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.
- 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.
- 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:
- My most complimented cover, is the one I dislike the most. Not to say I hate it, but I wouldn’t mind changing it…
- The four dresses in my Groom Series covers are worn by the same model.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.