A Tale of Three Book Covers: Confessions of a Amateur Designer

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..." And so begins the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities. While I've titled this post "A Tale of Three Book Covers," looking back on the past few weeks, with three book cover re-designs for Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair in my wake, I think I could use a similar opening here. Let me explain.


It's All Amazon's Fault

Recently, I decided to revisit AMS (Amazon Marketing Service) ads even though I didn't find them very rewarding the first time I tried them. I'd armed myself this time with Dave Chesson's (of Kindlepreneur fame) new AMS ads course and his vaunted KDP Rocket keyword tool.

Dave had me highly motivated to sell books with Amazon ads by the end of the course. I was brimming with confidence I'd taste the sweetness of victory this time rather than the agony of defeat. Dave really should have become a football coach after leaving the Navy. He really knows how to give an inspiring pep talk. He is sort of like Pat O'Brien in the 1940 classic, Knute Rockne All American. "Come on boys, let's sell one for the Gipper!"

Unfortunately, weeks later, I'm still firmly ensconced in the winter of despair rather than experiencing the spring of hope. Don't get me wrong, Dave Chesson is the man when it comes to making money through the Amazon KDP platform, and teaching others to do the same. The course was absolutely first-rate.  I not only learned a lot, I enjoyed taking it too. But weeks later, while I was getting an amazing number of impressions, way more than I experienced my first time trying the ads, I was getting only a meager number of clicks, and of course no book sales. WTF? I had done everything just the way Dave said!

Then I started to mull things over. I was certain that the lack of sales didn't mean my book sucks. I mean, come on man, with only four clicks on my ad, not enough people had even looked at it to think that's the problem. So I surmised it was one of two things. Either my ad copy sucked or people didn't like the book cover, ergo no one was clicking on the ad.   

First, I re-wrote the ad copy. By the time I was satisfied with it, I was ready to buy the damn book myself. Unfortunately, I'd already done that a few days earlier when I accidentally clicked the one-click buy button while using my iPhone to show a friend at work my book page on Amazon. Still days passed, and you guessed it. No clicks. No freakin' clicks! There was only one thing to do. Change the cover. Again.    

Actually, now that I think of it, there was a fourth cover. The original one. I'm actually still using that cover on some of the other eBook retailers where my book is available.   

We Have a Winner

This was the original cover I designed for the book. I actually thought it was pretty good. But then I had a brainstorm about combining "blood red" with a massive fingerprint and some bullet holes. So shortly after publication I went with the first of the three designs shown at the top of the page. I still like that cover. It looks really good on the hardcover edition dust jacket. But given the lack of clicks on my AMS ad, it evidently wasn't that appealing to Amazon customers. Enter the third book cover design, the one in the middle, in the group of three.

I thought that one was cool when I created it, but that feeling didn't last long. The first time I looked at it once Amazon had published it on the book page, I felt sort of the same way I often felt in my twenties after a night of drinking to excess and waking up beside someone who looked a hell of lot more attractive with beer goggles on. Back in my Navy days, my buddy Tony and I used to call it waking up with the "oh nos." That one didn't get any clicks either. Not surprising in hindsight, since if I had to describe that cover with one word I'd be firmly in "garish" camp. So it was back to the drawing board, virtually speaking of course.

On the next attempt, I came up with the book cover on the right in the group of three above, which is the cover I'm currently using on Amazon. I think this design is more in line with the other books in the genre I'm competing against. More importantly, it has started to get ad clicks.

AMS still hasn't delivered any sales, but more people are looking at the book now. But is it the best of times or the worst of times? Sure, I'm getting the impressions, getting the clicks, and more people are checking out the book. But what happens now if I'm getting clicks, but still no sales? That would mean I have to re-write the book description which I've already done way more times than I've redigned the cover.

Look, I know what you're thinking. "Maybe the book does suck." No it doesn't, dammit! I have six great reviews from six perfect strangers which means every person who read the book and was kind enough to leave a review, liked it. That's 4.6 out of 5 stars for an average baby! If I was hitting for that kind of average in the big leagues, people would be saying Ted (Williams) who? 

In retrospect, since there have actually been four book cover designs for Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair, I suppose I should have titled this post "A Tale of Four Book Covers" instead of three. But let's face it. That just wouldn't have worked well with the Dickens comparison. Hopefully, next time I'll be able to brag about how well my AMS ads have performed.

I finally did it. I took the first step toward forming an official street team in preparation for the launch of my next book, Cold Comfort. Click on the image below to take a look. I'd be honored if you'd consider joining the group.


Posted in amazon marketing services, ben malone mystery series, book promotion services, book sales, fair is foul and foul is fair, self-publishing advice and tagged , .

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