Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Promises, promises...Cathy Ace

“With thousands of new titles being published every day, what do you do to try to raise your new book above the fray and catch the eye of readers?”

To catch the eye of a reader, you have to know your reader! Just as when fishing you have to have the right bait for the fish you’re trying to catch, I’ve always thought of the cover of a book as being that bait. Unlike when fishing, you don’t want to hook the reader with the promise of a great meal then drag them out of the water and batter them to death – no, really, you don’t! – what you want to do is to get them interested enough in the overall proposition of your book then actually give them what you’ve promised them.

The photo we use on our Facebook page
So, for me, the book cover – which includes the visuals, the typesetting, the title of the book and the jacket notes – is where it all begins (and, sometimes, if it’s wrong, it can be where it all ends). I understand that, these days, the way in which a potential reader is first exposed to this might not be on a bookshelf but in the virtual world of online communication and that’s where an author has a role to play in making their book “visible”. Thus, standing out from the crowd begins with the offer encapsulated in the exterior of the book, and how an author can get that seen by potential readers.
Artwork, typesetting, the title and the back-cover blurb will all appeal, or turn off, a reader almost at first glance. I know it does with me – there are certain types of cover design I "expect" to conceal a book that’s of a type that won’t appeal to me, which is why I think this is such a critical aspect of beginning the appeal to the reader. 

I write two series of books and each series has a “Title framework”: all the Cait Morgan Mysteries are “The Corpse with the…..” and then follows something valuable and a body part – eg: The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, Golden Nose, Emerald Thumb etc; all my WISE Enquiries Agency mysteries are “The Case of the…..” two words that are alliterative, the second describing a person – eg: The Case of the Dotty Dowager, Missing Morris Dancer, Curious Cook. Without going into too much detail, suffice to say it’s taken quite a bit of work on my part to get this to be accepted by publishers, and to then get it to “stick”. To me (with a marketing communications background) it seems obvious that offering a promise that is easily recognizable is critical in such a busy marketplace. And it starts with a title – which might be all that a potential reader sees in a headline, or on a list of forthcoming publications, for example.

Beyond this, there’s then the style and content of the cover art. For my Cait Morgan Mysteries – each of which is set in a different country – my publisher agreed to feature a “landmark” or a “defining image” of the country in question on each cover…I wanted the books to look like retro travel posters because, although the setting for the books is contemporary, they are very much in the traditional “Golden Age” vein in terms of structure. The designer was able to select a typeface that hints at the 1930s without being a pastiche, added a “ageing” effect, and we were off! 
Each book like a vintage travel poster - inviting readers to take a trip and meet a corpse!

For my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries, which are centered upon a Welsh stately home, it was decided that such a building would always feature on the cover, because it is a defining aspect of each story and would appeal to those looking for a link with “all things Downton” – again, these are contemporary tales, but there’s an inevitable recognition of the “Upstairs, Downstairs” life within the home of a titled family, and that’s what this visual recognizes, and promises.

Yes - you'll visit a stately home in these books and you'll help solve a puzzling, probably quite cozy case

 I am delighted that the covers of both of my series offer what I believe they deliver. 

Then – how to bring these images and promises to the point where they are, in fact, in front of the eyes of readers and potential readers? Well, that’s where the job of planning and implementing a strategic promotional plan comes into play. I use Facebook, Twitter, I write blogs on a regular basis (like this one) and also write guest blog posts on other sites. I’ll run competitions, I have my own bi-monthly newsletter (you can sign up for it at my website) and I have my website. It’s all about getting the word out, getting the visual promise onto the screens people are looking at…and hopefully, thereby, onto their “Consider To Buy/Borrow” list, then their “To Be Read” pile, then – one day, I hope – onto their “Can’t Wait For The Next One” list.  

The overall promise connected with my name

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries (#8 The Corpse with the Ruby Lips was released on November 1st) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#3, The Case of the Curious Cook, was released in hardcover in the UK on November 30th and in the USA & Canada on March 1st).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers:  


Unknown said...

Your covers make enticing sets too, and people like sets!

Cathy Ace said...

I agree, Rachel - I enjoy building collections of books, and it's super when they work together well as a set :-)

Susan C Shea said...


Roland Clarke said...

I'm just starting out on my fiction writing travels and this invaluable, especially as I never see my novel ideas as one-offs but as series - even though I've only had one published. That one is now unavailable as US published was bought out, so I'm self-publishing. You've set me thinking about a new cover with something that links it to the sequel, which is written. Many thanks, Cathy.

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Susan -'s a big word with a huge meaning....and it all depends on the details :-)

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Roland, so pleased you found it to be of use....I really do think that trying to see the big picture - even if that can only be a framework - from the beginning is a great help. Wishing you all the very best with your writing, and your self-publishing adventure :-)