The first cover I used was the far left one. This was hand-illustrated for me by a talented illustrator, Debi Gardiner. I paid her $500 for the full book cover and we spent WEEKS making it exactly perfect. We tried a variety of heart styles. A variety of stained glass styles. We got every last detail right. I adored this cover. I treasured it. I thought it would last forever.
Yes, some readers also adored the cover. But sales were slow. It turns out many people looked at this cover and had NO idea it was a romance at first glance. So they kept scrolling. They thought it was a children's book or maybe a self-help book. That cover simply did not jump out at them as representing a medieval romance.
On to cover two.
I did research on what other sweet / gentle / clean romances used for covers. I found a stock image of a medieval maiden with a sword. I invested a lot of time to find a background from the exact area of England my story was set. A bit of work and I now had a cover which represented a medieval woman looking for love.
Unfortunately, while my idea was sound, the cover world had moved on around me. It turns out that the single-woman-looking-into-space cover was one that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Modern readers who saw that figured the book was an old one. Or they figured it was a book about one woman, alone, facing her issues. This style of cover did not scream "romance" to current readers. So while I got more sales, they were still not strong sales.
On to cover three.
This is where it becomes more subtle. I knew I needed a couple - a man and woman - dressed in medieval outfits. There just aren't that many well done images of that style. And this one, in the original version, the dress was low cut. So this led people to think there would be racy content, which there isn't.
Also, at first glance they weren't clearly medieval.
So I worked to raise her neckline and to add some flowers into her hair. This would both reinforce that this was a clean romance and also that it was set in medieval times. You can see that adjusted version in the top four-cover image, third one over.
The reviews got better. With the higher neckline, most people now knew not to expect racy content. But there were some lingering people who did.
OK, a final tweak. I had Debi add a cross onto her breast. It is front and center to the image.
This did the trick! Now people knew it was a medieval romance. They knew it was sweetly clean. The reviews were now from readers who enjoy this style of writing and who enjoyed my story. Also, the cover was now professional enough looking for me to get ad opportunities from the top-of-the-line places like BookBub.
Again, is this my final version? Probably not. I will continue to watch sales and reviews to see what other tweaks can be done to further improve its connection with my target audience.
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