When working with various clients, it’s always interesting to learn quirky details about an industry. In this particular post, the industry is publishing and the issue is “Is there ever a time for a new book cover design?”
Do writers go back and decide it’s time for a new book cover design?
Let me back up a little and get some perspective from the beginning of my story.
Arla Dahl, the author of dark, gritty, erotica, wrote a book series called The Immoral Virtue Trilogy. Together we worked on the book cover designs. Arla had a very specific look in mind for the time, place, and characters in her work. Since I couldn’t “see” her characters, she spent endless hours searching stock photography to find them.
Once found, Arla would start the design or describe it to me, and I’d put it together along with fine-tuning of details. Eventually we’d come up with a new book cover design that was worthy of Arla Dahl’s amazing writing. (Seriously, if you’re looking for 50 shades of Shakespeare, check out her work.)
Book I: The Mark, had most of the cover already laid out by Arla by the time I began the project. She had this gorgeous buxom woman with her hands bound merged against a background of a misty dawn rising behind a bold and aged tree. My job was to add the mark, the title’s namesake on the model’s breast, fix up the sunrise (it’s really a park bench light), add the shackles, and the type. Arla had already picked the font for the title.
After that was all done, I decided that the woman’s bustier was too modern for the period. I went in and built a cotton shift from various pieces stock photography and drew in parts. The end result was fantastic and we were pleased.
Then came Book II: The Accused. Well, I’ll let Arla tell it as she told me during the interview for this post:
Arla Dahl, Thank you for taking time out of your writing to talk about book cover design. Can we talk a little about the cover for Book II of your trilogy?
Absolutely, Kolleen, and thank you for the discussion. I had a harder time with the cover for Book II than Book I. I knew what I wanted but couldn’t find it anywhere. As you know too well, we looked for more than a month for a main image. Nothing in the graphic houses came close to my vision of the characters. Then I finally found one that was close enough. The problem was the female model was dressed in a tank top and jeans, and as a couple, they weren’t as sexy or passionate as I’d wished but were instead a little stiff.
So you ended up using that for the cover. How did it work out?
It worked out okay. Like I said, I had a specific feeling in mind for this cover, and while this image fit the basic idea, it didn’t do exactly as I hoped. But I thought it looked good and decided to go ahead with it anyway. You, as my designer, questioned that choice and though I knew you didn’t think it was the right image for this story, I also knew you would support my decision. And you did. I’ve been told I can be fairly nit-picky and rigid so I figured you knew I’d put a lot of thought into it before making this choice.
After you worked your magic by completely manipulating an image of a cotton shift on a hanger to fit it onto this model as if she had actually been wearing it, it was much closer to my vision. There was a LOT of illustration and Photoshop work on this piece. Everyone should know that we sent it back and forth between us many times before we got it just right.
So what made you say to yourself that it’s time to find a new cover design?
Book sales on The Accused were not nearly as strong as Book I. Then once Book III was released and those sales met those from Book I, I finally agreed with the assessment you, with your designer eyes, had made at the very beginning. It needed a stronger cover. I went in search of a just-right image to convey the mood and tone of the story. When you found these models…I lost my breath. I knew it was theone. Unfortunately, her clothes were all wrong, too, and there was a third person in the original image – another man (lucky girl).But with a touch of nit-pickiness on my part and a ton of talent on yours, this became the final – and, IMO, amazing – result.
Well, let’s not let the reader wait anymore, here’s a side-by-side comparison between the first cover and the second cover. Can you tell me a little more about the problems that may be associated with changing a book cover after the book is released?
There they are together. Now I’m sure I made the right choice. Look how much stronger the cover on the right is compared to the left. There’s more sexual tension and less rigidity.
It was not an easy choice to change the cover design, but with this one, I had started to feel as though the book was invisible, as if the original cover was too flat or dull to even be noticed.
Has it been successful?
Well, it’s been out for less than a week or so as of today. Book sales are slightly higher, although I can’t say for sure whether the cover has made an impact. I can tell you that I am much happier about it, and some of my strongest fans have supported the change. Sometimes change is good, and in this situation, it was necessary. I want to thank you for sticking with me on this, Kolleen. And for chatting with me about it. It was great to talk about the thoughts behind the change.
Thank you Arla. I really enjoy working with you and look forward to future projects.
There you have it. Sometimes there are more positives than negatives to change designs even after a launch. As long as you don’t do it often, and as long as your new design is more powerful than the previous one.
On a side note, Arla Dahl is an absolute pleasure to work with. She knows what she wants and although we may end up getting frustrated at rare moments, it always pays off when our work is done. Together we have created dozens of memes and some powerful book covers. These are the times when I really love my career and enjoy helping others with theirs.
Here’s all three in their current glory.