Designing a Book Cover

Aspen Allegations

Sometimes the issue with a cover isn't that it's "poor" - the issue is that it's not drawing in the ideal target audience. Let's take a look at the changes I've made to my cover for Aspen Allegations. Aspen Allegations is book 1 in my Sutton Massachusetts Mystery Series. This is a gentle, Agatha-Christie style mystery without any explicit sex or violence. The heroine is a 40-something woman who enjoys yoga and kayaking.

Aspen Allegations

Cover Version One (the left-most one). At the time I was thinking about the series of Aspen - Birch - Cedar - Dogwood and was thinking a nice leaf would do well to identify each one. It would represent my natural theme. It would be a simple and clean design.

It was a nice idea in theory - but in practice readers took a look at that cover and thought it was a gardening book. They had no idea it was a mystery of any kind.

Time for an update!

Cover Version Two. OK clearly I needed an image that said "mystery" with more force. So I looked through the images I took at Sutton Woods that first day of writing. I found an image that was suitably dark, brooding, and mysterious. It was similar to many other mystery cover books.

Readers now knew it was a mystery! They clicked! Hurrah! But, unfortunately, they thought it was a dark, brooding, violence-filled mystery. They got very grumpy that it was a gentle, yoga-woman mystery. I got complaint after complaint in my low-star reviews that there was "TOO MUCH YOGA!!!"

Clearly I was now drawing in readers - but just not the right ones.

Cover Version Three. Bwah hah hah hah. I put a YOGA WOMAN ON THE COVER. There was going to be no way anybody picked up this book without knowing there was yoga in it! Take that, readers!

And, sure enough, IMMEDIATELY the yoga complaints vanished. There was no doubt in anybody's mind that this story involved yoga. That was a win! In general the tone of the reviews improved vastly. I was drawing in a much better audience.

However, now I got a few complaints that the book was not "cutesy" enough. The cover made it look like a cute 20-something yoga teacher was making snarky comments while tripping over a dead body. The chick-lit-cozy style of writing, which isn't what I write here.

Aspen Allegations This brings us to Cover Version Four. I had to maintain the soft look so that people would be OK with the yoga references. I had to gentle the chick-lit feel so that people were OK with the quiet style of dialogue.

With this new version, the reviews are finally coming in smooth and warm. There aren't complaints about yoga. There aren't complaints about cutesy. People know it's a mystery. They know it's gentle and rolling.

Is this the last cover for this series? Not at all. There are always going to be opportunities to update and tweak the covers to improve them even more. I'll watch the sales and reviews to see what needs to be tweaked. But it definitely is on the right path now!

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