There comes a time in every author’s life when mistakes and hasty decisions can haunt us. Sometimes that decision involves leaving marketing and promotions until the last minute. Sometimes it’s as simple as wishing you’d spent more time on a revision.
But what happens if the mistakes you made result in lost sales or confused readers? For self-published and indie authors, these mistakes can come with a hefty penalty, hitting you square in the wallet.
Fortunately you don’t have to give up and walk away. Instead, it may be time to rebrand the book and make it more appealing to readers.
If you’re not selling books—and especially if you are marketing and branding your book effectively—that could be a sign that something is making readers pause and choose not to buy your book. The trick is to find out why. Below are three things you might consider when thinking about rebranding.
Sometimes it’s as simple as recognizing that your book cover isn’t reaching your intended market or inspiring them to purchase your book. This might be due to a quality issue; a lot of authors design the covers of their books with no understanding of genre conventions, front cover design, image copyright, or how the use of color and font choice can actively affect a reader’s decision to purchase. Sometimes this results in readers being confused about the genre or what the book is even about.
Your book may also look dated, especially if it’s an older title. Perhaps it’s time to update your backlist and create a more unified brand across all your books, or for a specific series.
“I’d heard it firsthand from readers and from passersby where my books were displayed—my books needed updating,” writes author J. P. McLean in How and Why to Rebrand Your Books for Increased Sales. “What they said was that the books had a religious or spiritual feel to them. The books are, in fact, contemporary fantasy thrillers with a provocative edge.”
At the time, McLean was already in the process of rebranding herself as an author. But the realization that her covers were problematic made her realize it was time to make changes.
“[The covers] were beautiful but did little to clarify the books’ genre. In essence, the covers weren’t doing their job. They’re supposed to attract a targeted audience and entice them to pick up the book or click on its cover to read the brilliant description that took weeks to craft. In hindsight, I don’t know why I didn’t recognize the problem sooner.”
Once you recognize that you need a new cover, McLean recommends that you update it as soon as possible. “Not only did I get it wrong from the start, but I also stuck with my naming and cover conventions for far too long. If I’d figured out sooner that I was on the wrong track, I would have saved myself a lot of money, frustration, and precious time.”
Promotional copy and descriptions
If you’re looking at rebranding the cover, you may also choose to rebrand the book’s promotional copy. Authors often overlook these descriptions, cramming them with an excess of information, lengthy copy, and tired clichés.
Your book copy should be a slightly extended form of your pitch that communicates the characters and the conflict, drawing in the reader just enough to make them ask, “But what happens? I need to know what happens!” And it involves very deliberate word choices.
To check if you need to revisit your copy, take a peek at some of the bestselling books in your genre to compare the copy styles and how they’re set up. Maybe your tagline needs some work, or you need to focus on what makes your book unique.
The final item you may need to rebrand is your book title. Maybe it’s too similar to another book. Maybe it doesn’t accurately represent the book or the genre. Maybe it’s simply the wrong title for any number of reasons. But hold tight to your seat. Because while updating your cover is a lengthy, time-consuming process, changing your detail involves significant red tape—especially if you’re trying to preserve reviews listed on any bookseller’s site.
“Changing the name of a series and all the individual titles isn’t simple,” writes author Helena Halme in How to Change a Book Title Without Losing Reviews. “I decided to coincide the change of the series name with the launch of a new book, The True Heart, last November, and this may have been the most foolish decision of all. Not only was I dealing with a book launch, but also with the change of all the names across the series. I completely underestimated the task ahead.” Halme admits it took approximately six weeks to change all the books’ titles in the series.
Aside from changing the covers and titles of the books themselves, you must contend with updating digital files, websites, information in all the books that list other titles, library entries, websites that feature reviews or mention your book, posts on your social media, blog posts, and more. But a big part of the work involves changing your book title with the booksellers themselves.
Some booksellers will link the two books so you don’t lose reviews, but it’s a process. Halme’s advice? Be nice. “Being nice gets you almost anywhere. Remember Amazon is a huge company, but you are talking to a private, normal person who’s just trying [to] get through their day. If you are nice and explain your situation, the person will want to be nice back. If, however, you are obnoxious and unpleasant, why would anyone want to help you?”
Rebranding can cost considerable time, effort, and often money. But the results can be rewarding, says McLean.
“The rebrand took almost a year to complete and was an all-consuming task. More than once, I considered backing out and if weren’t for the supportive people around me, I would have. I’m glad I didn’t. Early results of the rebranding are promising. In late November, the new cover for the first book, Secret Sky, was selected by Kobo as one of its top ten covers for 2018 in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category. In December, that cover went on to win its category by popular vote. It was the best affirmation I could have hoped for.”
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.