ebook covers: amazon editors’ picks hits and misses

Dimly lit is the new puce.

This is one of my all time favorite books from fourth grade – even I don’t recognize it.

Would you be surprised to learn this book isn’t about ghosts and summer camp? Actually it’s about a boy and his dogs?

This cover is a major miss. Black is the new black, but murky twilight details just don’t work on a thumbnail. And the cover image does not fit the story anyway.

Where the Red Fern Grows
Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows is a great story and one of the Amazon editors’ picks for kids’ summer reading 2012.

Carl Hiaasen

It’s no surprise that not just Chomp, but Splash, Scat, and of course Hoot are all featured in the top 40. Carl writes great stories for kids, but from a marketing perspective, the bold colors and simple images on the covers really stand out from a muddle crowd. This is a major hit.

This is the most frustrating print-to-ebook cover miss yet. A simple cover. A single image. A clean color scheme.

So why o why not blow up that cover image so I can see it as a thumbnail??

Three guesses as to what that thing that looks like a cartoon dog head is.

Wendelin van Draanen

Surprised that it’s a chicken? I was. I’m also not totally sure what that has to do with a ‘romantic comedy of errors’.

Out of My Mind
Sharon M. Draper

There are some bones to pick with this cover – you can’t really read the title, and the author name is likewise a little tricky to read. But the image caught my eye even in the thumbnail, and then when I read the description and learned it was not a teeny bopper romance, it made me want to pick up the book.

“Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk.”

It would be great to see some stats on kids reading ebooks. Research project!

ebook covers: not reimagined

In Teen Sci-Fi & Fantasy, no new eBook cover required. In contrast to the popular books in YA Action & Adventure, I couldn’t find one book perusing the popular and best-seller lists that had a meaningfully different cover from the print version(s). (Note: I know last week I said I was going to look at Dystopian fiction – I swear I saw it on the list last week but this week it’s not there. Amazon is always monkeying with things.)There were two different flavors of this cover homogeneity, however:

  1. Print covers that were originally designed to look good as eBook covers
  2. Print covers that don’t look good as eBook covers, but seem to be selling well anyway (perhaps on the back of the famous author name attached)

Mark of Athena

This one caught my eye right away – great way to build anticipation! I am not a Rick Riordan fan, but I found myself intrigued and wondering – what is the cover going to look like? This is far more interesting than a blank Amazon space indicating “No cover image available”. That’s the same blank space for some old used book someone’s trying to sell who can’t be bothered taking a picture of the book – probably because it looks like crap. No, this is great marketing and I am definitely going to be borrowing this.

The Serpent’s Shadow

In sharp contrast, this eBook cover, also for Rick Riordan, sucks. Can’t read it, can’t tell what’s going on in the image. This is the same cover design as the print version, and it might look good on a bookstore shelf, but on Amazon it just looks like a mess.

A Wrinkle in Time

It pains me to say this, as Madeleine L’Engle is probably the reason why I write stories at all. Sure there are others – Lewis, Kipling, Adams, Tolkein, to name a few – but L’Engle is a hero to me. And this print cover does not work as an eBook cover. The sumptuous, detailed illustrations do not pop electronically. It looks dull.

A Wrinkle in Time
50th Anniversary Edition

Why, oh why, are they not using this bold graphic cover instead? Duh.


I don’t know anything about the Matched trilogy, but this cool cover caught my eye. The colors are bright, the image is simple and uncluttered, there is tension with that girl in the bubble, and the description of the book didn’t feel like a mismatch when I read it: Matched is about a teen girl living a beautiful live, but who needs to break free. I can’t read whatever the extra text on the cover is, so that is a problem. If it’s important, blow it up (or put it in the book description), if it’s not, take it off. The book doesn’t really sound like my cup of tea, but the cover is working.

The Hunger Games

And, yes, black is the new black. This cover only needed very minor tweaks – mostly to increase the contrast and make the gold brighter – from the original print cover. It’s like they had eBooks in mind. Simple graphics, one bold color, and the black background just jumps off that white Amazon background. I wonder if Suzanne is bathing in money at this point.


ebook covers: reimagined

One of the things on the to-do list for 2012 is a new cover not just for The Rival, but for the rest of the series (prequel The Mentor, sequel The Emissary, finale The Pretender). I was really impressed with Mayapriya Long’s presentation to my eBook DIY class at WriterHouse this spring, and I learned a lot from it. I’ve been spending some time researching what’s selling well in YA Action & Adventure. Next week, YA Dystopian Fiction. I’ve been impressed with some new tales, but also some old favorites reimagined. Some favorite examples here:

El Palacio de la Noche Eterna
Palace of the Eternal Night

This one caught my eye right away. Those teeth! The spooky text! And what a title. Especially on Amazon, where the storefront background is white, the black cover really stands out. This might not work on a dark wood bookstore bookshelf, but on a website with a white background, this does grab the eye.

Animal Farm

When I read Animal Farm in high school, the cover looked nothing like this! I love the bold color, the blood spatter, and the creepy way that pig is standing on his hind legs. This is a pretty good example of an old classic getting an eBook cover makeover that makes some sense.

The Hobbit

I’m starting to think for eBook covers, black is the new black. Unless you squint, you can’t really see that it says “75th Anniversary Edition” at the bottom… extra words really don’t work on an eBook cover. That sun really looks like an evil eye, doesn’t it? The Tolkien font is consistent with his published work, so the vibe is familiar. Overall, if I hadn’t just read The Hobbit again, this cover would tempt me.

True Grit

The paperback cover for True Grit looks like an old time Western wanted poster. This is a fairly good reimagining – most of the extra words have been removed, although there’s still a lot in there that I just can’t read. But the title really jumps out, and all you really need to capture the vibe is that Playbill font. What it’s not really showing is the feminine side of this story… but there’s only so much you can do in a single image, I guess. Less is more.

Reason to Breathe

Not sure what to say about this one. This book is apparently very popular in YA Action & Adventure… I don’t know a thing about it. The cover looks more like angst teenage romance to me. But I’m definitely getting the picture: black is back. Black is in. Once you go black, you don’t go back.

whoa: ebook exports up 332.6% in 2011

And the surprise winner is: Africa!

“U.S. trade publishers are seeing huge growth in English language eBook sales to other countries. According to a new report from the Association of American Publishers, eBook net sales revenue for 2011 was $21.5 million, which was up 332.6% from 2010. The press release explains more: “…this represents 3.4 million eBook units sold in 2011, up 303.3 %. As comparison, print formats (Hardcover, Paperback and Mass Market Paperback) increased 2.3% to $335.9 million in 2011.” In 2011, eBook sales grew 218.8% in Continental Europe, 1316.8% in the UK, 201.6% in Latin America and 636.8% in Africa.

Overall, U.S. publishers earned a net sales revenue of $357.4 million from export sales in 2011, for both print and eBook titles. This was a 7.2% increase from $333.3 million the net sales revenue earned in 2010.”

– Dianna Dilworth | MediaBistro.com | 5/18/12

I’m sad to say that while The Rival is available in several foreign countries thanks to Google Play and Amazon, I haven’t sold a single copy overseas. But I haven’t done any networking or marketing overseas either, so that’s not really a surprise! Something to brainstorm about for when The Mentor comes out.

update: the emissary

When we leave Bex and her friends at the end of The Rival, we’re left asking questions that The Emissary is going to have to answer. Who is really in charge of The Insurgency? Why are the Electroleviathans getting involved now? What made Dr. Andronicus go criminally insane? Who is The Man With the Beautiful Voice? And most importantly, what is Bex’s next move?

I’ve been working hard answering these questions. The process involves a lot of me turning into a prune in the shower while I space out pondering how the Mauna Loa Space Observatory might be involved, and what is the Latin word for destruction. (Not going to post any pictures of that!) But it also includes scribbling down a lot of questions on a notepad and key plot points on post-its, like this:

Then, I start organizing the post-its by act and scene, like this:

Then I usually stare into space for a while longer, pondering the intricacies of time travel, and how to save the endangered Honey Creeper. It’s around this point that I am both very excited, but also pretty overwhelmed. How is all of this going to turn into a story? But somehow it does. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.


wow: ebooks make great gifts! but how?

Giving ebooks is a little new… and has improved a lot for the 2011 holiday season. Open Road Media has made an excellent video tutorial on how to give the gift of ebooks for a variety of major ebook readers. It’s great! The videos are quick (<2 minutes apiece) and simple to follow.

Basically, you’ll need to know your lucky recipient’s email address and what kind of ereader they use. After that it’s a pretty standard online retail experience.

There are some limitations, however. There doesn’t appear to be a way to gift books through the Google eBookstore (which beyond Android is also bad news for local indie bookstores). But don’t fret – there’s a Barnes & Noble app for Android, so just follow the video tutorial for the Nook, and that should work just fine for your friends’ Android devices.

And, if you’re looking to buy The Rival – it is not available for Kobo or the Sony Reader. But it is available on the following platforms to give as a gift!

  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s Kindle on Amazon
  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s Nook (or Android device) on Barnes & Noble
  • The Rival for your lucky recipient’s iPhone or iPad on iTunes

Good luck with the holiday shopping! I know I enjoy it much more from the serenity of my home computer, cup of tea in hand.

the rival: at indie bookstores today

Now you can support your favorite indie writer AND your favorite indie bookstore!

A few of the indie bookstores in my life where you can now buy The Rival:

  • Over the Moon Bookstore & Artisan Gallery, in the cutest little downtown barn in Crozet, VA (just west of Charlottesville).
  • Queen Anne Books, strategically placed right next to a coffee shop at the crown of beautiful Queen Anne hill in Seattle, WA.
  • Books & Books, in a charming Spanish Villa style shop… and yes they do serve wine. In Coral Gables, FL (just west of Miami).

Check your own favorite indie bookstore’s website to see if they offer ebooks through the Google eBookstore. And if they don’t… feel welcome at one of mine!

Just a reminder that any eReader that reads epub files (iPhones, iPads, Nooks, anything Android, and many others) is compatible with indie bookstore ebook shops. (In other words, the Kindle is not.)

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand…. Only five days left to vote! Please vote for The Rival as a 2011 YA Fiction Goodreads.com book of the year.

Just copy and paste the ISBN into the search box: 9780983819004


Vote now for your favorite books!

how to: buy ebooks through your local independent bookstore

I was very excited to learn that I could buy ebooks from Over the Moon Bookstore, my favorite little indie bookshop in Crozet!

There are some qualifications, however. On my Kindle, I can ONLY buy books through Amazon. Boo. No wonder they are willing to sell the new Kindle at a huge loss. (My understanding is that it is the same deal with the Nook – you can only buy eBooks through Barnes & Noble… although the Nook reads epub files so it seems like perhaps there is a way around this??)

Thankfully, on my much-preferred eReader, my Samsung Galaxy phone, I can purchase Google Books. And Google has gotten together with independent bookstores. Brilliant. Anything that is on the Android system is pretty seamless with Google Books.

So, friends in Seattle – if you patronize Magnolia’s Bookstore, you’re out of luck. They’re considering getting a website for the first time, but for now they are pretty anti-eBooks. If you shop at Queen Anne Books, though, go for it! For my Miami friends – eBook shop away at the wonderful Books & Books!

With Apple products I THINK if you have the Google Books App you can do the same. But you have to be careful because I know Apple and Google have been warring over revenues. You can buy books through iTunes, which obviously Apple would prefer.

I’m so glad I don’t have to choose between my local bookstore and eBooks anymore.

o. m. g. prizes from modcloth!!!

Do you read books on your iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch? Do you want to win a super cool prize of your choice (<$50) from ModCloth? Then write the review of The Rival on iTunes that gets it past this hump: “We have not received enough ratings to display an average for this book.”

Haven’t read The Rival yet? Email me on bethanyjoycarlson@hotmail.com, tell me how you read ebooks, and I’ll send you a free copy.

Meanwhile, check out The Rival as a recommended read by Katie Klein!