To reveal or not to reveal details about your book early in the publishing process, that is the question. Let’s debate whether it is better for an author to try to build interest in his book by revealing tidbits along the way or to make the reveal an event that happens on the day the book releases.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog, What Not to Share, that offered ten things I suggested were not to be shared. I was surprised at the pushback I received on some of the suggestions. It sparked a great discussion. So let’s look at this two of the issues and discuss them further. I understand that authors are totally wrapped up in the book they are writing and it feels natural to share details along the way. When the publisher finally gives the go ahead to the final cover, what can be more fun than a big reveal on the author’s social media?
I still lean toward being strategic about the timing. The bestselling authors I’ve worked with have used this to their advantage. Clumping the sales (and pre-sales) into the release week make it much more possible to show up on a bestseller list. How can we make those kinds of sales happen? By making the reveal a big event– the culmination of teases and hints, perhaps. But the excitement hits when the reader can take action. The reader sees a cover and hears talk about the book and they can run out to the store or click over to their favorite online retailer and buy the book.
I asked a couple experts about the cover reveal. Here’s what I wrote:
Pre-pub Cover— I know there are two schools of thought here, but at Books & Such we don’t believe in sharing your cover until the reader can click a link and buy the book or pre-order the book. But what about the all important “cover reveal” on social media? Many authors believe that it is a way to build excitement for their upcoming book. I maintain that we only have so much brain power. I cannot see a cover three months in advance and maintain an intent-to-buy that long, even if it’s one of my favorite authors. You know what happens when the book comes out? I look at the cover, and it looks vaguely familiar and I think, “I believe I’ve already read that book. It looks way too familiar.”
Pamela Clements, Vice President, Associate Publisher at Worthy Inspire said, “I am all about both the cover reveal and the ‘I’ve got a book deal’ posts, but at the right times. I sent a cover to an author yesterday for her approval. She asked if she could post it. I asked her not to post it until our sales team had begun their calls and it was up on Amazon and other retail sites for pre-order. I think that is plenty of time to share the news and, if people are really excited, they have a way to pre-order. I never want to frustrate a potential buyer by telling her about a book that she can’t purchase.”
Noelle Buss, Marketing manager for Fiction at Bethany House said, ” On the first point [cover], we don’t necessarily encourage authors to share prior to the cover going up on retailers sites– we tell them they run the risk of the sales team thinking the cover needs to be altered– so what they shared a couple weeks before may prove wrong. Instead, in response to authors desiring to have the priviledge to share their covers first with fans before retailers do or super bloggers like Rel Mollet, we allow them the option to share early.” And Noelle is not worried about affecting sales when readers can’t purchase. She believes the author’s reach is relatively limited and consists mostly of their dedicated fans. “Those people will wait and be continually reminded about the book’s release as they see the author’s facebook post or read their newsletter.”
So, two schools of thought there.
In my what Not to Share blog post I also wrote:
Details of Book Just Contracted— It’s tempting to tease with the storyline or share tidbits about the content of your newly contracted book. Don’t do it. Keep it under wraps until the publisher is ready to announce the book or until it goes up on online sites. For all you know, the publisher might feel this book is so hot he’s trying to get it out there before anyone else jumps on the bandwagon. In our industry we are all friends and so we think we can share freely. We lose sight of the fact that we may actually be friendly competitors. Let your publisher lead in when to share details.
Here’s what Pamela Clements commented: “OH MY GOODNESS. Not that I or any of my colleagues would ever steal an idea or rush a book to market in order to beat another book of similar subject matter – but there is no reason to tempt fate. It’s like I don’t keep chocolates on my desk. I can’t eat what I don’t have. On a slightly different note, as there is nothing new under the sun – there could be three books on similar topics coming out at the same time, but if everyone learns about them when the sales cycle begins and they are all already in development, there can be no blaming or accusing even if it was innocent.”
Noelle Buss, dealing specifically with fiction sees it differently. She said, “Honestly, I’ve never thought about or heard anyone in editorial discuss when it is too early to mention the details of a book. If that is a concern– that the idea might be stolen– I would just recommend it be mentioned in vague terms. Saying it is a mail order bride story in Baton Rouge doesn’t give people much to work with.
Again, no consensus. So tell me, what do you think? Do you have a strategy? Which makes more sense to you?
Should an author have a strategy for the online cover reveal? Click to Tweet
It’s fun for an author to talk about the book in process but is it counter-productive? Click to Tweet
Wendy, would the strategy be different for a best-selling author than someone’s first book? When there are thousands clamoring for your next book, “Here it is! Click and buy” makes perfect sense. Does a “Preview of a Coming Attraction” work better for a first-time author?
I’m not sure. None of these things are written in stone. we test and we analyze and we see if we can figure out the best way. If I were launching a book, I’d tease and talk around it and announce that on such and such a day we will celebrate release day with cover reveal, etc. That way potential readers can read about the book fresh and *click* buy.
Good question Shirlee! It mirrors my thoughts exactly.
1) You oughtn’t oughta sell what you ain’t got. Most folks don’t take an invite to dive into a painted swimmin’ pool all that kindly.
2) The passage of a single elephant is more memorable than a parade of gerbils filing past one-by-each.
Great metaphors, Andrew.
Andrew, I’ll not soon forget that elephant-versus-the gerbils image. A great one that gave me a laugh today!
Wendy, I trust your opinion. And I think you can build suspense without giving anything away, especially for the published author. What about all the opportunities we non-agented/pre-pubbed writers are invited to share tidbits of our stories/ story idea/ hook with others? Contests, games, conferences … how would you recommend we proceed without giving much away? 🙂 When you say others might jump on the bandwagon, do you mean writers or publishers? Maybe a competing publisher has a similar book waiting and decides to put it out at the same time?
As far as “jumping on the bandwagon” it can be inadvertently done by any of the above. They call it zeitgeist but it’s probably more like: heard something, somewhere, can’t remember, but isn’t it a great idea?
For a pre-dubbed author, it is a great strategy to build a network and potential readership by sharing your dreams and the writing journey without giving specifics. Begin to “sell” yourself, the author, at this stage.
M. Simone Boyd
Shelli: thank you for asking that question about being a non-agented/pre-pubbed writer..I was curious about that too!
Wendy: thank you for the reminder to “sell” ourselves. I found a lady, Kristina Horner, on YouTube that is in our situation…she’s never published a book but vlogs about the writing journey. I think she does a great job of sharing who she is without giving away the story.
Here’s one of her videos: How to Not Lose Your Mind (When Writing a Novel) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16LahOLeoXY
*Please forgive me if it’s against community rules to share links*
It’s not against “community rules” to share like this. 🙂 I’ll take a look when I have an extra minute. Thanks, Simone.
I love that Kristina is using a “new” media to do this. She will capture eyes that may not log onto her Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Wendy L Macdonald
I’m so glad you asked these questions, Shelli. I also trust the answers given on this blog.
Y’all are the sweetest. 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
*If* I had the covers that I wanted, like, right now, I’d have them on billboards all over Canada.
But since my husband might get wind of the whole “hey, what’s with your wife and these buff Native American guys on 20 foot tall billboards from here to Vancouver and back?” thing…I might just wait until That Special Day.
The day during which I mention that I have Pinterest boards chock full of RESEARCH…
Tamara Leigh does something called The Cover Evolution. She posts the progress of her cover designs on her website and Facebook pages. It is a fascinating way to see how her design team builds her covers from scratch, AND to entice her very loyal readers.
For me? Building the excitement about the reveal, but timing it perfectly for the release, would be a fun and productive way to reveal a cover.
When I launched “Angela – A New Mexico Christmas” ten days ago, it did create a weird kind of buzz, as evinced by emails –
– “Nice cow.”
– “YOU wrote a Christmas story???”
– And the best of all…”…it made me weep.”
* Point being, both the work and the reveal/launch will engender emotions in readers and potential readers, emotions which we may not be able to predict.
* It might therefore behoove the author to do a ‘test launch’ on a limited semi-tame and confidential audience…NOT simply, “What do you think of this cover?”, but a full-dress rehearsal of the complete reveal/launch package.
* She IS a nice cow at that, is Angela. Might be my very favourite character.
That Tamara Leigh cover process is interesting but I feel for that design team for a number of reasons. First, I’m guessing they don’t do that many designs for every author and watching this author’s journey may come back to bite them. Plus how would you like all your almost-successes to be paraded before the public. But if it works for her, it works. Too many other authors doing likewise would not work– old hat.
When the 20-foot tall buff NA’s appear, I want pictures from your cell phone. Then I can say “I knew her when …” Just sayin’.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I might need help with the uhh, background. Yeah, that’s it…
We need a *like* button here! 🙂
I think I err on the side of cautious. I would rather wait for the cover reveal until there’s a button to click, “Buy” or at least “Pre-order.” Readers have tons of images bombing them on social media. If/When my cover is ready to be put on display, I want it to be emphatic, memorable and able to be acted upon.
*I’ll look forward to your answer to Shelli’s question. I have participated in a few of those “share the first seven lines of your seventh page” games. Never when I had an entry in a contest, but other than that? Yes, I’ve done that a couple times.
*Your post makes a lot of sense to me, Wendy.
That seven lines from page seven is so non-specific. I can’t imagine it hurting. It’s just fun.
There’s nothing wrong with creating a mock book to play with contest-wise either. Years ago I won the famous Bulwer-Lytton competition in the children’s category for the first worst line of a book with a made-up line. All the entries are mock books. (No publisher in his right mind would publish any of them.)
My line that won? “The greedy schoolbus crept through the streets devouring clumps of children until its belly groaned with surfeit, then lumbered back to the schoolhouse where it obligingly regurgitated its meal onto the grounds.” Yeah, that bad.
Whew! 🙂 The 7 lines participation scared me, too! And I always try to pick the lines that don’t give anything away …. And I remember your worst line … the competition you had here on the blog was so fun. My “big monkey spit” didn’t win, but I had a blast writing it! 🙂 I think I only succeeded at grossing you out, Wendy. 🙂 Aren’t you thankful for the reminder. 🙂
What a hook! In today’s YA horror market, wouldn’t that be the first line of a best seller? Combining natural dread of a day at school with a mutant technology-run-amok transport system could be movie-script fodder.
Laughing out loud, Wendy. That’s . . . um, quite a line. 🙂 You should have found a way to put “lugubrious’ in there. Somewhere. 😉
Wendy L Macdonald
So true, Jeanne, that “readers have tons of images bombing them on social media”. I lose track of what I’ve already seen or purchased etc. 🙂
So do I, Wendy. 🙂
Wendy, for what it’s worth, I feel that (especially for not-yet-established writers, an image of a cover absolutely HAS to be clickable, either to purchase, or to pre-order.
* It’s a matter of precedent. People who visit on social media quickly learn a paradigm for interaction, and giving a non-clickable cover image will give rise to the assumption that in future the image won’t be clickable either. They are not likely to take the time to try a second time.
* Kind of like Mark Twain’s cat, the one that learned not to sit on a hot stove and applied that lesson to every stove.
* I’d love to know what you think. Am I underestimating the degree of engagement, in making this assumption, that social media visitors will in fact ‘explore’?
I agree, Andrew. Book buying is often an impulse buy. Before I could buy with one click my intent-to-buy dissipated at a frightening rate based on time and distance away from the book info. What was the name of that book? Who was the author? What was it about?
It’s called “Angela – A New Mexico Christmas”, it’s by Andrew Budek-Schmeisser, and it’s about a boy, his grandfather, and the cow that saves them in a snowstorm…but can they save her from Burger King?
* Sorry, couldn’t resist, y’all don’t have to buy the thing (and I am NOT posting the Kindle link). But of everything I wrote, I’d be glad to leave that story as my legacy.
Wendy L Macdonald
Wendy, I couldn’t agree more that a cover shouldn’t be revealed too early. Today I noticed a book I had pre-ordered showed up on my Kindle. I’d forgotten I’d purchased it and was happy to see it. But yesterday, when I saw it advertised and couldn’t remember if it was one I’d already bought, I passed over it. The lesson here is crucial: a clickable cover helps the author not miss a sale.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
M. Simone Boyd
Thanks for sharing that, Wendy! It is always helpful, for me, to have a practical example. After writing for so long, I am itching to show the world ‘hey, I’m making progress!’ Because so many of my friends ask me “how’s your book coming?” But your advice on waiting is gold, there is a real cost to being too hasty.
Thanks a bunch…Simone
Yes, and sometimes I get mixed up on the advice … thinking it’s for me, when it’s really for published writers. 🙂
You are describing my intent-to-buy disconnect to a T, Wendy Mac.
Wendy and Wendy Mac,
Really enjoy reading all the pros and cons on cover reveals. I’m preparing for a product launch, and the advice to “wait until the product is available for sale” holds true in other industries, as well. According to the “experts,” the mindset we default to when we see the cover of an upcoming book (or other product/service) is: 1) Where can I get it? 2) How do I get it? 3) How SOON can I get it? That third one is key, in our instant gratification society.
Thanks, Laura. It’s good to hear this from you– a book marketing expert. And your three questions are, indeed, spot on. “1) Where can I get it? 2) How do I get it? 3) How SOON can I get it?”
For me, a premature cover release is just that: premature. Like an infant. I want my cover to release when it can be bought with a bunch of words attached to it. Discussing things, dropping teasers, asking questions for interaction is another matter, and can be done well. But giving away a big reveal before the book can be bought/pre-ordered is, to me, like telling everyone how the story ends before they enjoy the journey of reading it.
I agree. We are a visual people. I think the cover is the biggest reveal and needs to be strategic.
One thing I’ve learned about sharing about newly contracted projects surprised me – not to post my working titles. When I received my contract for my Waves of Freedom series, I posted the news on my blog with teasers for each book – with my working titles. One of my darling readers entered those working titles in Goodreads. I knew full well those wouldn’t be my official titles, but there they were. When the official titles came out, I’ve had to go in to Goodreads and change the titles and combine those versions with the official versions – an annoyance and a waste of time. So…I won’t do that again 🙂 The things we never think of!!
You should see what fun agents have connecting those working titles on proposals and contracts to the titles of the published books.
Good cautionary advice, Sarah!
Thank you for sharing that, Sarah. 🙂
That’s interesting, Sarah (and unfortunate for you and your publisher). Although anyone can “add” a title to Goodreads, I never thought that an avid reader would be so (ahem) “helpful” as to add your working title for you!
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Ohhhh, how nice of that loyal reader. 😀
My working title for Book One was ‘A Round Grove of Trees’. Which is the English translation of the Spanish name ‘Bosque Redondo’. I could have gone with ‘Hweeldi’, which is the Navajo take on the Spanish word for ‘fort’.
The current working title is ‘A Dangerous Mercy’.
But for a while, because I wrote the other one first, Mary Keeley and I called it ‘Book Two which is now Book One’.
Soooooooo simple, all this title stuff.
Wendy, I couldn’t agree more. I understand why some people want to share all this–they’re proud of what’s coming. When I got my first contract, I was anxious to post every detail of the book on social media. I was advised to possess my soul with patience, and I’m glad I’ve learned to do just that. Thanks for good advice.
Possessing ones soul with patience will behoove us throughout the publishing journey. Thanks for that, Richard!
It’s hard not to share the excitement. We just have to remember that our goal is to get the reader to perform an action– buy the book.
I’ve taken your advice, Wendy, and waited to share the cover until the book was available for pre-order. I’m so glad I did. I was shocked to see that some were actually pre-ordering. Yesterday, when I shared the photo of the box of books, more pre-ordered. More shock. (Why is it that we struggle and labor and write, and then, when we achieve our goal, we’re surprised that anyone actually wants to read it?) Now, I think I’ll stay low until the book is in stores to avoid exactly what you described, a reader who thinks she’s read it already, simply because she’s seen the cover a couple of times already.
I can’t wait to read it, Meghan! 🙂 I’m so proud of you!
And I saw your reveal yesterday, Meghan. Good job. It is perfect timing. Congratulations!
Thank you, Wendy and Shelli!
So exciting, Meghan! A dream come true. 🙂
Wendy, I have noticed in a number of books that the teaser and sometimes even a few pages or the first chapter of the next book by the author are bound in the back of the first book. Is that a good thing to do? If, so, when? Only when the next book is available at least for preorder? Is it the same rule for the back-cover-type teaser and the sample of the beginning chapter?
An experience I just had changed my mind about this, Wendy. A couple of years ago, a woman who had read my cowboy book asked me if I was writing something else. I said, “Yes, a book on people who have seen angels.” Oh! she was so excited. I had to tell her it wasn’t finished yet.
About two weeks ago I saw her again and she asked if my book was done. I said it was, but it had yet to find a publisher. I don’t think that even registered.
“Where can I buy it?” she asked, again all excited. I told her, “It’s not published yet.”
“But can I get it at the bookstore?” she asked. Well, it was pretty obvious this gal thought it was done, (gentle laughing here) I felt very bad having to break her bubble, but I did and told her I’d let her know when it was on the shelf.
So no, I would not let out the cover before the book is ready to be bought, based on this experience, and yes, I’m very vague on what the book is about.
In general I agree with your view: “at Books & Such we don’t believe in sharing your cover until the reader can click a link and buy the book”.
But I also take your point about cover design changes: I can think of at least one cover that’s been changed after Rel and her commenters didn’t think it was up to par.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Well…let’s see. I waited to do the cover reveal for my Christmas novella until it was up for pre-order, but I waited a little longer than that because I wanted to share it on the day of our first snow. There is something special about a first snow and it being a Christmas book, that seemed appropriate to me. I then waited to share my book trailer until the release day. I actually took your previous post into account, Wendy, as I was deciding these things.