of a book is £7.99, for example, they think the author gets £7.99.

So, when I tell people (truthfully) that I have so far sold about 11,000 copies of ‘A Wartime Secret’ some of them must think I have earned almost £88,000.

Which is hilarious. And could explain why everyone keeps expecting me to buy a round in the pub (Joke. I actually can’t remember the last time I went to a pub).

Believe me, authors earn pence per book. Because there are all those other pesky people that have to take their cut, like: Amazon, the retailers, the publisher, the proof reader, the freelance editor, the cover designer, the printer, the audiobook narrator, the agent.

And those are just the people I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more.

Book 2 Title

I am currently in discussion with my editor about the title for my second book and I’ll admit (as I’ve admitted to her) that I’m not overly-enamoured with the title that she and Marketing/Comms team prefer.

But other – more experienced authors – have told me that:

1) It’s par for the course. They’ve all had covers and titles chosen by publishers that wouldn’t have been their first choice.

2) And very often, those titles and covers have proved to be their ‘best selling book’.

3) Because publishers know what titles and covers attract readers. It’s their job. And actually, they know it better than authors. As one author told me, “I defer to the marketing experience of my publishers.”

Leave it to the experts, seems to be the message! Fair enough. That’s what I’m going to do.

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2 Responses to Some Thoughts on Book Covers and Titles

  1. Linda says:

    Love the Jubilee photos. Thanks for the twitter advice it makes good sense and creates social karma. I’m just about to dip my toe in the world of Twitter so I will definitely bear this in mind, even if I don’t currently have a published novel. I’ve read both your book and Kathleen’s and loved them both. Looking forward to the next one – no pressure!

    • Thank you so much Linda, and sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. Twitter is great fun, so I hope you enjoy it. I mute/block anyone who gets on my nerves (and there are a few out there!) and I also mute any words that I don’t want appearing in my feed, so that gets rid of swearwords but also words like ‘Brexit’ and ‘Boris’!

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