Covers. It's the first thing you see about a book, isn't it? It's the thing that causes you to pull the book off the shelf and turn it over to read the blurb. Sure, maybe not if it's your favourite author – but for an unknown? My small publisher and I always knew the covers were critical and now performance seems to be proving the point.
The first of my science fiction romance novels, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy was launched in March 2011. This is the cover. We wanted to show what the book was about – Fast-paced action adventure with spaceships and aliens but with a strong romance arc as well. It's a good story, even if I say so myself. Don't just take my word for it – read the reviews. Here, I've summarised a few for you:
Oh, we made some sales but not enough to buy that Ferrari. Or even a steak dinner for me and the OH. Ah well, onward and upward. When I made a name for myself, they'd come flocking back.
So in June 2011 we published Morgan's Choice, the second of my science fiction romance titles. Here's the cover for that one. I don't deny we'd changed our tack a little. Science-fiction, we were told, doesn't sell as well as romance. This time, we added a sexy, hunky MAN – along with the space ship and stars. Girls, it's still science fiction – but with some pizzazz. Yeah. Within days the book was racing up the charts on the Omnilit site, quickly achieving number one status which it held for a number of weeks.
Some of you will be saying, “Hey, lady, it's a better story.” No, it's not. Morgan's Choice and The Iron Admiral are the same genre (fast-paced action adventure with a dollop of sex) and they're equally well written, with good plots. Once again, don't take my word for it. Here's a few reviews for Morgan's Choice:
What this is telling me is that my market is more likely to be the women's science fiction romance market which relies heavily on a sex component. The pink nebula with the two lovers has very likely put off the straight SF readers and the same motif didn't have enough oomph to attract the women readers. Sure, there's a bit of sex in my books. It was one of the reasons I choose science fiction romance. I've always loved space opera but the sex always seemed to be behind closed doors, know what I mean? So I wrote books which I've tried to keep scientifically plausible (no vampires, angels, mental telepathy), with a strong plot – but I've added some spice. Not erotica, not even straight romance – because the romance isn't the main arc of the story – in fact in both books, it's a complication for the protagonists. I just think the sex makes the events more 'real'.
Anyway, back to covers. My publisher decided to test the notion that abs sell. She had a book on Omnilit that wasn't selling despite being the right sort of book for the market. So she changed the cover from the nice looking face to a ripped, bad-boy torso above jeans. Sales surged.
The second Iron Admiral book – The Iron Admiral: Deception is out round about now. This time, (unsurprisingly) we have abs on the cover. See? It remains to be seen what difference that will make.
Covers matter, oh yes indeed they do. But take care to match your cover to your audience. What attracts one reader may put off another.
Greta van der Rol loves writing science fiction with a large dollop of good old, healthy romance. She lives not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoys photography and cooking when she isn't bent over the computer. She has a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping her in her writing endeavours.