Sunday, March 6, 2016

Maybe you shouldn't try to disrupt your category after all

I work in advertising. For almost 20 years, I've been telling clients they need to stand out in the sea of sameness. Zig when the market zags. And so on.

When I started publishing the Owl & Raccoon series, I took my own advice. I looked at the covers of competitive police procedurals and flipped everything on its head. Instead of moody photos, I went with bright colors. Instead of modern type, I went with hand drawn titles. I asked for metaphorical illustrations instead of clear depictions of starring characters.

The authors I know told me I was making a huge mistake. They said my covers looked like they were meant for children's stories. And that crime readers are more likely to buy books if they are clearly marked as a series.

But I stuck to my guns. And I have to admit, when I put paid advertising behind my giveaways, the covers do pop off Amazon's Top 100 Free page. But the Owl & Raccoon books aren't making money. The Single Staircase has sold about 300 copies, WDYG half that. (Yes, I still give all proceeds from The Single Staircase to charity.) Compare those sales figures to Sin Walks Into The Desert, which has sold more than 9,000 copies. True, Sin Walks Into The Desert has that big fancy award, but most readers review the Owl & Raccoon novellas just as highly. What's more, Owl & Raccoon have actual fans. People tweet and email me to ask when their next case is coming out. I feel like The Single Staircase should be just as successful as Sin Walks Into The Desert.

Maybe it's not the covers' fault. But I want to try something. So yesterday I republished the cover art on the books' Kindle pages. If I see a sales bump, I'll finesse the layouts and apply the change to the print covers too, as well as the upcoming third Owl & Raccoon novella. In the meantime, if you have thoughts, let me know.

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