Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Adventures in Indie Publishing—A Good Cover Matters by Patty Smith Hall

My first month in indie publishing was an active one, and I didn’t even publish a book. Last month, I took a five-day Amazon Ad challenge with Bryan Cohen (he has another challenge coming up in April that I highly recommend,) started a website on WordPress, and wrote one-third of a new novella for Barbour which will satisfy my last traditional contract. So, out of all of this, what did I learn?

A good cover matters.

As I said earlier, I took The Five-Day Amazon Ad Challenge with Bryan Cohen, and as part of it, I had to make several different types of ads—automatic and keyword—then watch how these ads performed over several days to see which were more productive. For this project, I selected Courting Doctor Clark, one of the books Harlequin gave me back when the Love Inspired Historical closed down.

I was excited to advertise this book. It was part of the Heartsong Presents division that LIH bought out, but never promoted. But as the days drew out, I was getting clicks but no sales. When I asked Bryan about this, he asked me some pointed questions regarding my cover. Did my cover attract the kind of reader I wanted? Was it in line with my genre? If I saw my cover, would I want to buy the book?

So, I went back and looked at my cover:

Though I liked this cover, I’m not sure it appealed to my audience which is a thirty-five to forty-year-old woman who loves to read as an escape and enjoys history. It looked more like a regency than the American historical romance I wrote. If I was completely honest with myself, I probably wouldn’t buy it if I saw the cover alone.

After studying the one hundred best sellers in my genre, I contacted the new cover designer I’m working with, paged through her ready-art covers and found one that answered most of the questions Bryan had asked me. It’s not the perfect cover, but in order to see if my Amazon ads worked, I needed to change it fast.

Here’s the new cover:

Within twenty-four hours, I saw a dramatic difference in my sales and KU page read-throughs. I continued my ads through this month and to date, my sales/read-throughs have gone from the single digits to triple digit sales, a 3000 percent increase as of February 14.

So, what did I learn? Covers matter, particularly when you’re using Amazon to distribute your book. Think about it—when someone types in ‘historical romance’ into Amazon’s search engine, they’re presented with a list of books. No blurbs or reviews, just covers.

Like I said, covers matter!

What do you find appealing in the covers of your favorite books? Do you buy a book because of the cover? Why?

Covers matter, particularly when you’re using Amazon to distribute your book. via @pattywrites #SeriouslyWrite #amwriting


Patty Smith Hall lives in North Georgia with her husband of 36+ years, Danny. Her passion is
to write tender romances based in little-known historical moments. The winner of the 2008 ACFW Genesis award in historical romance, she is published with Love Inspired Historical, Barbour and Winged Publishing, and is a contributor to the Seriously Writing blog as well as Journey magazine. Patty is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. 

4 Women Bring Southern Charm to a Cowboy Town 
Crinoline Creek, Texas, 1868
A Cowboy of Her Own by Patty Smith Hall

Bookish southern belle Madalyn Turner knows what she wants—to be a cowboy and own a Texas ranch. But books are far different from real life and soon she realizes she needs help.


  1. For me, covers are exciting. I want them to say something about the story or the character on the front and ooze with emotion.

  2. Interesting that your target audience is a 35-40 years old woman who loves history and reads for escape. Do Amazon ads ever target the 40-90 year old woman who loves history and reads for escape? Seems that would be a huge market. Now at 68, I am retired and finally have time to read again!

  3. I agree. Covers are so important. Personally, I love your new cover! Looks like readers do too. I've long believed covers make a huge difference; your experience is proof. Thank you for sharing your decision process and how it worked out for you, Patty.

  4. Yes, covers are so important! Design, colors - everything plays into it for me. I prefer to see a person included on the cover dressed in the time period. That helps distinguish between a historical and a contemporary at first glance. I like your new cover too!

  5. Your second cover really pops & stands up to any bestselling cover out there. As a fan of cover art I so appreciate your post. Thank you, Patty!


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