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Covers & Titles

There really isn’t that much to say about choosing titles and covers, so I combined them.

Both of these things used to be the most daunting tasks of all to me. Seriously. I just wanted to rip my hair out thinking up titles and then gouge my eyes out while searching for suitable cover images. But maybe that’s just me, I have a friend who loves to peruse stock photos and titles just “come” to her. To quote Lady Olivia, “It’s just not fair!”

I had all three of my first books completely written before titling the first one. That’s how bad I am at titles. Fortunately the second two in that series were easier to think of titles for; unfortunately, very few “get” the double meaning of Liberty for Paul so it kind of loses its effect since it’s often taken as face value, which, as one critic so eloquently put it: just sounds stupid.

I learned a HUGE lesson after those first three books–in fact, I learned many lessons with those first three books that have shaped how I do things now, it’s unreal. Two of which lessons are about titles and covers.

1. Titles

  • A title should be the overall theme of the book–a description of the book in five words or less. More than five words and it’s way, way too long to remember correctly. I have one out at five words and you wouldn’t believe the wording I’ve seen pop up in emails and search engine terms. It’s not offensive, it just told me that the title was too long.
  • I prefer (now) to use titles that are similar: Her____Groom, His_____Bride. Why? Because they make it clear that the book is part of a series, and if you name the series similarly, it tells which series the they belong to.  Plus, they’re far easier to come up with when you follow a pattern.

2. Covers

  • Once again, go with a theme, it makes things far easier. Similar fonts and positioning of text  help “brand” a book as part of a series upon first glance.
  • Pictures, on the other hand, are not my forte. Publishers like Avon and Pocket, hire people to paint their covers which make them unique and fitting to the time period. Small–and some medium sized–presses, and Indie authors do not have that luxury. Stock photo sites that sell royalty free images is what we get to look at. Finding a lady in a time period appropriate dress is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And when one can be found, it doesn’t last. There’s nothing that says  I cannot buy the same picture someone else already has and use it. This happens all the time. There are many books, particularly historicals, that have the same or similar covers.
  • My advice on this is to hire someone else to do it. I have spent days on end searching for appropriate pictures, then trying to manipulate them to fit what I was doing. Then, in frustration, I hired someone who does this all the time and in less time than it would have taken me, she was done with a superior product.  (The key to a win-win cover using a cover artist is: good communication from the start and realize they’re looking at the same photos you are, they just know how to “fix” them better.)

When titles or covers don’t work?

A cover you can change, a title you cannot. That’s the simple truth.

It’s rare that someone will change their title, but I have seen it happen. Best case scenario: nobody notices because very few had read the description or bought the book under the old title and to the pleasure of the author, under the new name, suddenly their book starts flying off the virtual bookshelves. Not likely, but possible. On the other end, an increase in returns from people who’d already purchased the book under the other name and even the possibility of a 1-star review “warning” people no to buy that book because it was once titled, blah, blah, blah, and the author is trying to take advantage of everyone by titling it differently. Don’t believe me, I saw a book a few months back that had this happen. I checked the description, and what do you know, the author had put it in the description that this book was once titled, blah, blah, blah.

You can do this, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  Even if you come to hate the title later, once it’s been made public, it needs to stick

Changing covers is much easier–but be warned, it *can* cause some confusion, too, though not likely.

Because I used a stock photo that I didn’t realize was so popular, I had to change one of my covers about a month after the book came out. I have a friend who changes them–just minor changes–every few months just to see if that cover will appeal to someone the former one didn’t. She keeps the background the same, but changes the girl in the foreground. Of course she uses the same model, but different angles. I haven’t seen her do this for a while, but I do know she has done it several times. Though we live in an age where we can be reading the dirtiest book ever written in plain sight on our eReader, covers still matter, believe it or not. So yes, if suddenly an image that you used on a cover starts popping up everywhere you look or your cover speaks nothing about the book, by all means, change it. Will someone have to take a second look to make sure they’ve already read that book? Probably. But if the title and description are the same, there shouldn’t be confusion.

If any of my “strictly readers who probably don’t care about any of this” have stayed with me this far, I’ll give some fun facts about my covers:

  1. My most complimented cover, is the one I dislike the most. Not to say I hate it, but I wouldn’t mind changing it…
  2. The four dresses in my Groom Series covers are worn by the same model.
  3. The reason there is no face on any of the ladies from my Groom Series covers is…deep breath and no swooning…she’s Asian.
  4. My favorite cover from the Groom Series is the green dress–Secondhand. Love it. Second would be the lady in white with the blue background–Sudden–which my husband detests! (Of course.)
  5. I once convinced my husband to model for my covers–shadowed profiles, of course–but when he realized just how many people would see it, he backed out and instead agreed to paint my cover for Sudden. However, time for painting ran thin, so he decided to sketch it… Needless to say, while his painting is superb, his sketching garnered me my first unofficial 1-star review for that book when I asked for opinions from a writing group I belong to and I decided to hire a cover artist.
  6. Even more interesting about his drawing, I sent a copy to a blog follower and she showed it to her husband who actually liked it! Must be a man thing. He said it looked similar to something he’d seen about England on TV.
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14 thoughts on “Covers & Titles

  1. It’s funny you mention about people changing titles of books. I have seen several books on Amazon lately that said “this book was originally sold under title….” I figured they are just trying to re-market it to the people on e-readers. Let me guess….is Intentions of the Earl the one you get the most compliments on but is your least favorite?

      • It’s because the guy’s ready to take her dress off and the word “Intentions” makes you wonder what mischief he’s up to. It works well with the cover to pique interest.

      • Thanks!

        I do love those hands. I wanted to find two more images like that for the series, but I couldn’t. I will say, I’ve never seen one of those covers duplicated. LOL

    • Sometimes traditionally published authors don’t get to use the title they want, their publisher okays or modifies it. So some of those you’ve seen might be authors who’ve gotten their rights back and changed the cover to what they’d originally wanted. Fortunately, I haven’t had this happen to me, and if I did, I don’t know how I’d feel about it, but from an outsider’s position, I’d leave it to avoid confusion.

      Ding, ding, ding. That’s the book. I cannot fathom why so many people like that cover. I didn’t love it, but it didn’t bother me too much until it came out in print and now I cannot abide it. LOL Just a quirk I guess.

      • It’s probably the red dress. It just catches the eye. Not that my husband is looking at the covers of books but he loves red dresses. Our first official date was at my brother’s wedding where I wore a red bridesmaid dress and he hasn’t ever gotten over it. I haven’t gotten over the fact that our first dance was to the song “Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh which I had loved since I was a young girl and he actually remembers that.
        I do find it interesting that people do not get the double meaning of Liberty For Paul. I mean really? I thought that one of the best titles.

      • I’ve been told the red is eye catching, but I’m with Ruth: it’s the hands. That was the entire reason I picked the image. I mean, you’ve got the back of a lady’s dress and a man holding the ties…pulling them. Yeah, you want to know what’s going on. At least I did. I just don’t like how it printed. Also, I’m not thrilled with the orange on red combination now that I look at it, but it was the only color that showed up. Oh well, as long as other people like it, why should I care?

        I’m glad you liked my play on words for my title. Yes, there are some who don’t get it. Boggles my mind.

  2. I love looking through stock pictures, and I love working on my covers. Now that I figured out GIMP (after a year of tinkering with it), it’s actually an easy program to use. I like making my covers. It relaxes me, which I know probably sounds weird but is true. I like testing out different cover ideas pre-publication to find the right look. For me, it’s playing.

    I also like to combine two or three images to make the book unique. Yeah, I know the same model or background will show up again, but at least it’s unique enough where it’s not the exact same picture.

    The same look for a series is definitely important and something I wish I had done right away in my writing career, though. At least I got it right for one series I’m working on. Wish I could say the same with the others, but I’ve sold so many books in some of my series that the covers are now defining for my readers. However, for the books that don’t sell well, I can easily make the changes. And changing a title….that’s just asking for trouble. LOL

    • You make me sick! LOL

      I have GIMP figured out pretty good. But I have no imagination when I see this picture and that one. I can’t say, “Oh, I bet this and that would go good together.” I think my imagination is better dreaming up speech and actions, not physical appearance. That’s probably why my characters speak, act and think so much and don’t describe everything they see.

      I used a similar theme for my first series: the back of a dress. However, the fonts, coloring, titles etc are all different. But these days, I certainly see the value in keeping them uniform.

      Oh and I agree changing a title is asking for trouble.

  3. Rose I have to agree that cover’s do matter even in the ebook world. My best friend and I while killing hours in the Orlando airport, were talking about that. She hardly ever sees the covers on the books since she is on the same account as her mom and just steals her books. Where as I live on Amazon and Goodreads so I have a good idea of all the covers of my books. Although I have to tell you I’m so glad you ended up changing the cover of Liberty for Paul (btw how can people not get the second meaning there?) because I now see that original cover art everywhere and it makes it more confusing to me.

    As far as changing titles goes, the only time it really has ever bothered me was when reading this one book that had obviously changed its title because the very last scene had the heroine say the most awkaward dialoge to get the orignial title in to the book somehow someway. The tile was later changed to a more fitting title but that scene was not and it just is kindof jaring at the end and a couple of reviews seemd to have taken a few stars away because of that.

    • Karen, that picture is EVERYWHERE. Either it didn’t become popular until I used it, or I just never noticed it before. Either way, I see it everywhere. I can go to Amazon and right off find five books that I know of that are using it. I also know an author who uses it on her website, another who has her in a book trailer and a reviewer who use her for her avatar/profile picture. It’s everywhere.

      Oh, there are some who don’t “get” the title. But I’m glad you do and that you like it.

  4. I can’t believe that people don’t get Liberty for Paul. It’s one of my favorite book titles ever because it’s so clever. : )

    As for the book covers, I like the ones with both ladies AND men on them, like Intentions of the Earl. The man hands undoing the dress nearly makes me swoon. ; )

    • Believe it. Many get it, but some don’t. I’m glad you do. I think those who do get it are more likely to enjoy my books. I’m very peculiar, shall we say, and plays on words and hidden meanings are often where the humor is found. (Of course there are some other more obvious jokes and situations, too.)

      I’m glad you liked both my title and cover. Thanks for coming by and chatting.

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