Saturday, 16 February 2013

What's In A Cover?

Dirty Little Fuck Doll V7
To propose that we don't judge a book by its cover is like suggesting that a woman should not conclude first impressions of a man based on his physique and style, nor a man on similar elements of a woman's appearance. Whilst in all of these cases, the content beneath the exterior is of primary importance, it is those first impressions that invite us to investigate the opportunity further, or to pass harmlessly by. We may not judge a book entirely by its cover, but if we aren't drawn in by it then we shall never judge it at all.

Dirty Little Fuck Doll V4
My own experiences have taught me that the designing of an eBook cover, is far from similar to designing one for its printed counterpart. A physical book can be pulled closer or pushed further away, it can be turned in the hands, held to the light and just generally experienced as an actual entity, something which exists. An eBook cover is altogether more complex, primarily it needs to be striking as a tiny thumbnail, it simply has to jump out of the screen and hector you into clicking it. After that, it needs to stand up well as a monochromatic image on the eInk screen of your reading device, as well as looking great full size in full colour.

Thankfully, my husband is au fait with Photoshop and graphic design, but you can still imagine the daunting dilemmas we were faced with when putting together the cover for Dirty Little Fuck Doll. I'd written the book and already decided on the title, so all we needed to do was come up with a captivating cover, which as you can see from some of the unused versions I have displayed here, was far from an easy process. The cover that I finally used was the seventh attempt, all of which had at least two or three versions, with slight differences; but just didn't hit the spot for me (yes, I am a very demanding woman, and had to get my legs out to solve the problem!).

Dirty Little Fuck Doll V5
So, I'm happy that we got it right for Dirty Little Fuck Doll; even Cara Sutra who hated the book paid kudos to me for the cover; but I think The Megan Affair - Part One was not the big hitter that its predecessor was. Sales for Fuck Doll are roughly three times higher than those for Megan, even though Megan has some truly adulatory reviews and is as strong a story in its own right; I put this largely down to two factors: the cover and the title. Looking back I can acknowledge that the cover needed to be sexier and the title more memorable and striking. However, what is in the past is done, and will be considered when I develop The Megan Affair into its next stage and subsequent conclusion.

But before that happens, I have a new book to publish in the next month or so and would greatly appreciate your thoughts on eBook cover design. I'm interested to know what turns you on or off when it comes to erotica covers. Do you prefer conspicuous or subtle images? Photographs or artwork? Body parts, faces, abstract imagery or typography? Are you more likely to read an erotic fiction book with a man on the cover or a woman? If a book had great reviews but a badly designed cover, would you buy it anyway? Do certain colours work better than others? How important is it to display the graphic nature of the content on the cover?

Of course, I use the term 'cover' loosely here as in reality it covers nothing, and is more like a digital sales image; something that is to be considered a bonus that you don't need to dumb down the explicit content of the book with a seemingly harmless item like a silver tie so people don't recognise what you're reading on the bus.

Traipsing around Amazon it's possible to see some appallingly designed book covers, and some that have clearly been given some professional consideration. I think the genre of erotica does lend itself to being a little more brash with cover images, but am attentive to your contribution on this matter. Whether conscious or sub-conscious, I want to know what makes you dive in, or click away.


  1. I'm wondering if the difference in sales isn't down to the expectations of your core readership. Personally, I find the title The Megan Affair intriguing, even mysterious. So much so that when I finish this comment I'll be reading the excerpt. The cover is subtle and erotic at the same time. My first thought when I saw it was a woman standing naked in a darkened room with light shining through an open doorway onto her back. I want to know what she's doing. Of course this may not relate to the story at all, but it definitely makes me curious enough to find out more. Apparently I'm on the opposite side of the fence from your core readers. I've seen Dirty Little Fuck Doll splashed all over the internet, but even though I read hardcore erotica I never once found myself curious about it. The title is a little too brash for my taste. I don't think there's an easy answer to picking a title or designing a cover. If you've had success in the past, I'd say stay on that track. I think ultimately word of mouth will account for more sales than the most eye catching cover. Need to get those readers talking to their friends.

    1. Hi Kelley, thanks so much for your input. Your point about core readership is very interesting, and one that I will bear in mind for future projects. You're certainly right about there not being an easy answer regarding eBook covers, individual decisions will obviously come down to that person's taste. Your comments about the subtlety of The Megan Affair cover are thought provoking, it's reasonably clear that some readers are looking for bold and brash, whilst others are seeking those more understated covers and titles. I hope that you enjoyed the excerpt from The Megan Affair and went on to read the full book! Thanks again x

    2. Adrianna Vincent9 March 2013 at 13:39

      I'm in agreement with Kelley - I find both the title and cover for The Megan Affair more sophisticated and alluring than the crude in-your-face title of DLFD, which doesn't titillate me at all. That being said, I would have chosen version 5 for the cover of DLFD, although I also would have chosen a different, and more flamboyant, font. However, I read the snippet for DLFD, and it far surpasses the cover and title - very well written. Read The Megan Affair snippet too - which goes to show you what covers can do, because I preferred the writing of DLFD! (Perhaps because personally I would never pleasure a man who had wronged me.) But both are examples of an author with style, talent, and dare I say... expertise?

  2. Georgeanna Bingley24 February 2013 at 21:47

    I like the top photo the best of these options. Partly because, oh my god those shoes are hot! But more because since it doesn't show her face or the rest of her body when I read the story I can imagine her looking how I want. It's strange how the more I like a character the more she looks like me in my head :-) I'm not sure why I'm able to skim past and ignore character descriptions if they contradict with the way I think the character should look, but if I see a picture on the cover my brain will latch onto that image and it's harder for me to change it in my head.

    That said, of my two stories that are for sale the cover with faces is selling way better than the story without. So who knows?

    I do know I look forward to seeing your next work! Good luck!

  3. For what its worth, I think that with a title like 'dirty little fuck doll', what might have a greater visual impact is to choose an image that was in complete contrast to the words.

  4. I have designed book covers before and I am a big ebook reader and firstly I have to say that everybody judges a book by its cover and we all know it. It is against human nature to pretend we don't or even that we shouldn't because without having read the book or even heard about it, how else re we going to make a decision for a certain book over other books?. A books cover should represent the content of the book for precisely that reason and should be as much a part of the marketing campaign as anything else. So, I'm not an erotica reader at all but for me I would think that the cover should be suggestive of that genre but not brazenly pornographic and should use blacks and reds along with "shades of grey". However, if the title of the book itself is pretty much proof of content then you could get away with being even more subtle. I think subtlety is important. Be flirt with your designs :)

    I would like to have a go at an erotic book cover one day though, it would be fun. DM me on Twitter if you ever need an artist.

  5. Ahh...this is my favorite topic of conversation! Like many of you have already said, I still believe the best way to sell a book (or hopefully sell a book) is having the perfect combination of title and image. As a freelance designer (and the cover designer for Go Deeper Press), typography is *extremely* important to me, and I tend to shy away from what I sometimes call "cheap" Photoshop tricks (although, full confession: I sometimes rely on them for quick web images...I'm such a hypocrite). I like balance in a cover's design. I like both edgier looks and very simple, traditional ones. You're first image for "Dirty Little Fuck Doll"--that photo--is sublime. The typography in the lower left? Picture perfect. (I want your name stretched across the top and in white, but that's only my preference.)

    The best thing is--right now, anyway--is that publishers and self-publishers are recognizing the *importance* of good cover design. I honestly believe it really does help with more click-throughs and sales. And, like you mentioned in your questions, I'm one of the people who likely won't buy a book if I think the cover is shoddy, even if it's gotten amazing reviews.

    Thanks for starting this discussion!

  6. Oh! And I also think it's crucial to balance cover with content.

    And that's it from me for now. Promise.