To quote a chapter heading from Sweeps which is now for the time being called Love After Lunch (thanks J!)
Last day of the month.
I was talking to someone about ebooks and they were stuck on the old model of once something's published, it's that way forever. Most of my ebooks have undergone some kind of change after publication whether it's the cover or the title. Why is this? Because no one of are really sure how digital publishing works. We don't know what sells and why. Because we can change any or all the elements, we do.
I know I will be challenged on both of the what and why and I will even help do it. For the most part the simpler the idea, the easier the sell. The hotter the idea, the better it will sell. No one buys a Joe Konrath book and wonders what it'll be about. It's a known quantity already. No one buy a vampire book and wonders what it's about. The only question is what's going to happen. Like an action movie.
A cover--let me interrupt myself here. You can learn a lot about digital books by reading books on writing screenplays. One of the cardinal rules of writing a movie is that the initial image tells you what the movie will be about. This rule was never done better (that I've seen) than the movie The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner. The opening scene is Costner standing over the person he's protecting and there's a firefight in progress. So that's great, we know he's a bodyguard, there's lots of violence and potential for death. For me, I didn't have to see any more of the movie than that. Didn't that just tell us everything? Of course what it doesn't tell us is that the best part of the movie is Whitney Houston singing I Will Always Love You or whatever it's called (written by Dolly Parton, btw).
So in digital publishing we want to have a cover that's much like that first scene in a movie (as opposed to any artsy 20th century type covers which may be quite complicated visually). We want it to be so bold and simple that it can be read like a billboard going past your car at 60 mph because it's a thumbnail. Potential book buyers are scrolling through an almost endless list of books and they are all introduced to the public as a tiny little thumbnail and title. Is this combination so compelling the buyer will stop to click?
Some people think they know.
Some people are so lucky.