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!