On my book cover design site, I offer to do free makeovers for indie authors – on the condition that I get to make what I want, and that they don’t get much say in the creative process.
It’s fun for me and often takes less than an hour, and if they like what I’ve done, they get a free cover.
People tell me my ‘makeovers’ section is their favorite part of my book design website.
But some people question my design style, or how much design actually matters, and there aren’t any statistics that really prove how much the cover impacts sales.
So at the end of last year I teamed up with
10 authors to bring you a one-of-a-kind case study in book cover design.
The idea was simple: I’d make them a new cover, and they’d check their sales statistics from the month before, and the month after changing to the new cover.
My aim and public bet was that I could double their sales.
I learned a few things that I didn’t really expect – the first was that, if you aren’t getting any traffic on your book page, then a new cover won’t do much – because nobody sees it. So a book cover makeover doesn’t really work unless your book is already selling, or you do enough promotion to boost your sales rank up to the point where more people actually see it.
The Samples and Results
These are the authors/books I’ve redone. I’ve tried to keep the same feel or style, or even the same pictures, but with everything done a little better.
Some of the changes are subtle, some overwhelming.
We remade the first cover in a three part series, and then changed the other two to match.
“Sales of all three books in the series tripled after changing the first book’s cover. Two months later he changed the 2nd and 3rd books cover to match, and sales doubled again. (he went from 15 a month to 54 a month, then to 96 a month.) That’s without marketing… once he started doing a little promotion, things took off: in June 2014 he sold 559 books a month.”
Preliminary notes: “The seven days before the cover change I sold 4 copies of the book. The cover change happened then the free 4-day promotion where bookbub promoted the book. 40,000 people downloaded free copies which is the best free promo I’ve ever had beating out by previous best of 35,000 in March of 2013 where my popular series book was free for 4-days. After the promo and cover change I’ve sold 286 copies in seven days.”
Robert was too busy to do any promotions, so the cover change was the only difference. Although he doesn’t have huge numbers, the cover still doubled sales:
“My sales in October for “The Six Samurai of the West” were 18 copies..for the other two books in the series I sold 12 combined (30). My sales after the cover change for “The Six Samurai of the West” were 37 and for the other two books in the series I sold 21 combined (58).”
“It definitely seems like the new cover had an effect, even if that effect wasn’t as dramatic as a linear doubling of sales. The new cover seems to do a better job of enticing people, so that those who see it are more likely to check out the book, as opposed to simply glossing over it. The trick is finding ways to put the cover in front of more people’s eyeballs, since during Christmas when other books were making more noise and crowding it out, sales and downloads fell.”
“One thing this graph probably doesn’t show very well is that even if per-unit sales have been fluctuating up and down, overall royalties increased dramatically. For example, even though sales appear to dip down in week 2, the dark green line labeled “SW-TJC” almost doubled. That line represents sales of the first omnibus, which includes parts II, III, and IV. Across all titles, royalties from December increased to a little over 150% of the previous month.”
“So was the cover makeover a success? Well, the answer is a bit complicated, which is the way these things usually go. In and of itself, the new cover didn’t double overall sales, or sustainably double the rate at which OUTWORLDER is being downloaded. It did provide a significant measurable boost, however, which tells me that it’s doing a much better job of attracting and enticing readers than the old cover was. Combining new covers with other marketing tactics (such as paid promotions, cover reveals, giveaways, and perhaps a targeted blog tour) could be quite effective.”
Marjorie Swift Doering
This cover was done in collaboration with Damonza Covers – he made Marjorie’s second book and I used some of the same style to redo the first book.
“I’ve gotten some fantastic results on Dear Crossing that I’d like to share with you. I ran a promotion for it (as a free ebook) with BookBub today. Around 3:00 PM, Dear Crossing was ranked #1 in the free murder mysteries, #1 in free police procedurals, and #2 overall in the free Kindle store. I suspect it may also reach #1 in that third category yet. I thought you might like to get this information, because I’m certain your book cover is hugely responsible for drawing the attention of so many readers!”
This is actually a book cover I made a while ago – like many of my authors, Ian wasn’t comfortable with my bolder designs and wanted something very simple. We finally settled on the one of the left (without the pictures inside the film though). But recently his editor recommended he put a face back in the film, or something to make it stand out more. I recommended he show his editor my early samples, all of which I was positive would sell better than the final cover he chose. His editor and others on the team loved the new cover – but thought it could be improved a little more, leading to cover #3, which is dramatically better. Unfortunately the author decided to relaunch the book so I don’t have clear before/after sales data.
I wasn’t sure if this one would come together in time – Harriet’s had two designers work on this but never had a cover she liked. We were stuck for awhile but finally the house, fog, knife and couple came together and work well together.
Steven wanted to remake this book, which is a freebie just to connect with new readers.
“It looks to me that in March I was averaging between 60 and 70 downloads a day. In April that had fallen to about 50 a day. But following the cover revamp on April 24, downloads rose quickly, to a peak of 112, and overall seems to be averaging about 90. That seems to me to be pretty conclusive – revamping a cover can boost your downloads. I guess the big question is does it work as well with paid-for titles. We shall see! I haven’t done any promotion at all so it can only be down to the new cover. I have to say I expected a short burst of extra sales, didn’t expect it to maintain those numbers and certainly didn’t expect them to keep growing!”
I found Wormwood on accident and liked it enough to think it should get a beautiful new cover. I love the process and the results, it was one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on for awhile.
Maybe because I modeled it on a painting I love.
The author hasn’t seen the sales data yet, just the sales ranking… she’s gone from under 500,000 to over 300,000, but I don’t have data on the number of sales yet. With a little marketing I’m sure this one will really take off.
Check back for the results!
There are a few more makeovers I’m working on that may be in the final post. If you have a book that needs a makeover, feel free to send it, although I’ll be pretty busy through the end of the year.
I’m also going to put this and some of my articles in a little guide to book cover design I’m writing – I’ll give it away for free to my followers so you may want to sign up.
[yellowbox]Want to make your own book cover in MS Word? Click here.[/yellowbox]
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
They’re all a lot better. I’m particularly impressed with ‘Resistance’ – how you made a photo with quite a dull finish atmospheric. How did you do that?
I was lucky that the photo was already foggy (a little unclear too). But then I added a flat layer of white color over the top and set it at like 90% transparency, and then a few layers of gradients going from dark at the bottom to lighter on top, also mostly transparent. It adds kind of a ‘film’ in front of the picture, it’s good for masking an unclear photo but adding atmosphere. Glad you like it!
Well I’m off to a good start, Derek. Martin Lake
Awesome, I’m jealous. I can’t wait to finish some books of my own. 🙂
Great idea to study the results. I’m pretty sure we’ll find out that it worked greatly!
Yeah, so far everybody has been selling a lot more. It’ll help me figure out how much actual value my covers provide
This sounds awesome! How do we email you our cover??
You can send it to me – [email protected] – but I’m not sure if I’ll have time for more this month. I try to do a couple every month though.
Will be soon! I’m organizing the data for a couple presentations I’m doing this summer, then I’ll post it on my blog and probably put out a little ebook on cover design.