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When Should Authors Release Their Book Covers?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does showing a book cover months in advance of a book’s release day HARM the book’s chances of success?

Certainly there’s some argument for waiting until closer to release. Agent Janet Grant blogged about building marketing “velocity.” She said: “If, as a reader, I’m exposed to these promo items (yes, that’s what a cover is), I soon start to think that the book is old news. Heavens, I’ve watched the trailer, I’ve seen the cover several times…didn’t I read that book already? If I think I haven’t read it, well, I just dismiss the book. I want to read what’s new.”

However, with traditional publication, I’ve realized authors don’t really have much control over the release of their covers. The Bethany House design team finished the cover of The Doctor’s Lady (my second book) in January and sent it to me for my approval. Much to my surprise, a couple weeks later a reader tweeted that she’d seen the cover at CBD.com. Within hours of the cover’s release, more readers began to tweet and blog about it.

Even if I had wanted to keep the cover under wraps until closer to the release date (Sept. 1), there really wasn’t much I could do to prevent it from being splashed around cyberland.

Will the early peek at the cover hurt the sales of my book? Will readers see it now and then think it’s old news by the time it hits shelves?

Worried, I went directly to my publisher’s marketing department with my questions. Here are a few things they said about the release of book covers (along with a few of my thoughts too):

The sales department is already selling fall books. The publisher’s catalog for Fall 2011 is ready because the sales team must begin selling fall books to major accounts months ahead of their releases. A very important part of the sales process is having covers accessible in databases for distributors. Once distributors have the cover, it will then begin to appear on retailer sites.

Retailers won’t begin promoting the book yet. Retailers are more interested in showcasing things that are immediately available, so they'll prioritize currently released books above future books. Thus, the vast majority of readers won’t have access to the early-released covers, unless they actively seek them out.

The early-cover has the potential to keep momentum going. An early unveiling is beneficial, even important, for newer authors because the cover helps keep momentum going without a lot of lag time in between books. Especially if we’re on a one-book-a-year schedule (like I am), the cover release can help diminish the gap and put us back in the spotlight sooner.

Our covers give readers something else to connect to our names. Debut authors don’t have other options sitting on bookstore shelves for people to go purchase, so it could help readers know something new is coming around the corner. Almost every time I get an email or note from a reader, they ask what I have coming next. I already give them the name and release date. Now I can point them to the cover as a visual reminder.

Many readers pre-order books, which can add momentum. Through pre-orders books can generate high sales even before they’re released. And those early sales can draw even more attention to the book. My first book, The Preacher’s Bride, ended up on the CBD Top-Twenty Fiction List before it was released last fall, most likely because of pre-orders.

Social media is changing the face of marketing. The more we hear about a book online, the more interest it builds. We think, “The book must be good if so many people are tweeting about it.” Online repetition has the potential to cause buzz. With The Preacher’s Bride, I slowly built familiarity with my book in the months before release, but then one month prior to the official release date, I turned my efforts into full gear. The prior buzz set the foundation to make the actual release even more anticipated. At that point, I was able to make sure people hadn’t forgotten about my book.

~My Summary: We shouldn’t set off fireworks and throw confetti for six months straight prior to our book’s release. But a slow build-up over the months, including the release of the book cover, can work to the advantage of an author, if done correctly.

What’s your opinion? Do you think an early release of a cover can harm a book’s success, having the potential to make readers dismiss it as “old news”? Or do you think an early release can help build anticipation? Not that authors really have much choice in the matter, but if you could choose, what would you prefer?

And yes, that’s the cover of my next book, The Doctor’s Lady! Because it’s already on Amazon, CBD, B&N, and other sites and readers are already finding it, I’ve decided to go ahead and show it off on my blog now too!

62 comments:

  1. This is something I haven't even thought of before. I think, at this point, I'm just so excited to see a cover, that I don't care WHEN it comes. I just am excited THAT it's coming. :)

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  2. I haven't thought about this either. This cover is lovely and I'm sure it will do well! Congratulations!

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  3. That is a great cover.

    I think anything that draws attention to a new release is positive. So long as the marketing momentum is kept going and not all blown too soon.

    My only concern would be if promo materials were released very far in advance, and then an announced release date had to be delayed a lot. Not that this would make me feel that the book was old news, but it would make wonder about the quality, and whether the book was really read for release if it had taken so long.

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  4. Interesting post, Jody. My husband just started a singing group last fall and they made their first public appearance last week at our church at a True Love Waits ceremony. A DVD was made of the ceremony, and one of the mom's wanted to send the DVD to the grandmother. But my husband said no, because they weren't ready for the public. However, I told him to share the dvd because it's not about when you're ready for the public, it's about when the public is ready for you.

    Obviously the public is ready for your next book, Jody, if blogger are already blogging about it. So play it up. Build that momentum. And when your book releases, the (cyber)world will already know about it.

    Congratulations!

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  5. I think it's brilliant that the cover is out in cyber-space prior to the release. That builds hype and excitement on the boards, as discussions and predictions are made. Seeing your cover, Jody, I AM EXCITED about your 2nd book!!!

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  6. Love it! No, I don't think there is any harm in an early release of a cover. I think it helps to build anticipation. Same with the trailer if you do one. I blogged in a similar vein today - how much is too much? At this point, as a debut author, I do want to do as much promoting as I can without being obnoxious :0)) But the bottom line is, people do react to visual stimuli, so if they really want to read your book once they see the cover, they'll come back for it when its released. At least that's my theory!!

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  7. No, I don't think it'll harm the book at all. In fact, the more I hear about a book or see its cover, the more likely that I'll pick that book to buy if it pops in front of me somehow (walmart, bookstore giftcard, etc)
    Your cover is beautiful!

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  8. The cover looks great! Can't wait to read this one! I wonder if I'll cry through 4 chapters on this one!

    I have a question. Did they purposely make it to look similar to The Preacher's Bride? Or was that just happy coincidence?

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  9. as one of those bloggers who tweeted about your cover when we found it on CBD...we were VERY excited to find out about it! me and a couple other bloggers scour CBD, Amazon and the publisher's websites months in advance to find out when new books are coming out. we get excited when we see the new titles, and even more so when we get the covers. once the covers come out, we like discussing them, things we like, things we don't like, and then try to create buzz for those readers who wouldn't normally pick up these books.

    I agree if you are a debut author and you have a good social media presence that you should let your cover as soon as possible that way you can have a way to connect to your name. Otherwise, I would never know how you are until I saw your book in the bookstore, and by then it might be too late.

    One good example of this was when Amy of My Friend Amy and I discovered upcoming Bethany House debut author Elizabeth Camden. Her book appeared on Amazon but there was no cover yet. Since she was a debut author we knew nothing about her. Then the cover got released and we became VERY excited because we loved the cover and were buzzing about it on Twitter. Amy contacted the publisher, who put her touch with Camden, which led to an interview on Amy's blog, which led to even more buzz and gave her exposure to audiences who normally would have never head of her. Many people saw the early cover and love it, therefore there is a lot of buzz about her months before her book is even released.

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  10. also a lot of book bloggers like to post upcoming books we're anticipating for. bc we know covers can change before release, usually we wait until they show up on amazon or the author themselves debuts it on their blog/website. lots of people discover new books this way and put them on their wishlist after seeing the cover. it doesn't matter if it's 8-9 months in advance. we like covers!!!!

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  11. If it's a lovely cover (like yours) then I don't mind seeing it early and having it in the back of my mind as a TBR book. :O)

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  12. Janet's posts brought a whole other aspect of this industry to light for me and now you are only shedding more light. So much to learn. And I'm doing just that.

    It's beautiful, Jody!

    Excited already to read it.
    ~ Wendy

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  13. Love the cover Jody! I think this only builds momentum. I'm sitting on the edge of my seat to read this one:)

    I appreciate how you walk us through the publishing door with you.

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  14. Hey! That's awesome... I love the cover!! It's gorgeous and I don't think it'll hurt sales... I loved The Preacher's Bride so much that I'll be counting down the days to Sept. 1st.

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  15. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the process. You've answered a ton of questions I had.

    Love Love Love the cover.

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  16. Technoprairie asked: Did they purposely make it to look similar to The Preacher's Bride? Or was that just happy coincidence?

    My Answer: Hi Karen!! Yes, Bethany House does a great job coordinating book covers for authors--particularly if the books are somewhat similar in style. And as you know, the Doctor's Lady is another "inspired by" story. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do with Book 3, which is slightly different!

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  17. And thank you EVERYONE for your sweet compliments about the newest cover! I appreciate it!

    Another thing to keep in mind is that an author also has very little control over what goes on the cover. Fortunately for me, Bethany House has a fabulous design team who takes great pains to produce the best covers possible!

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  18. This is definitely something that I wouldn't have considered with a negative spin, but I can see how it could be construed that way. But you've raised some excellent points to sway the argument to the other side and I certainly understand the practicality of needing to release it early.

    And can I just say that I love your new cover? Very nice!

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  19. I love the cover! Cannot wait to read this one. I'd probably want to wait to see my cover released, at least until the release date was a little closer. But then you make great points in support otherwise, and if you have little choice anyway, it's best to go with the flow.
    Blessings,
    Karen :)

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  20. I think releasing the cover too soon can be a let down for me. I want to see the cover maybe a couple months before, just because it will be fresh in my mind, prior to if I see a cover months before the book is released.

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  21. Your new cover is gorgeous! :)

    And thank you SO MUCH for this post. I had seen the other warning about releasing covers to early, so it's been on my mind. The art department is working on my cover right now, so I assume I'll get something in the next month or two. But my book doesn't come out until early 2012, so I was wondering if when I get the cover art, if I should post about it or not. So this answers the question. I really think I wouldn't be patient enough to hold it back anyway because I'm going to be so excited, lol.

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  22. When you've got it, flaunt it. Especially when it's so deliciously beautiful as this cover.

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  23. What a lovely cover--I think the artists did a great job of tying it visually to your first cover without making it too similar.

    It sounds like your marketing folks have a good system. I think that the people who read your first book and are eagerly anticipating your second will be psyched to see the new cover, and possibly motivated to pre-order. The people who are still unfamiliar with your work probably won't see the cover enough to become overexposed, so that won't be an issue.

    Best of luck to you! I'm a nonfiction writer working on my first novel. While this is my first comment here, I've been reading your posts for a while and using your advice for getting started. I'm hoping to get my blog up and running this week! Thanks so much.

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  24. Julie Nilson said: "I think that the people who read your first book and are eagerly anticipating your second will be psyched to see the new cover, and possibly motivated to pre-order. The people who are still unfamiliar with your work probably won't see the cover enough to become overexposed, so that won't be an issue."

    My response: EXCELLENT point, Julie!! I think you summed up the situation extremely well! And thanks for chiming in today! Wishing you all the best as you launch your blog! :-)

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  25. First of all, it's stunning! Second, I can't imagine seeing a cover and hearing about a book makes it feel like old news. The build up to release is enhanced by getting a glimpse early on.

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  26. I didn't realize distributors would unveil so early. Something new to consider.

    Your cover is beautiful. Maybe it's because I'm not exposed to covers on a regular basis as those industry professionals who see them often, but I'd think an early book cover would build anticipation. At least it does for me.

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  27. Thanks for the information. It’s good to have in inside knowledge. –Love your cover!

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  28. Beautiful cover! You're right it does go well with the first.

    As for this post, very interesting. Things I've never thought of, but am glad you brought up. Sanks.

    www.lynnettelabelle.com

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  29. As a self-published author, I've already begun circulating the cover for my second book due out in May. I had an interview on book reviewer's blog and found it was a great opportunity to let my readers know there that a second book in the series is coming soon.

    I think as long as the cover art is good, slowly build up, as you suggest, is a great way to start getting the word out.

    Thanks for this great post.

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  30. There was a book that came out once over four months before it actually hit and by the time it was available I felt like I had to have it. I think it needs to be seen as soon as possible. I LOVE YOUR COVER. I actually want her shawl, lol!

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  31. I think showing the cover early-on only adds to the excitement of the book's release date. Speaking as a reader who has looked at covers before certain book's release dates, it only made me want to read the book even more. Usually, readers only seek out information on the books that they are foaming at the mouth to read. I'd consider it to be a great omen that people are seeking out more info.

    P.S. I started reading your blog as a fellow writer searching for tips, and that's how I found out about The Preacher's Bride. Then, of course, I read it and loved it. Some would say that blogs don't garner readers. But in this case, it did. So I wouldn't worry about releasing a cover early. I think that most ( not all) book press would be good press.

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  32. I'm really fascinated by all of your comments today! Most of you are saying that the early release of a cover is beneficial. While a few others agree with Janet Grant's philosophy. I appreciate each thought here today! It's VERY enlightening!

    And Jessica Stanford, thank you for sharing about how your blogging experience led you to read my book! I appreciate your encouragement SO much! :-)

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  33. For me, an early book cover release builds anticipation. I love it when authors release their book covers! It makes me even more excited for the upcoming book.

    Love your new book's cover!!!

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  34. I've never thought about this before, but it's a good point. However, I liked what you mentioned on how a slow build-up over the months is probably best instead of "setting off fireworks" too early. This is definitely something to consider as it gets closer to the release of my book.

    Congratulations on another beautiful cover! I love it. =)

    Tessa

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  35. LOVE your new cover, Jody! In fact, I might like it even better than The Preacher's Bride, if that's possible. :)

    I read Janet's post a while back, and I enjoyed reading your thoughts here. I see good reasoning behind both viewpoints, but it sounds like the decision may be out of the author's hands regardless of which side they fall.

    Have a great week!

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  36. Early release of a cover and book video for "DawnSinger" has helped draw interest in me as a debut author. But, I think it would end there if I didn't ramp things now I'm approaching the pre-order period and the release date.

    Like you, I'll ramp up promotion at the last minute to create a heightened buzz. Toward this end, we'll release a new book teaser.

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  37. I don't know, Jody, but both your covers are very well designed. Is it the same artist? If so, I hope your publisher stays with the artist. I once went to a conference talk on book covers (because of the writer--but for heaven's sake, her name has slipped my mind). She had been publishing for 30 years, and she showed which covers sold the most books and which covers killed her sales. It was astonishing how much difference a cover could make for different editions of the same books. But of course, that's with the understanding that her stories are good either way.

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  38. For me, seeing the cover builds anticipation. I like to know what's coming as well as when. Having an image to link with the title makes the release seem a little more imminent... eases my impatience a bit. I've already added the title to my TBR list along with the release date.

    BTW, this cover appeals to me even more than your previous one. :)

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  39. I can see where being exposed to a cover so far in advance can give you the impression it's an 'old' book. I read so many on my BB, that I get confused sometimes about which ones I've already read. But, I also keep a list of books I want to read. And hearing that a book is just released takes away any doubt. I agree, with the right approach, it could build momentum. I can't wait to read your next book!

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  40. very thought provoking post. I have to agree that an early release is a good thing, especially for newer authors. Although I admit some of the reasons are ones I hadn't considered.

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  41. It's beautiful, Jody! I'd love to hear what you think about it, and the way it reflects your book -- I remember you explaining how detailed like the hair & collar on your first book cover revealed certain important things about that character!

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  42. As a reviewer who regularly posts previews of covers once they hit the publisher's website, I can tell you they are often the most well received and commented on posts, also with a high number of hits. As Deborah has said, it builds a sense of anticipation, garners book/author recognition and enthuses people, whether they love or hate the cover.

    It also can give authors the opportunity to get some exposure and chat about their book in the lead up to its release.

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  43. I'm glad you shared your cover with us. It's beautiful! Can hardly wait for the book to come out.

    Thanks for the wonderful advice. My romantic suspense comes out in May, but I've yet to see the cover. Hmm... I better dash off an email to my publisher.

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  44. I love the cover! For me, the more I can recognize a book, the more chance I'll buy it:)

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  45. Hmmm...interesting topic, Jody. I think it's exciting to have visual picture of an upcoming book. Then I know what to look for. My anticipation builds when I can "see" the book and pre-order it. :-)

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  46. I think the cover is a great appetizer while we wait for the main course. It gives the readers something to tide us over until we have the book in our hands. :)

    It looks beautiful!
    XO

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  47. CKHB said:I'd love to hear what you think about it, and the way it reflects your book -- I remember you explaining how detailed like the hair & collar on your first book cover revealed certain important things about that character!

    My response: Thanks for asking, Carrie! Yes, this cover really does reflect a lot about the main character too. The cameo pin she's wearing is significant in her character arc. Her looking "back" reflects some of her hesitancy in moving forward in her personal journey. And I also think that the design team did a good job showing the wear of being on the trail West--her hands are no longer clean and unblemished like a lady's, but rather show how much she's changing as the story progresses. Overall, there's a wistfulness about it that reflects the soul-searching of the book.

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  48. I love to post covers when they become available and like Rel I find that those generate the most hits and comments. A lot of times people comment and say they're now adding the book to their to read and wishlists after seeing the cover! I don't know about anyone else but if I see a cover that I like on a blog I want to go and search for the cover blurb and then add it to my wishlist if the blurb matches the awesomeness of the cover!

    XOXO~ Renee

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  49. I don't have to worry about this problem...YET!

    Your cover is beautiful! And I love the way it's somewhat similar to PREACHER'S BRIDE. I can't see how showing the cover early would hurt. I think it'll build anticipation.

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  50. What a pretty cover, Jody! I love it!

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  51. LOVE the cover. I agree, I think a slow build up is best and the release of the cover gives a visual. Even if they see it now and don't see it again for 6 months... when they walk by it in the bookstore, it's more likely to grab their attention if they've seen it before. Personally, I don't see it being a, "oh, I've probably already read it" type thing. The only time I'm like that is when they rerelease a book with a different cover... sometimes that makes me scratch my head and on at least one occassion, accidently buy it even though I had already read it. Now THAT is irritating, and a whole different subject all together:-)

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  52. Well duh. This is a complete no-brainer. They release book covers like this so readers like me go wacko and start screaming on the couch when they see it, burst into tears, and race to Amazon.com (figuratively speaking) to see if it's available for preorder.

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  53. I think that any effort that helps capture a reader's attention while they're at your site/blog is great--regardless of whether it's a year ahead of schedule or two days. I recently visited a writer's website, and their book cover is actually what piqued my interest. It was so beautiful that I wanted to find out more about the book, and now I've made a mental note to pick it up 6 months from now. Had the author not posted it, I might've just stopped by her site and moved on to another. I might not have come by 3 months later, once the cover was up.

    So while waiting makes sense in theory, there's no guarantee that your audience will still be there once you're ready (if you wait).

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  54. Aw, thanks everyone!! You're all so sweet about the newest book cover! I appreciate your kind words!

    And Natalia, thanks for sharing your experience! It's so interesting to hear the ways social media influences our interest in specific books. The influence is probably more far-reaching than we realize!

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  55. I love the way this cover goes so nicely with your first.

    I don't know. I could see both sides of the issue. I think the best time to release the cover depends on the overall marketing strategy. This cover is definitely going to boost your sales.

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  56. Interesting topic I haven't seen addressed before.

    I like book covers in advance. I like to see the art work. It can pique my curiosity, in a good way or a not so good way. It's one data point. If I see the cover over and over, and I like it, I'll remember it when I'm book browsing.

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  57. Interesting thoughts. As an indie publisher, our covers are often ready only weeks before release, if that, but we splash them all over the place as soon as we can. We move fast and then on to the next thing. I hope this means there's no chance anyone will get sick of our designs before the books are out!

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  58. Hi Grace,
    That's so interesting to hear about indie publisher covers! Thank you for sharing that! I hadn't realized there was less turn around time. But it makes sense. They probably don't have the same pressure (or need) to get them done as early because they probably have fewer distributors to sell to? Just a thought.

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  59. I'm so glad you posted this, as this week was sales conference and my book cover will start showing up on sites, even though it doesn't release until Sept. 1. I've thought so many of these things you say here (Isn't it kind of early?!) but you're right, we can't keep it from the masses b/c of sales and catalogs, so why not share it?

    Good thoughts.

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  60. ps. Love your new cover! Can't wait to read that one - I've got my mom hooked on your books too :)

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  61. Great post, Jody! Thanks for talking to your publisher about this and letting us know what they said!
    Camy

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