San Diego and Book Covers

JPMcLean in San Diego AirportEarlier this month, we took a short trip to see dear friends in La Mesa, California, just outside of San Diego. It was wonderful to catch up with our friends, and also to see a bit of San Diego. A few scenes in the new book take place in San Diego, so it was good to get a first-hand feel for the airport, the sounds of the streets, and the ambience of the city.

I didn’t get a good photo of the boats along the waterfront, so you’ll have to trust me when I say they were impressive.

Container Store's shop windowFashion Valley was a treat with its high-end shops. I fogged up the windows of Prada, Coach, Emporio Armani, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., and Louis Vuitton, but didn’t venture inside as my Canadian dollars were shaking in their boots. I did, however, find a fabulous new-to-me shop, The Container Store, AKA paradise for an organizational freak like me. Sadly, the shops aren’t in Canada, which is probably a good thing.

JPMcLean posing beside old postmaster desk in Old Town, San DiegoOld Town San Diego, though touristy, was an entertaining diversion and we ate dinner at Guadalajara’s on the recommendation of our cabbie. The food was tasty, as was the margarita that was the size of my head.

JPMcLean drinking huge margaritaBack home on the writing front, I’m contemplating something I’d like your input on–titles and book covers. Over the life of the Gift Legacy books, I’ve received feedback that the titles and covers suggest the books are in the “religion and spiritual” genre. They are not and I don’t want to mislead readers. They are contemporary fantasy thrillers. I’ve always felt that the book covers, like the books themselves, wouldn’t appeal to everyone, and left it at that. However, the issue keeps coming up and it’s getting harder to ignore.

Book covers, like their titles, have an important job to do; they have to convey the genre and tone of the book, as well as pique a reader’s curiosity. I feel like I’m too close to be objective, and though I’ve stated often how much I love the covers, I’m open to re-branding them.

And that’s why I’m asking for your input. What do you think? Are the covers and titles doing their job? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

You can read Emelynn’s story with one click right here.

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About JP McLean

Author of The Gift Legacy, a contemporary thriller with a twist of fantasy that will leave you believing the impossible and wary of the night sky…
This entry was posted in Book Covers, Book Titles, On Writing, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to San Diego and Book Covers

  1. Sally Rae says:

    Rebranding your books sounds like a huge job but an interesting project for you! A few friends mentioned the ‘religious feel’ to your titles at the release of ‘The Gift’ and ‘Awakening’. Although at this time I don’t have any title ideas… I would love to see the covers feature your main character, Emelynn. I look forward to the rebirth of your book covers!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. denmaniacs4 says:

    The covers capture place. They don’t capture the strong characters you have created. One thought, Sally’s thought, actually…perhaps its time for Emelynn and Jackson to take shape.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JP McLean says:

      Thanks for your input, Bill. I think you’re right. Most books in this genre have a character on the cover. I recently found an image I like for Emelynn. Definite possibility.

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  3. colleen says:

    How did you get through that margarita, Jo-Anne? (ha) I agree–would be fun to see a new branding on the covers!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your covers and display you books proudly on my bookshelf. I’m not sure if you should change them, and I’m certainly no expert. I’m stressed just thinking about this. Maybe if you found an expert cover designer that has done well with covers in your genre, you could get some advice?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. JP McLean says:

    I’m not sure either, Kristina. I love the current covers, so my heart thumps as I write this. If a new concept isn’t exceptional, I won’t do it. On my TTD list is finding an expert cover designer, and one who is comfortable and experienced with series. I’ll check back before I make a move.

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  6. Christy B says:

    Nice to hear about your trip 🙂 As for the covers, they do have a spiritual feel to them… I agree with the other commenters that showing your characters would be a great way to steer more toward the fantasy image that you want to convey. I think if you get the cover right then you won’t have to re-title the books (perhaps saving you a small chunk of the big project).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jfkaufmann says:

    They don’t evoke the spiritual/religious feeling in me. I like them, I like their dinstinctive colour schemes and at the same time, I like the common theme of the covers for books 1-3 (bech) and the urban feeling of book 4. The images correspond with the stories on a subtle level. The cover of Betrayal is different from the rest and I think it should be the story dictates that.
    Perhaps the combination of title and covers might suggest a spiritual component. I don’t see the connection, maybe because when Susan Toy recommended them to me, she told me that they were contemporary fantasies.
    I’ve been thinking about the same thing–to change the covers for my first two novels, no matter how much I love them. I’m curious to see if something stereotipycal would work better in terms of exposure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JP McLean says:

      Thanks, Jasna. Good observation about when a book is recommended though. The covers become secondary because you’ve been told it’s a good story. Let me know how you make out if/when you change your covers.

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  8. Jo-Anne, such a dilemma. Your current covers are pretty and evoke a zen-like message. However, your stories are so much more than that. Your writing is dynamic and so are your characters. Add to that your genre- fantasy thriller – and you have a lot to work with.

    There used to be a site on Fiver, don’t know if it’s still there, where book designers can compete with ideas for your cover. You may get some other thoughts on the website, Book Cover Designer, as well. See the covers that they think stand out. Good luck on figuring it all out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JP McLean says:

      Thanks for the Fiver tip, Diana. I’ve not used that site before, but I hear lots of good things about it. Meantime, I’ve been trolling through iStock, and making notes on Joel Friedlander’s eBook Cover Design Awards. I feel like I’m just tying my shoelaces at the bottom of a mountain, with a long, long way to climb. Urgh!

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  9. gmroeder says:

    Hmmm. Takes a lot of thinking. At the very beginning getting to read your books, I thought the titles had something ‘spiritual’ in them. The pictures are more ‘mysterious’. Why do you think of ‘rebranding’ all of them? Do you have different marketing plans? You could try a new idea for the next book. I have come across a discussion on one of the Linkedin Groups re book covers. A couple of times I even saw and voted on several covers for the same book. I was supposed to get a copy because I had been right – I never did, I never saw the outcome. Fiver may be worthwhile to check out. I do have the name of a student who was recommended by his professor (graphic & design) from the VIU. I think he was last term so he may be graduated. I could check my very old e-mails. Sadly, my computer goes into “hospital’ tomorrow and I don’ know when I get it back. Have you ever asked “Google” where to find cover designs for …your genre? I like the character thing some of your friends suggested. For instance, in the book where Emmelyn flies up to the lighthouse – the lighthouse and E. I see trouble if you are not careful that the new designs could suggest young adult reading. They are definitely adult! Shouldn’t look like fairy tales… You have a difficult job, my friend. I see a pic of E? or J? at the bottom of the mountain tying shoelaces… or something. Great thought of yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • JP McLean says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Giselle. My motives are twofold, one, the wrong-genre feedback I get regularly, and two, fantasy-genre readers aren’t finding the books. The latter could very well be due to my sad marketing skills, but new and better-targeted covers would help. I love the idea of featuring the lighthouse on Book II, and I also think Emelynn has to make an appearance. Not sure about Jackson yet though. Thanks again.

      Like

  10. olganm says:

    Hi Jo-Anne. I don’t know what to say. Yes, perhaps the combination of the titles and the cover that suggest something spiritual. But, ultimately they are your books and you’re never going to manage to make everybody happy. I guess there is no harm (if you can afford it) in trying and seeing if any designers come up with something that you like. Eventually, all the covers end up looking very much the same unless we try for something different (and that might make them not recognisable). I haven’t changed many of my covers (just a couple) and I can’t say it made any difference, but I don’t sell much anyway. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • JP McLean says:

      You’re so right: I’m not going to make everyone happy. I am curious, though, and wonder if a new cover concept could bowl me over. If I can fall in love with a different cover, I’d be willing to take a chance on it. I’ll keep in touch, and thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  11. Mahesh Nair says:

    I loved reading this post. I may be accurate that the margarita was double the size of a human head.

    It’s wonderful that you lived some of the scenes for your new book. They’ll come handy in establishing the tone.

    I like your book covers: they have the hues and the designs of fantasy thrillers. What’s perhaps seeding the doubt are the titles. They may tend to mislead since words like betrayal, penance, revelation, redemption, etc. are more used in self-help genre books? Perhaps you may prefix the current title with the name of a lead character or design the cover showing the lead character in action?

    Wishing you all the best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • JP McLean says:

      Thanks, Mahesh. I think you’re right about the words being misleading. They make sense after you’ve read the books, but not so much to attract the right audience. I like the idea of putting the lead character on the cover. Thanks so much for your input.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I always loved your covers. I don’t think changing a cover completely when your books have been out for a while and can be recognized and recalled is a good idea. They look somewhat mystic, but that’s interesting. You could just add a line on a suitable spot on each one which says in a few words what the thrill involves. Like keeping the titles and images of covers, but sort of adding extremely short but suggesting something what the character goes through. It might be difficult to figure out how to choose just a short line, but that way your covers would stay untouched (it’s a huge undertaking to switch a cover for existing series!!!) and their titles also. People have a very distinctive perceptions. If you change covers, so characters are the way to go. Silhouettes, views from the side or back are also images of characters. Just seeing eyes or part of face is also an approach which involves such genre. Well, it’s difficult whatever way you put it. First of all, how many times such suggestions have come up? Maybe you reacted too sensitively?

    Liked by 1 person

    • JP McLean says:

      Thank you, as always, Inese for your thoughtful comments. As you know, I love these covers, so changing them or their titles will definitely be difficult. I haven’t yet fully committed, and whatever my decision, I know I won’t please everyone. I personally know of a number of readers who bypassed the books because they were misled by the covers and titles. I wonder how many others reacted that way, and I didn’t know?

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