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.

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.

tablet sales quadrupled last quarter; ereaders not so much

Such is the news reported by mediabistro’s ebook newser. This comes as no surprise to me! After my experience with reading books on my phone (Samsung Galaxy) and Amazon’s Kindle, I posted this back in July.

While it’s nice being right, the problem is that getting eBooks tablet-ready is hard compared to getting them eReader ready. Grrr. I feel like I need to be a tech genius to make this work!

market research: tammy blackwell

I am finding indie authors to be so open and kind! Due to the promptings of one of my many smarter-than-I friends, I reached out to another bestselling eBook author, Tammy Blackwell. She quickly got back to me with the following words of wisdom:

The first month my readers were all people I know. What I did do, though, was any time someone sent me a message saying they enjoyed the book I replied back with, “Would you mind posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads if you have time? That would really help me out!” And, really, I think that is what helped the most, having a 4 or 5 good reviews there in the beginning.

So, friends who have read The Rival, watch out! I will be asking you to post your reviews. Let me know what kind of bribes work best for you.

market research update: addison moore

I emailed Addison Moore to ask for some advice on launching an eBook. She very kindly provided a speedy reply. Thank you, Addison!

Here was a particularly good piece of advice, I thought: “Make sure if you go the indie route you really take your time and find a great cover. The cover of your book will sway readers long before they ever find out what your story is about.

To that end, I’ve been playing around with some cover ideas for The Rival. Here’s something I sketched up in PowerPoint, using art by the amazing Jenny Edmondson:

market research: addison moore

One of my many smarter-than-I friends suggested I find out what’s selling in eBooks for Young Adults. The majority are eBook versions of books in print; but there do seem to be an increasing number of indie eBook-only authors selling in the top 100. Addison Moore is another good example. And… I’m starting to pick up on a few themes: paranormal / romance / paranormal romance.

Not sure whether or not this is good news or bad news for The Rival. It has some sci-fi elements. More action and adventure. But no romance to speak of. Variety is the spice of life, but you can’t argue with the readers!

market research update: katie klein

I emailed Katie Klein asking her about her eBook sales success, and how she had initially gotten the word out. She very kindly replied! Thank you, Katie.

Katie shares: “The truth is, I didn’t do any major advertising/promotion when I released my books. I released them quietly in the middle of the night. :)”

This was not the response I expected… but seems to be perhaps an encouraging sign. Maybe there is an element of “if you build it, they will come” in this business.

market research: katie klein

So, as one of my (many) smarter-than-I friends pointed out, I had better find out whether YA fiction is even selling in eBook form. Wandering around Kindle for a while led to the conclusion that, yes, tweens and tees are indeed buying eBooks.

HOWEVER, only about 1% of those books appear to be eBook only. In other words, people are buying, say, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Theif, already popular in hardback, paperback, and movie form. There don’t seem to be many truly “indie” authors starting out eBook… far less, in fact, than I expected to see.

One who jumped out as doing pretty well was Katie Klein. Problem is, Katie Klein is a nom de plume of a writer who already has an agent and has published before. I’m not knocking Katie a bit; in fact, it is really interesting commentary to me on just how hard it is to get published through traditional channels. But it just goes to show that while converting a .doc to an eBook is easy as pie, selling it is not.

Sales and marketing, marketing and sales. Two things I suck at royally. I’m reading a cheesy book now on how to sell a million eBooks. I will let you know if there is anything that doesn’t stink in there.