Publishing experiments – why I redesign my covers for more sales

Publishing experiments – why I redesign my covers for more sales

Today I redid some of my covers. I’ve actually gone through at least 5 covers for Shearwater (my YA mermaid romance novel), and since publishing part one I haven’t been happy with it. Even though most people like it, and it performs OK, I wanted something stronger. But people are asking me why – why switch covers? Isn’t that bad for branding? Will it really even matter?

Firstly, converting new readers is more important than pleasing fans. I know that sounds crazy, what I mean is, you always need to use the cover design that sells most books to strangers, because fans are going to buy your book even if they don’t like the cover. Plus, fans probably prefer the cover they got the first time because that’s anchored with the story for them, so they may not be receptive to a new cover.

Here’s the updated one. Problems with the first, is that the dress and ribbon on her arm are poorly photoshopped. It would also be hard to make art for the next two books given that strange posture. It’s good but I think the new one will stand out more. Brighter colors, better details, looks more professionally designed, eye contact with the central figure…

It’s possible I’m wrong and it won’t actually sell better, but if so I’ll just use the old one.


In most cases, I tell authors there is a point where the cover is “good enough.” It has to look professional, and it has to tell readers what genre it is. But if it’s working, then the problem is the summary or lack of reviews (or, simply no traffic is seeing it at all).

So when authors ask for a remake but already have pretty decent covers, I tell them they should focus on building their platform first and generate some constant, long term traffic. However, it is also the case, that if a book is already selling pretty well, and already getting visibility, even if it already has a very decent cover, a much more powerful, kick-ass amazing cover will still boost conversion. Maybe it’s only 10% percent – but that’s still a lot. If you’re selling 1000 books a month, that’s an extra 100 a month, not to mention the best in rank. Over a year, you’d earn back the price of nicer covers.

So, even moderately nicer covers can make a difference – but only if books are already getting traffic and converting consistently (with no marketing).

Scarlet Thread (dark fantasy based on Greek mythology) is my most popular book – even though it ends on a huge cliffhanger and is only part one. I’m putting out three more chapters soon and branding it better, as well as putting book two on preorder. And it’s been a free book, but I’m switching to 99cents for awhile. So the cover is going to have to work 10X harder…

So I made this art, which I love. Again, the original wasn’t bad – it did the job. Scarlet Thread’s been downloaded about 40,000 times. But now that it’s been proven and people are liking it, I want to see if I can start earning from it (by putting book 2 on preorder).


This is how the new book covers look on Amazon. Shearwater (the new one) may not seem hugely different from the original, and some people don’t resonate with it as much emotionally – but the bright purple and dark dress make it stand out more. Also, I’m leaving part one with the original cover, and using the new cover for the full book (unlike Scarlet Thread, which I just replaced with the new cover…)



One of the great things about self-publishing is the ability to make changes like this quickly, and also test different combinations of price, book cover, content etc and see what works best for you and your books.


  • TariAkpodiete Posted

    nice redesigns!

  • Lawrence Ambrose Posted

    Heh. I think your originals are better. 🙂 The first may be slightly more flawed but it’s far more conceptually evocative and clear. The second one seems to have nothing to do with mermaids. The second version of SCT isn’t quite as dark and mysterious and a bit overdone with the red title. Just my opinion – not the word of God, I realize (unlike so many critics!). Thanks for posting this. And nice to know you’re finally finding some time to finish those novels!!

  • BGroves Posted

    Personally, I love the re-designs. I think they are so much better. I was curious about The Scarlet Thread. What are the fonts in the title?

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