So there I was, proudly showcasing my novels at the recent Byron Bay Writers Festival when a middleaged woman wandered up to my table. She smiled widely at me then picked up one of my books and stared hard at the cover.
I blinked rapidly, "No, no, not at all!" I glanced down at the book in her hand, my latest A Note Before Dying. "That's an adult mystery. Part of my Ghostwriter Mystery series."
"Oh... right." She glanced back at the book, her bushy eyebrows crinkling together, looking a little flummoxed. "Riiight," she repeated.
"They're a bit of fun, though," I quickly added, sounding apologetic and not wanting to. "I mean, there's a good, complicated plot and everything, it's just that they're, fast-paced and easy to read. That's why I keep the covers so bright and fun-looking..."
My voice trailed off as she placed the book back down, her smile now waning, and wandered off to another writer's table.
In that moment I felt a heady flood of both embarrassment and indignation. These are adult novels, I thought angrily. I don't write for kids! I snatched up the book she had been holding and stared hard at it again. That's when the niggling little voice that had been whispering to me for the past 12 months, finally broke through.
"Ah, yes, Christina, but it looks like you do."
I've lived and breathed my Ghostwriter Mystery series since long before the first book, Killer Twist, was published in December 2011. Back then I was a novice writer and even greener self-publisher. I had a decent story, I had a few words of encouragement from my literary agent, and I needed a cover.
I turned to the only graphic designer I knew in the area, a good friend called Stuart Eadie. A musician as it happens, but also nifty with Photoshop.
We whipped a cover up together—me sourcing the pix, him dabbling with design, me getting him to dabble a bit harder—and eventually we had a pretty basic cover, but one that seemed to speak to me. One that said: fun! Fast-paced! Great read!
Since then Stu and I have whipped up another five covers together, all in the same vein.
But lately I've begun to feel that perhaps I've not only outgrown my bright, illustrative cover designs, perhaps they're now working against me.
That crinkled eye-browed woman was not the first to comment on the youthful look of my books. It's happened regularly ever since I began this process, yet I always chose to ignore it. It didn't matter, I kept thinking, they've just got it wrong. But now I've begun to see that 'they' are my potential readers, so why risk alienating them so easily? Getting readers is not as easy as I once believed. Sure, I've built up a loyal fanbase but what about all those people who have liked the sound of my story but been turned off or confused by my covers?
Yes, my books are bright and fun, but they're not exclusively for the young. My mother is amongst my biggest fans, so are many men, including an 84-year-old. But are my books the kind they want to be seen holding on the bus?
Do my covers embarrass them? And, by association, me?
Time for a changeI don't know the answer to that question and I know you should never apologise for your creations, but I also know it's time to broaden my reach. It's time for an update. It's time to show ALL potential readers that my stories are universal, they're ageless and they're appropriate.
If my covers are turning even one person off, then they are failing me, miserably.
And so I've redesigned all SIX of my Ghostwriter Mysteries. And I mean that literally. I've done it, myself, with the help of Photoshop. Because no one knows my books better than I do.
I've kept them bright and fun-looking, but I hope they don't look quite so young anymore. I think the new look will be as embraced by young readers as old. It certainly shouldn't turn anyone off. These covers show a certain maturity and development on both my part and on my maturing Ghostwriter, Roxy. They're safe but still enticing. Or at least I hope they are...
Some of you who have followed me for a while will know I began this process about six months back when I redesigned my first Ghostwriter Mystery, Killer Twist, more as an experiment than anything else. Sales didn't plummet, no angry emails arrived in my inbox.
So now I've brought all six books into line, they look part of a cohesive series, with a touch of the original style for long-time fans who seek me out.
This is my grand Cover Redesign Reveal!
I'll be uploading all the new covers over the next day or so onto Amazon, Apple et al. Before then I'd LOVE to know what you think. Do the new covers work for you? Are you affronted by it all? Disappointed by the change or delighted for me? Or could you care less?
Please get in touch pronto, otherwise happy reading everyone and look out for the new look on all ereaders and paperbacks soon, and on future books to come.