Dilemmas of Independence

In 2014 Scotland will have a referendum to decide whether or not we’d like to become an independent nation. The democratic process in action; people exercising their free choice and then most of them not getting what they wanted. Then again, it’s a better system than the one they use in Burma or China. However, this blog may not be what it seems. I’m not going to discuss the dilemmas facing an Independent Scotland; rather I’m going to ask for your advice, your democratic input into resolving the dilemmas facing this independent author.

I have three books, but the difference in their sales performance perplexes me. Much of it is self-doubt, that stressful and unpleasant domain of all people who chuck a piece of creativity out into the world for others to judge. Some of it is more technical; to do with cover images, blurb and so on. Some of it is about marketing and trying to hit the right note with readers and reviewers. 

In Many Ways Cover

The good news is that ‘In Many Ways’, my debut novel, has done very well. Since publishing in late august 2011, I’ve sold nearly 7,000 copies, it’s attracted twenty-seven 5 star reviews (25 in the UK, 2 in the US), and I’ve had lots of nice feedback from readers via Twitter in addition to these reviews. In April 2013 it won a Thriller of The Month award from e-thriller.com. I’m extremely proud of this and grateful for all the positivity.

However…

PP5

‘Pandora’s Pitbull’ was published in March 2012 and so far has sold modestly. Less than a thousand copies so far. I’ve only garnered seven 5 star reviews (6 in the UK, 1 in the US). I have come up with a few reasons why might this be and the dilemmas facing me:

1. The cover is putting people off. I used an aggressive, striking image of a pitbull, thinking this would attract attention. Maybe it does, but of the wrong kind? The first big dilemma – should I change it after a year and a half?

2. The title is not quite right? I have been torn by the title since the day I decided to go for it. It comes from a line in the book. Originally, in an early form of the story it was called ‘Dawn of the Ned’. I backed out of this in the end fearing the joke would be lost on non-Scots and it might imply the book was a comedy, which it’s not. Next big dilemma – should I risk changing it?

3. The blurb is not hitting the right note with browsers or prospective buyers.

Stark Contrasts Cover

‘Stark Contrasts’ was published in December 2012 and has done pretty poorly so far in sales terms, and with similar review stats to PP. However, it also won a Thriller of the Month award for May this year on e-thriller. So, why am I struggling to sell this book when it’s in a similar genre to ‘In Many Ways’ and is the same price? My problem here is not with a lack of faith in the technical side. I don’t think the cover is a problem (I might be wrong) and I like the title (I still might be wrong!). The blurb may not be attracting buyers mind you. It just seems less easy to nail down for Stark. Why won’t it sell?

This is where I need your help, your votes, your democratic input.

Should I change the cover and/or title of Pandora’s Pitbull or just stand by it, accept it won’t ever sell that well and move on to writing another book?

Thanks in advance for any advice or opinions given.

Peter Carroll

About Peter

Peter Carroll is a Scotsman, author, musician and wildlife enthusiast.
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5 Responses to Dilemmas of Independence

  1. Maureen Bloomfield says:

    For me , I don’t like pitbulls, enough to be put off by the name and cover if I was just browsing for a book, it would stand out because of the name and cover but my dislike of the dogs would not make me lift it xx (tho after reading it i felt sorry for the wee dug! – not enough for me to go out and buy one !)

  2. Maureen Bloomfield says:

    so for me its change cover x

    • Peter says:

      Thanks Maureen. It’s a fair point and I do wonder about it being a double-edged sword, putting off more than it attracts. I’m edging towards change, but worry about the risks of making people think it’s a new book altogether then being disappointed when they find it’s not. Hmm.

  3. Jim Murdoch says:

    There are cat people and there are dog people so there goes 50% of your potential sales right away. I’m a cat person so your cover does nothing for me. I’m also a peaceable sort of chap and images of aggression do nothing much for me either. Pandora makes me thing of ancient Greece and Adrian Mole. I’m looking for the joke but it’s just not funny. The blood splatter makes the cover look messy. I’ve seen other covers with coffee cup rings and that sort of thing, creases even, and I hate them. A book should look smart.

    I don’t like Dawn of the Ned as a title. It smacks of a Dawn of the Dead parody. My wife and I watched a show last night where they made a Dawn of the Deaf short. If the book’s being marketed as a thriller that’s as far as I’d read—not that I’d even pick the book up to look at it with the cover as it is—because I don’t read thrillers. I’ve always imaged it was only a minority of people that did but that’s me being snooty. I don’t mind watching thrillers because that’s only an hour and a half or two hours of my day but reading a book is a commitment and I expect more from it that mere entertainment.

    The cover for Stark Contrasts is better—stark background echoing the name—but it also looks a bit like a textbook despite the fact is says ‘An Adam Stark Novel’ on the cover. The font is better here; I didn’t care for the spacing on Pandora’s Pitbull.

    But what do I know? None of my books are selling and I suspect the inkblot covers, although they look great when you have the paperback in your hand, aren’t inspiring the punters; they lose something shrunk down on a computer screen. I’d hoped that the inkblot would become my logo. No one else is publishing books that look like mine. The titles, although right for the books, aren’t the most inspiring either—I love titles like Californication and World War Z (although it loses a bit in translation)—but it’s never as simple as a good title; it’s the whole package.

    Anyway, a few thoughts for you to chew over. Hope they help.

    • Peter says:

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your input. I decided against Dawn of the Ned precisely because, as you say, it would imply a comedy or parody like Shaun of the Dead, which it isn’t. The dog/cat thing is an interesting point but I do wonder how many people really would go no further just based on that? Who knows, maybe lots! The smart thing, well, I reckon that’s much more about personal taste and I suspect likely to be less of a definite put-off for a significant amount of people. Thrillers sell, there’s no doubt about that – biggest selling genre in the world I think – so not too worried on that front.

      I think your own experience goes to show there’s no definitive right answer. We all do our best – sometimes it’s successful and popular and sometimes it just isn’t. I’ve had some other input that’s leading me more and more towards a change to the cover at the very least. If sales suddenly increase then I can leave the title. If they don’t, it could be next!

      Cheers,

      Peter

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