When does a book need a new title and cover?

A few weeks ago, I attended a webinar organised by the wonderful Alliance of Independent Authors, in which Joanna Penn said we shouldn’t be afraid to rebrand our  self-published books as we begin to understand our market better.

Shortly after that, I came across her article On Changing Book Titles And Covers: My Own Experience And How You Can Do It Too, and those two things got me thinking about what I’ve learnt about my market in the months since I published my most recent books.

I think what I may have learnt is that choosing a cover and title isn’t about what I like, but about telling the customer exactly what they’re going to get, in the couple of seconds they’ll spend glancing at it in amazon or wherever.

I’m not sure, which is why I’m blogging – I would really value your feedback.

Here’s the cover my editor, designer and I came up with for my YA novel about sibling suicide, Drift.

9781910300084The rationale behind this choice of cover was that most current YA top-sellers seem to involve artwork rather than photography, and art is one of the themes of the book.

But does that image really suggest sibling suicide/angst/grief and depression? Are there really any clues as to what kind of story it is? And does it have a real impact that makes you feel curious to read inside?

I like the cover, but I’m not sure it works. So last night I mocked up a completely different one in canva . I don’t like it as much, but I do think it might do the job better – here’s the sketch so far.

drIFTWhat do you think?

The other book I brought out last year was When a Writer Isn’t Writing: How to Beat Your Blocks, Be Published and Find Your Flow. I’ve typed that title enough times to be starting to feel it’s too long! Besides that, before I published it, an author friend of mine, Kelly McCain, said she felt a more positive sounding title might be more appealing.

I think she was right, and I’m leaning towards re-titling it something like Writer’s Block: Beat it, Be Published and Find Your Flow or How to be a Happy Writer: Beat Your Blocks, Be Published and Find Your Flow. Which title would you be more likely to buy?

Although it pains me, I think the cover image might not be helping the book either. I like it a lot – I love all Hilke MacInyre‘s work – but I’m not sure it tells the reader in that one-second glance, what kind of book they’ll be getting.


The rationale behind this one was that I wanted a brand-look with Writing in the House of Dreams I thought the two might help each other in the market. But I’ve discovered that most readers who have read both seem to have liked one but not the other (that’s me reading between the lines – my readers are too nice to actually say it!)

Writing in the House of Dreams isn’t your run-of-the-mill writing or dream book, so I guess the cover image is probably OK, but most practical books on writing like When a Writer Isn’t Writing have covers with more text and smaller/plainer designs.

Neither of these books have sold a huge number of copies, so what do you think – worth a revamp? Or should I give them a little more time, just as they are?

13 thoughts on “When does a book need a new title and cover?”

  1. I agree about your Drift cover. The new one does give much more of a clue. There is no redeeming feature in it though at the moment. ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ imagery somewhere in a corner perhaps. Tx

    1. That’s interesting – thank you, Tessa. Someone said the blue colour was too cheerful for the topic, but maybe this one is a bit too dark. I’ll think about ways of lifting it

  2. PS I do like your other covers though. I suppose you could go for more explicit imagery for the writer not writing perhaps?? The subject matter is not as dreamy as the first book, so a change would not be out of order. T again!

  3. I was attracted to the title, and never thought of it as too long as it is in two colours, ‘When a Writer isn’t Writing’ seems to be the title. The rest is an explanation. Just my opinion.

  4. Hi Jenny – I loved your House of Dreams and loved the cover. Thought it exactly right.
    Not so sure about the Writer’s Block one – love the art-work for itself, but don’t think it says: ‘self-help book for writers.’ I think the punchier title: Happy Writing: How to Beat etc would work better. God knows, I’m no happy-singy lover of upbeat myself, but, as you say, we have to think what will reach the audience, not what suits us personally. How about an image of, say, a closed pen lying on sheets of scribbled out writing? Or an unplugged laptop?
    For Drift, I agree that the original cover doesn’t match the book’s content. It’s beautiful but, to me, says girlie love and romance. The second cover, with the girl’s face, gives me far more idea of what to expect: it’s darker and more dramatic.
    If you want a more ‘art-work’ look, have you thought of using ‘effects’ on the photo to make it look more like a drawing or painting? What about white stripes or zig-zags behind the title and other wording – both to give it more punch and to add that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ element?

    1. This is incredibly helpful – thank you, Sue! I’d love to play with some effects for my new Drift cover but can’t work out how to on canva or ribbett – is there software I could use?

  5. I agree with Tessa: When a writer isn’t writing – all you need. I like the cover, but is it a bit on the childish side? I know a lot of writing is getting in touch with the child within but if a writer isn’t writing, maybe they want serious, grown up help and a cover to match – just a thought. Whereas I thought the cover for Writing in the House of Dreams was perfect. I much prefer the second cover for Drift, it tells me it’s going to be about difficult, dark emotions.

    1. Thank-you for your thoughts, Josie – one thing I’m learning from all these really helpful comments is that I should have written a post like this before I made any decisions about the covers. I can feel new editions coming on…

  6. I really like the first Drift cover and its positive, bright feel – I don’t think I would buy the second one, even if it reflects better what is inside (though does it really?) Maybe a subtitle added to the first cover would work?

    Your Writing covers have always seemed distinctive and fun to me, and I’ve started to recognise them as your ‘brand’ so I think it would be a shame to mess with them… but I’m aware that American readers tend to like a different cover style, and that’s the biggest market.

    Perhaps you could consider two editions of each book? Then you could trial the new cover designs and compare sales with previous sales.

    1. That’s a good idea, Katherine. I didn’t realise you could have two editions of the same book out at the same time. I look into the technicalities before I completely rebrand them. I was going for a brand look with the writing books, with a view to adding more at some stage, using Hilke’s artwork, but sales are so slow, I think they’re not hitting the mark

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