Book covers – changing your cover

Stay tuned…next week I’m going to put up the first quarter of Bian’s Tale, but I want to do something a bit different this week and I’m looking to get responses from you.

Today is about changing your book cover. I plan to do this for the Bite Back series, and so I’m interested to see what happens when others do it. From previous posts, you’ll remember I showed the new cover for Debra Dunbar’s first book in her Imp series, and she was pleased with the increased response that generated. I think her new covers are better, and the cover for No Man’s Land, which I recommended a couple of posts back, gets the werewolf part of the book across well. (Very few covers get ‘vampire’ across well, IMHO, but tell me if you think differently).

Now Susan Illene has decided to change her covers. Here’s her reasoning, and the new cover for Darkness Haunts.

Many of you will remember the original Darkness Haunts cover that I have been using for over a year now. It was my first book and I was quite proud of it at the time I published it, but I also knew it wasn’t quite the right look for Melena. Sometimes you just have to settle for what you can get (stock photos) and I couldn’t afford a professional photo shoot at the time. My cover artist did a great job with it, though, and it drew in plenty of readers so I can’t complain.

But it was time for change.

After the awesome experience with the photo shoot for Chained by Darkness, I decided I had to redo Darkness Haunts. It just couldn’t stay the same anymore. I am very pleased with how it turned out and hope you all will be too! So here it is:

New cover

So, folks, what do you think about the new kick-ass image?

Do you think this will attract a different audience? Will readers have a different expectation? If you’ve read the book, do you feel this captures Melena better?

Do you think changing the covers produces an increased response regardless?

I’ll be very interested in your comments, and my next post is going to ask for your opinion on a book I think most of you won’t have read, rather than my reviewing it, or making a recommendation on it.



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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first books are available on Amazon at

11 responses to “Book covers – changing your cover”

  1. Jason says :


    I like the new Sensor Series Cover I think it gives the reader more of an idea about the main character and what she is like than the first one.

    I think that the cover needs to give a little brand recognition if you will, to give people an idea of what might interest them about the book. For example I believe Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires does this by normally showing the main character with her fighting swords which for her series points to the Sentinel role she plays in Vampire society. I don’t think you can ‘do’ vampires well because there is too much out there now, what you need to do is mark yourselves different. For example if your vampires have glowing eyes or something of that effect you could try and show that.

    Now for your series to put more vampire into the covers I would have went with something that says House because that is key to your society of vampires; for example the eagle statue in the books would have been good and even better opposite the moon on Bite Back which would have hinted at the struggle of her dual nature. Even more maybe a group shot of Amber’s fledgling house OR her with Bain and/or other Vampire affiliates.

    The artistry is not key for me, a sleek packaged book can be crap and a not so sleek book can be a delight. I like to see a cover and think I want to know more about that story. I read a lot of samples based off the cover but I don’t necessarily buy until I have a better feel for where the book may go but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a surprise later on.

    To answer more of the questions you asked; yes new covers can generate more interest especially for guys with the new sensor cover because lets face it guys are very visual. I think it will attract a different audience and expectations will always be different based on things we see as we all make assumptions.

    Well I hope you enjoy my post and I look forward to finding more out about Amber and her House.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thank you Jason, and interesting points.
      I agree that Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland book covers do have that illusive ‘brand’ feel, as do Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thomson series. Swords in one and tatts in the other contribute to that image.
      Using House as an image is difficult, but the Blindfold Eagle, symbol of the Hidden Path would have been a *much* better series name than ‘Bite Back’, and unlike Bite Back, could be turned into a distinctive image or shape. I did fiddle around with some drawings (I’m not an artist) and managed to come up with an outline that looked vaguely like something from the Third Reich! But I should look at it again with a proper artist. Perhaps when I redo the covers, this should be the linking theme.
      I know what you mean about pretty covers hiding some ****y books. My concern/obsession is down to this: the book cover image is the first thing that catches the eye on Amazon. And it must not only catch the eye, as you say, it must communicate something of the feel of the book.
      I really appreciate your detailed comments.

      • Jason says :

        Thanks to you Mark, You are doing great so don’t take my comments negatively please. It is nice to really interact with you! I am eagerly anticipating the next book..

  2. katherinejames88 says :

    “Do you think changing the covers produces an increased response regardless?”

    I think it does, but my line of thinking is coming more from a copy-writing ‘split-testing’ background.

    Trying different images or titles, (and seeing which ones the reading public responds to more), is a key part of promotional materials.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Again, very interesting response here Katherine, thank you.
      On the one hand, indies don’t have ‘house standards’ to restrict us, nor do we have warehouses of books with the ‘wrong’ cover. On the other, we don’t have money to produce images and test their effect.
      The nearest we can come to promotional response testing (once the book has plateaued in sales) is to change the cover completely, as Susan is trying.
      I’m fascinated to see the effect on her sales, and on mine when I get to it.

  3. Robert Bird says :

    I think the cover makes a big difference – if the book blurb looks good and the sample is good (and hopefully the book is good but by then you’ve bought it). For me, a great cover almost forces me to look at the blurb and then if I like that, I’ll try the sample. A bad cover usually causes me to not investigate further, unless there is a high rating with numbers behind them. A “meh” cover is pretty neutral so I’ll look at those but without terribly high expectations of quality editing.

    So for me, the quality of the cover helps determine how likely I am to investigate a book further. Other filters for me are the book’s title and the author’s pen name. If either of those are ridiculous I’ll usually pass by as well.

  4. larry paroubek says :

    Cover influence is very dependent upon viewing media — with B&W Kindles, the title, blurb, review comparisons, and sample make all the difference — with color Kindles or Kindle apps, a striking cover does lead to a more in-depth review.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Good point Larry.
      I have the old B&W Kindle, but always go to the laptop to look at Amazon. They *say* that links after the content lead to purchases. I wish Amazon would give us more info on how people are getting to our books. 🙂

      • larry paroubek says :

        No matter how striking your cover, it first has to be seen before being enticed by the blurb into reading reviews and the sample.

        I’m normally influenced by general recommendations, and more so by “similar books” inside book descriptions, along with occasional searches by author’s name, which result in also displaying books by other authors — a rather simplistic algorithm that merely lists books others have read that have also read the author’s books.

        I note that, in this type of search, many what I’ll call “sparkly vampire romances” are displayed when searching your name.
        A sizable audience, but I’d think the “universe” you’re creating is more closely aligned with “universes” written by authors like John Conroe and Glenn Bullion. Even more ideal would be becoming associated with authors such as Jim Butcher & Kevin Hearne, who have a large number of readers.

        Additionally, being placed near the front of the category lists would be ideal. Otherwise, those searching through the lists would take forever to even glimpse your cover. I’m a bit clueless on what causes such placement — number of reviews, total sales/sales “this week/month” — doesn’t seem to have a great deal of consistency…

  5. Mark Henwick says :

    Indeed Larry, I’m a vampire victim here, in that anything that has to admit to having something similar to vampires in it is drawn into the Twilight Nebula. Here, boundaries of normal definition are twisted by the black holes that are the Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse series. We are all pulled into orbiting around them, and hey, that must mean we’re all about the same thing. 🙂

    I would *love* to have a better cross-over with Jim B and Kevin H (I highly recommend both Harry D and the Iron Druid series), but my Athanate world was deliberately limited to Witches, Weres and ‘Vampires’, with the core thread of the story being carried by the Athanate, making it a ‘vampire’ book.

    I don’t know John Conroe or Glenn Bullion, but I’ve added them to the tbr list. Thanks.

    Amazon list and rankings are their own whole area of study. On the release of Hidden Trump, both it and Sleight of Hand went into single figures for ranking in Paranormal Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy (‘Urban Fantasy’ didn’t exist on Amazon categories at the time). That meant if you went looking for those categories, one or the other or both were on the first screen of recommendations. That’s all down to the instantaneous sales ranking + some Amazon algorithm that provides additional buoyancy to a book that has had very good sales over a long time. (Amazon refuse to reveal the details)

    All my books have now slipped below the magic first 100 places, which means that people are unlikely to find them searching in that way.

    There aren’t, to my knowledge, any ways to search on book category + reader ratings unfortunately, because I’m reasonably sure I’d be highly placed.

    I’d love more control over linking & searching, but then wouldn’t any author.

    What Amazon give us is :
    2 categories, i.e. pick 2 from Contemporary Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy etc. and
    7 ‘tags’. Tags are free format text strings, and I put in stuff like : PI, vampire, werewolf, magic, kick-ass, etc etc

    It’s a blunt instrument. Amazon must know this, but haven’t yet come up with anything better. They tinker around the edges.

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