When a book has more than one cover, which do you choose?

a-tree-growsI wrote a book—well, actually, I’ve written a few books … but I’ve published one (I could diverge a little more here and tell you the status on the other said books, but I’m trying to stay on topic so no wandering of the brain; yet) …

When The Caretakers first dropped the original cover was an older black and white photo. I liked the cover. I thought it depicted the environment the children were raised in and that their expressions had the kind of vagueness that would make onlookers want to know more. Alas, it was highly suggested by a number of people “in the know” that the cover be changed to something “more commercial.” Something that, “when placed next to other books of its genre would look appropriate.”

And so, I agreed and had the cover changed. We chose yellow for the background because research suggests it’s one of the colors that attracts buyers. And we played off the word “Caretaker” and added some bird cages; one of the images that (again, according to research) attracts women buyers specifically. Really, you should Google best selling ImageImagebook covers of all times … I’m telling you, lots of yellow, lots of birds … and a few empty dress forms. Among other things. 

Anyway, wouldn’t you know it … when the new cover hit, sales took off. I sold 872 copies in one day and made the top 10 list for Amazon’s Women’s Fiction … and so, I get it. Covers sell. Content, well, one hopes that eventually it does too, but truth be known people do judge books by the cover. We can’t help it—we are drawn to certain things, images, colors, words … it all makes sense.

Still, I prefer the original. But I won’t change it back. In fact, should the book be re-released (which I’m planning, but not really working on yet), then I think I’ll do a different cover yet. I’ll let you know how the sales go ;)

BTW, you know there are more than 15 covers released for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—which happens to be my favorite book. I first read my mother’s hand me down copy when I was a teenager. But I don’t remember what the cover looked like … only that I loved the words and it’s those words that sparked me to buy my own copy years later. A copy, I might add, that has a very commercial cover … certainly not the original, and one, I might add, that never would have sparked me to buy the book had I not known the splendor inside. 

Today’s post inspired by The Daily One-word Prompt: Original.




    • Yes, I certainly understand the power of marketing right out of the blocks. After righting for newspapers for a while, I did some PR stuff. All that being said, I prefer the darker of the colors. I also appreciate the levity of the yellow cover, with bird cages. This is coming from a 52 yr-old bachelor. (ever read the painted bird by kozinski)?

  1. I’m another who is more drawn to the first cover–but because it suggests a different sort of book from what yours appears to be (something more historical, and no, I don’t consider the 70s historical in that sense; I was flipping THERE!). I’m not sure about the second cover, though. It also gets my attention, but also doesn’t seem like a match for the genre (one consultant has told me that yellow is a color for humor).

    Seems like the key, and the thing I’m having trouble with, is getting a cover that both calls for attention and draws the attention of the right readers. As with the first one, no good drawing the eye of those looking for a memoir of the 1940s!

    P.S. I came on over from Gus Sanchez’s blog. Thanks for mentioning this–covers are very big on my mind right now.

    Rebecca at The Ninja Librarian

    • So, Miss Snosler, If you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, how do should you judge it?

      “To judge, or not to judge. That is the question.”

      Alfred the Buttler

      >________________________________ > From: The Flavored Word >To: mcoulbourn1@yahoo.com >Sent: Thursday, April 18, 2013 3:46 PM >Subject: [New comment] Even authors judge books by their covers > > > > WordPress.com >rebeccadouglass commented: “I’m another who is more drawn to the first cover–but because it suggests a different sort of book from what yours appears to be (something more historical, and no, I don’t consider the 70s historical in that sense; I was flipping THERE!). I’m not sure a” >

      • I’m not suggesting that we don’t – it’s human nature. I do it. It’s no different than profiling – on a different level, yes, but the same concept. And if thought people didn’t then I wouldn’t have changed the cover … while I do believe in writing because I or anyone has a passion for it, it is still a business and covers sell – so say the marketing Gods anyway :)

        Shauna Nosler snosler@gmail.com 317-294-5741

      • Oh what a relief it is. I am sure the marketing gods will be delighted to know that you aren’t infringing on their Lands–rumor has it they aren’t too forgiving.

      • by the way,
        who said that we–or anybody, for that matter–should adhere to what the marketing gods have to say? oops, I guess pretty much everybody

    • Geesh – sorry for the belated response! You know, I like the first one too … and perhaps, at least initially, different types of people would have been drawn to it and the responses maybe different? There is sooooo much to think about!

      • You were there? In the 70s? I guess we must have just missed in passing. If I remember correctly, I think I was en route to Japan in the real late 70s. I was the guy with a red beard, a book and two or three beers stashed in my backpack. Other than that, I don’t recall much, I think.

  2. I guess I’m an outlier again….I like the original cover and don’t care for the yellow one. Of course since you are trying to sell books, you want to do everything to attracts buyers… And I LOVE A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; that was one of my favorites when I was young!

  3. I’m always drawn to monochrome childhood book covers – hints at nostalgia whereas the more illustrative book covers blend too well with their genre. Just goes to show I’m not a good sample for readership.
    p.s. have always been tempted by your chosen WP theme

  4. I can see the appeal with the yellow cover, however I like the picture on the first one. You should try your idea of putting them both side by side, I’d be very interested to see what happens!

  5. That was insightful. I knew about color psychology and symbols separately but never thought about them in terms of book covers. That gives me quite a new perspective about the books I gave “no” and “yes” to. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for taking time to read my post and leaving a comment. I’m glad I followed your link. Wow! A published author, guess which book I’ll be looking for next? :)

    I like the original B&W cover for your book. When someone says “Caretaker”, I immediately think of old people or children, or old abandoned houses for some reason, but I would not have made any association with a birdcage. The yellow does make it stand out but I would read the synopsis on the back cover as well to see if the story is something I would like to sink into.

    One thing I failed to add to my post was how in recent years, a lot of books have adopted that same style as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and others. So much so that they almost all look the same and looking for a specific book esp in a book fair is a nightmare! If I ever get published, and that’s a big if, I would likely use a single word or an image like an emblem or crest as my cover. KISS as they say. Think J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye with just the title and the author’s name on a red background.

    • You are right – there are a lot of “da Vinci” type covers out there. And I love one word titles on one color backgrounds; just choose your combinations carefully :)

  7. well, here I am :)
    There is a detail that I’ve forgotten to mention in my post that people’s tastes differ, you may like a cover that another reader would see it normal, another will see it not suitable, it differs and this is point has to be considered when planning the book’s design. There isn’t a book which satisfies all people, but at least the author have to make a cover that is closer to his taste, that’s what I think, and good luck in your future published books :)

  8. I would have purchased the one with the original book cover. I’m drawn to books that stand out immediately. I haven’t seen too many books with black-and-white covers. That said, I want the cover for my first book to be just the way I want it, even if it doesn’t sell much.

    Great post. Love the thought you put into it :)

    • It’s hard because as much as I write simply because I love to write (well, some of the newspaper assignments aren’t all that thrilling) it is still a business … and selling copies is important … so much too it, that’s for sure!

  9. Ha. Yes. The first cover has a Frank McCourt quality to it; like him or hate him you might make the association. The second cover (the hit maker) is more abstract and as you point out and has a strange familiarity about it even though it is unique. In a strange way they both evoke – to me – nostalgia and a nod to the 50s-60s.

    Thank you!

    • I agree with the Frank McCourt comparison – I had never thought of that, but you’re spot on. Someday I’ll put them both on a shelf at Barnes and Noble and see which one gets picked up the most.

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