Welcome to the third and final installment of the False Gods cover reveals. For those of you tuning in for the first time, I’ll recap or you can go to the first blog.
While participating in a Self-Publishing panel with L. R. Trovillion, she brought her first novel, False Gods, with three different covers. It was the best visual demonstration, I’ve seen, of how covers can convey genres and target audiences. With L. R.’s permission, I’ve revealed the first two covers that didn’t reach the intended audience.
The first cover’s commenters said the novel could be historical or religious in nature for Young Adult males or men wanting to read an adventure.
The second cover commenters said the novel was indeed a fantasy.
Before we get to the third and current cover of False Gods, let’s hear from L. R. about her experience.
MJ: Please let me introduce you all to L. R. Trovillion. She’s an avid writer – I’ve met her on at least three separate occasions that revolved around writing before we participated in the Maryland Writers’ Association Howard County Chapter discussion on the Self-Publishing panel. L. R., thanks for taking the time to tell us about your first novel, False Gods, The Show Jumper’s Challenge.
LR: MJ, thanks so much for hosting me! Ah, that tough question when someone asks, ‘What is your book about?’ A million thoughts spring to mind, but I’ll answer with the book’s tag line: Cory thought she’d rescued the mare. Turns out, it was the other way around. False Gods is about a girl in a tough situation searching for that special something out there in the world that will make her feel good about herself– like she’s a success for a change. That happens when she discovers a mysterious horse with some unusual talents…
MJ: You’ve piqued my interest. For anyone who loves animals, especially horses, this blurb pinpoints the audience. Before we get into ‘why’ the three covers, I’d like to bring up another difficult decision authors face, and that’s the title. Can you take us through your process of using False Gods?
LR: Another tough question! My working title originally was Riding for a Fall, which is an old horseman’s expression for someone who is always looking for disaster, expecting to miss the jump, worried about getting thrown—and sure enough, they usually do, a self-fulfilling prophecy!
It would’ve been a more obvious title for a “horse book,” but I knew the story was much more than just one more girl-and-her-horse story. False Gods refers to the things in life people look up to with some expectation that they’ll make them happy, fulfilled, feel loved, respected…you name it. They are false gods because they never return on their promise.
In the novel, several characters pursue their false god to disastrous ends. This title, however, was vague and problematic. It did not tell the potential buyer what the book was about. Therefore the subtitle was added for more clarity. As for finding titles, it is usually some key point or aha moment within the story that becomes the title for me.
MJ: The subtitle does add focus to the title. Soon our readers will see the subtitle on the third cover. How did you go about finding and hiring the book cover design artists?
LR: The first time I researched recommendations on writer blogs, asked around, looked at covers I liked and tried to find the artist, you name it. Some were just out of the question due to price. Price is a big factor for me as with many indie publishers.
What I did not do, but should have, was to focus in on artists who had the most experience in creating covers for my genre. I fell in love with the work of a graphic artist who did fantasy or paranormal romance. Her work was amazing, but it did not translate for my needs.
The second artist was a recommendation from a fellow indie author. She had her covers redone, and it made a big difference in sales. Again, it was an artist who specialized in romance almost exclusively, so she really didn’t “get” what I wanted or needed.
MJ: When did you realize the first cover wasn’t working? Did you consult with anyone?
LR: I thought that changing the cover would be a magic remedy to lagging sales. Customers had told me they didn’t know what the book was about and assumed it was maybe historical fiction, perhaps epic fantasy… I took that to heart, and although I knew a new, better cover would help, I did not get the advice I needed to pick the best cover artist or author branding look I would need, especially for a series.
MJ: Oh, a series – that adds more complexity. How much time had lapsed between the first cover and the second?
LR: The first cover was in place from December 2014 to approximately June 2017.
MJ: Take me back to when the second cover is out. Did you notice any improvements in sells? When did you talk to the branding experts? What did you learn from them?
LR: The data to answer that question is murky because there are a lot of other variables (the book had already been out for years, I engaged in different marketing campaigns, etc.). My “impression” however was that it did not make any significant change in sales or discoverability (i.e., potential readers willing to “click through” to see what it was about.)
I spoke with two high-powered book marketing experts for a brief overview of what I could do to improve my brand, etc. They both immediately zeroed in on the cover and told me it was awful. No kidding. I was crushed because here I spent money getting a new cover! They advised I ditch it…again. This time, I held my breath, listened, and started over. The CEO of Bublish, Kathy Meis, spent an enormous amount of time with me in phone consultations…and it was eye-opening.
MJ: Branding. I know we authors hear about how important it is to understand what that means.
The third cover is about to be revealed. Now, it reflects the genre and your target audience. What cover-design advice would you give someone who’s thinking about self-publishing for the first time?
LR: I was told that a book cover has 7 seconds tops to tell a potential customer what genre it is, what the story may be about, and reflect the mood. Seven seconds! With my ambiguous title and covers, it was no wonder people were not sure what the book might be about and walked away confused, disinterested.
Indie authors are told to check out the covers in their genre, but it helps to know WHY certain covers are successful. For example, YA books usually feature bright colors, edgy design/fonts, or people who tell you the emotional level of the story. There is so much to know from the use of certain fonts, colors, placement of title…it is worthwhile if you can get a marketing expert to weigh in, check out cover design competitions, and see what’s winning. Look at the best sellers on Amazon… and get a graphic designer who specializes in your genre.
MJ: I know you have exciting news. Your next book, Horse Gods: The Dressage Rider’s Betrayal in the next Maryland Equestrian Novel Series is coming March 17. Please tell us about it.
LR: The next book in the series is not a sequel in the true sense of the word, but rather picks up the story of a secondary character in the first book, Regina Hamilton, just as her mother is being released from prison early. Here’s the story without telling the whole story:
A half-wild horse, a Celtic legend, and a teen trying to escape…
Regina Hamilton has three months to prove to the courts she can earn a living on her own and avoid going home to her abusive mother—a tall order for a teen with only her riding skills to rely on. Desperate to prove herself, Regina lands a job at an exclusive dressage barn. But when workers start to mysteriously disappear, she becomes ensnared in a web of lies and deceit. With time running out and unsure who to trust, Regina turns to an unlikely trio: an unusual boy who trains hawks, a reclusive professor of Celtic history and a half-wild red mare. Together they form a bond that will be tested when a long-held secret exposes a much greater threat—and Regina’s the target. To save her horses and her life, Regina may have to trust her enemies and betray her friends.
MJ: Thanks again LR, for your lessons learned and for a preview of your next novel. I’ve taken several notes on what to do next time.
Here’s the third and current cover. That old adage is true, isn’t it? A picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, a cover can entice its audience.
Everyone, here’s LR’s website. For grins click to see her newest book’s cover. Beautiful, informative, and in a matter of seconds you’ve got an idea of the genre and target audience.
I’ve enjoyed doing this so much. As an Indie myself, I want to find ways to promote fellow Independent Authors and their work. Starting March 2019, once a month I’ll spotlight an indie author (fiction) and review one of their books. If you’re interested leave a comment. If no one responds, I’ll review a Kindle First book I’ve read. If I get more than one person, I’ll draw a name, leave it up to the fates to decide.
I’d be interested.
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Awesome, Andrew! If no one else reads to the end of the interview and is interested, you’re ‘the winner’. Is it Mystical Greenwood, you’d like me to review?