The Evolution of EarthCent Ambassador Covers
When I published the first EarthCent Ambassador book back in 2014, I created my own cover using a public domain NASA photograph. I actually tried several variations, adding a space station, a space station with an arrow head poking through a giant heart, etc, but the basic cover was that photograph. While it was obviously a do-it-yourself cover, it did offer a readable title while conveying a sense of science fiction. But I wanted to show humor, so I turned to a professional illustrator, Keith Draws, whose eponymous website is www.keithdraws.com.
I've been in the publishing business since the early 1990's and I've used professional cover designers and illustrators in the past, but I never had great luck. I'll take the blame for that because I'm primarily a do-it-yourselfer and have limited patience or ability when it comes to managing others. In any case, I suggested a design with a window looking into a spaces station lounge, with a red-haired woman (the EarthCent Ambassador) out for a drink with an alien or robot. We might have gone back and forth a couple of times, primarily on the text part, to the best of my memory, and aside from the brunette oversight, I was pretty pleased. But some time after publishing the covers, I became worried the artwork was just too small in thumbnail size (many Amazon features show covers smaller than they are below).
So I got Keith to do another iteration, with the primary goals of making the image pop out and getting more readable text. I think the design succeeded splendidly on both accounts, though somehow the ambassador remained a brunette, but some reviewers thought the cover was too garish, and the ambassador overly-sexualized. Even worse, a number of readers ignored the text description and downloaded the book thinking it would offer sex with robots! I stuck with the cover for at least six months, but over that time period, the lead book lost a half a star on Amazon, though I think the overall rating only fell from 4.3 to 4.2. In any case, I thought it was worth trying another redo, and I went back to Keith again, with the basic idea of keeping the robot, adding a man, and getting the ambassador's hair right (a minor point with zero impact on downloads).
So I gave the new covers a couple months see how they performed. I like the muted colors and the artwork on the people much better than in the previous versions, though the ambassador looks a bit of a grouch, and I realized after the fact that there's no beer on the table:-) The background might have gotten a bit too light, and I'm not in love with the font, but I don't hate it either. I think the covers hit all the design goal points: science fiction, comedy (I think a robot with flowers is funny), a touch of romance without the promise of sex.
In the end, what matters is how people react, both in terms of downloads, and the ability to crack the competitive promo lists who won't take your money unless they like the cover, since the aesthetics of their newsletters depends in large part on the cover art. I still couldn't get into BookBub, and I heard from a couple of readers who said they missed the previous covers, so I went back in January 2016 and haven't changed since. At the moment (May, 2016) things are going too well to swap again.
Copyright 2015 by E. M. Foner