The Dog River – Nahr Al Kalb
Our little rubber boat swirled and twisted in the boiling, ice-cold water. Circling above us dizzily, the thick green pines and the mountain peaks, here and there flashes of snow gleaming in the spring sun. The Dog River – Nahr al Kalb. Somewhere up here last year, they said, a father had hacked his daughter to death because she’d run off with her lover. Now that same blind fury was sweeping us down from the primitive heart of Lebanon, down towards its narrow rich Mediterranean plain.
Well I’ve finally gone ahead and done it. Changed the cover design for The Lebanese Troubles. And this is it. I’ve left the original cover over on the right for you to make comparisons.
Why not until now? Two reasons. First, I absolutely love Tom Young’s painting which I used on the original cover. When I first saw ‘Twenty Years’, it seemed almost to have been painted for TLT, perfectly reflecting the mood at the end of the book, even if it shows a scene that never actually happens.
But what I’ve learned in the past year is that artistry and appropriacy is not enough for a good front cover, especially for ebooks. The reader normally only sees a thumbnail sketch of the cover; nevertheless the impression it creates will very often determine whether the purchase is made or not.
My problem was that the original cover was bleak, and it seems that readers don’t buy bleak. Worse, it gives the impression that the whole book is about war. Today’s readers want blood and guts, that’s true, but only when the perpetrator is a vampire. Reading for many is a form of escapism: they want to suspend their disbelief, not be confronted with grim realities.
I haven’t managed to slip a vampire into the story yet. But if you’ve read the book, you’ll know that there’s a good deal of humor and energy, and that was not reflected in my cover.
The second problem was that I couldn’t find a good alternative. But today I found it – the picture I’ve used – license free, in that great resource, Wikimedia Commons. A little bit of work to do with the titles, using the free design tool, Paint (here’s a tutorial on how to create your own book cover), and we were good to go.
Several readers told me they thought the book would sell better with pictures of Monique and Claire on the front cover. As you can see, I didn’t. I thought long and hard about it, but in the end decided that I just didn’t have the skill, the time or the money to do it well. I’ll consider that again in the next iteration.
Another thing I didn’t do was to change the title of the book, despite frequent criticisms. Again I thought about it: “Sinners in Paradise” perhaps; or “The Land of Nod”. My favorite was “East of Eden” … but that’s been done before. What about “An Apprentice Hero”? In the end I rejected them all. The things is that I’ve spent months building brand recognition and getting “The Lebanese Troubles” to the top of the Google listings. If I change the title now, all that good work will be lost … and I’ll immediately invalidate those oh-so-important reviews. And besides, TLT is really quite a subtle title, exploding into a new meaning towards the end of the book.
Back to the cover design, and you’ll see a new Rapscallion logo at the bottom left. Thanks here to my good friend from TNBW, Greta Stone, who kindly developed four alternative designs for me, all with a spiky humorous touch. At thumbnail size, we’ll hardly see the logo, bur at full size I think it works, don’t you agree?
Let’s hear your views on the changes. Will the new cover make customers more likely to stop and look again than previously? How does it work for you? And in the coming days, I’ll let you know whether it really does make a difference to sales.
Please note that TLT will not be available at Amazon for a few days while their version is updating. But Smashwords has already made the changes, and the book is available there as normal – just follow the link in the sidebar.
I posted yesterday a longish sample from TLT, describing the mood in Beirut on the first day of the civil war. It seemed particularly appropriate as Bahrain seems to be headed in the same direction. How I wish people would learn to accommodate and celebrate their differences instead of using guns to enforce a point of view. Anyway, if you’d like to read the sample, you can either click here, or use the ‘Sample’ tab at the top of the page.