Following the launch of Heroan back in June, I received a lot of feedback from a variety of sources. Most of that feedback was positive, but the general consensus was the cover I loved so much wasn't a good fit for the genre.
Now, I spent many, many (so many) hours agonizing over that cover. From the background image to the fonts to the flame design. I mocked up over 50 different options. Some of the tweaks were minor, like a different font color. Others were complete cover remakes. When I finally settled on that first cover and decided to launch the book with it, I felt good about it. Really good.
Fast forward a month and half. After one good week followed by five weeks of lackluster sales, I enrolled in a free class on book advertising using Amazon ads. I chalked the book's struggling performance on my being a newly self-published author with a minimal online presence and figured a few well-placed ads would help get the word out. Never in my analysis of my sales performance did I suspect my cover art and back cover blurb might be to blame. Then I started reading through reviews of the book.
Most of the reviews were positive, but a few reviewers mentioned that the book simply wasn't "dystopian enough". It wasn't what they were expecting when they decided to buy the book. Luckily, the online advertising class I was in was filled with full-time writers, many who have authored and self-published dozens of titles. The admins for class were also experienced self-published authors and they were always quick to help other students. So, I swallowed my pride and requested a review of my cover and blurb.
Sure enough, despite the reassuring and upbeat messages sprinkled in the feedback, my heart sank when I realized I was looking at a complete revamp of my cover material. Rather than sulk and whine and expect the world to love my book for its uniqueness (okay, I did that for a day or so), I put on my research cap and started looking at other books in my genre. I mocked up different covers and pitched them to the ad group. The feedback was positive, I was headed in the right direction, but I wasn't there yet.
Have you ever searched the term "female gunslinger" and looked at the image results? Ouch. How many people really think a chick in a bikini, stilettos, and pink leather chaps holding a plastic toy gun qualifies as a gunslinger? The answer: a lot, apparently. I searched dozens of image sites and spent hours scouring pictures, artwork, and graphics. Nothing was quite right.
Then I started looking into graphic artists who could draw Cameron for me. I hired two people on fiverr for that task. They were great artists, but the images just didn't feel right. I even hired a designer to mock up a whole new cover for me. I didn't like it at all, but that wasn't her fault. You see, while that dedicated cover artist was hard at work designing exactly what I'd asked her to design (she did a fantastic job, btw), I stumbled upon another artist who mentioned on her website that all of her images were created in Daz3D.
Daz3D? What the heck is that?
A quick search led me to a free 3D rendering software program that changed my cover design game in the best way. I invested about $40 in the digital assets I needed to mock up my tough-on-the-outside gunslinger, and spent a solid 30 hours learning how to use that software. I've said this before and I'll say it again: YouTube tutorials are some of the best things to come from the internet.
I'm still learning. I have a long way to go with Daz3D, and I've only just scratched the surface of the power behind Photoshop and Photoshop Actions (seriously, designers are some amazingly creative, focused, and generous people), but I've learned enough to bring Cameron to life for the cover of Heroan.
Yes, I pitched the finished cover to my ad group and they were so helpful. The feedback was fantastic, and they even helped me rewrite my blurb (which I still think could use a little tweaking). I loved my original cover and I will always cherish my copy of it, but the new cover feels more true to the story. With any luck, my wonderful readers with think so too.
Never stop learning, friends. Happy reading.