Thursday, November 4, 2010

Does a picture say 1000 words?

According to the survey I took last month, you guys actually LIKE to hear me talk about the business of publishing.  So today, I'll hark once again on the cover saga.  (And if you're impatient for the end, just scroll down to the bottom of the post.)

C.murder.on.the.mind.BIG As you know, my first novel (under the name L.L. Bartlett) tanked pretty quickly.  It got moved up by four months and none of the work that needed to be done for it to be successful was done on time (like sending it out to get reviewed by the big four reviewers).  Boy did I learn never to rejoice when offered the chance to have a book publisher earlier than originally scheduled.  The cover was HORRIBLE.  I can say that, I suggested they do a phrenology head.  But I never asked for FOUR of them!!  My agent at the time said it was horrible.  "It will not sell books!"  Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The original print run was 500 copies.  I worked my tail off (and spent five times my advance) to try to sell copies to libraries--that's the only place my publisher marketed the books.  And who could blame a reader for not wanting to shell out $26 for an unknown author.  My second print run was for 132 books.  It sold out.

C.motm.ww.SM A year later, I sold the mass market paperback rights to Harlequin's Worldwide Mystery Library, which was essentially a book club.  The book got a very nice cover of a cold fireplace, a red leather chair, and an opened book.  The fact that the book did not have a cold fireplace, red leather chair, or such a book didn't seem to deter their marketing department.  They did a beautiful job packaging the book, and it has a very nice print run of 23,000+ copies, all of which sold.  Sadly, the readers who purchased the book via the book club were not inclined to go searching for my other work -- like the book's sequel Dead In Red.  Nor did they go to my web site to find out if I wrote other books.

I don't think the cover turned people off, but it didn't turn them on, either.

BIM MOTM cover
Next came the audio edition of the book.  My editor at Books in Motion assured me they'd provide me with a nice cover.  I didn't know they'd do a poor take off of the Harlequin cover.  Guess what.  Despite the fact it's a pretty good audio performance by the narrator (Kevin Foley), the audio edition (which is still available as an MP3 download ($20.29) or in CD form ($28.99), has not sold well. 

Wonder why?

Back to that first cover for a minute.  I didn't even get my cover until about two months before the book came out. Uneducated as I was about the publishing business at that time, even I knew that was too late to send out Advance Review Copies.  Luckily, I had made my own.  They needed a cover.  So I suggested to my graphics designer husband that he might want to give it a try.  I asked for (and got) a deer in a target.  I proudly hung the cover up on the wall outside my office  Kindle.motm.SM (I still had a day job then), and asked for comments.  Universally the women said:  "I wouldn't read a book that has dead deer in it."  But there ARE NO DEAD DEER in the book I cried.  Nope.  They were turned off.

Fast forward to October 2008 when I decided to put the book up on Kindle.  I needed a cover.  I grabbed the deer.  In two years it sold precisely 381 copies.  (Joe Konrath doesn't have to worry about me surpassing him in sales.)

It was time to change the cover once again.

I contacted Konrath's cover artist hoping he could help me, but he is very busy and was slow to answer my emails.  So I decided to go with someone else, and boy am I glad I did.  Award-winning romance author Patricia Ryan (who also writes mysteries as P.B. Ryan), had just decided to start doing e covers. She'd done her own and those for a friend, and did them very fine indeed.  The minute she said she was going into business, I contacted her.  (Was that only a week ago?)

So.  What do you think? It's available on:





Sony e reader

and more.