Thursday, 25 May 2017

Using 'Photo-shoots' to get your Book Cover to Stand Out

We all know readers respond better to social media posts when there are pictures and when a new novel comes out, an author always wants to create a massive buzz around the reveal of the cover. But how can authors ring the changes in the run up to a release, so they're not bombarding readers with the same images of the cover, over and over?

One answer is to find a 'setting' for the book and create a 'photo-shoot' that gives a background flavour and 'feel' of the story.

I got this idea when I saw this post on Twitter by Claire Fuller. Claire's novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, is about an eight-year-old girl taken from her home, by her father, to a remote hut in the woods and told that the rest of the world has been destroyed. 

To me, the layer of dried leaves and hydrangia suggests fading, sadness, loss, an ending, time passing, the cycle of seasons. It adds atmosphere and intrigue to the title and the cover image - what does it say to you?


A unexpected spider improves the scene!
I love images and taking photographs, so when I released No Longer Safe, I decided to use a similar tactic (and thanked Claire for the idea!).

No Longer Safe is set in a remote cottage in the Highlands of ScotlandFour friends meet for a reunion that turns sour when a dead body appears at the end of a bed. The book is all about the weather conditions: how snow hides, but it also reveals, although when it was released in February 2016, there was no ice or snow on the ground for icy, chilling shots! Instead, I took a photo of the book in dead leaves on a grungy backdrop in order to suggest death, the end of something, something past its best, sinister. What I hadn't anticipated was the *spider* (see bottom left of the image) that very kindly crawled into the picture! This welcome creature added a creepy element of insidious threat to the shoot. Perfect! With this image, I used new taglines on social media such as 'Would you stay in the cottage from hell?' and 'What do you do when your best friend becomes your deadliest enemy?'.

The photo-shoot idea turned a little tricky when it came to Inside the Whispers. The cover shows a London Underground train hurtling into a station with smoke billowing everywhere. There's a fire. That's the core of the story - a fire on the Tube, as told by survivors suffering trauma - a fire, however, that never actually took place... 

Holding the book near a flame to get a real-life shot (outdoors, in a flameproof tray, by the way) gave me this image, but even though the fire wasn't exactly raging, I was still in danger of getting my fingers burnt! I got bigger flames if I took shots of the fire itself and then superimposed the cover image. Not ideal, but a safer way to avoid setting several paperbacks on fire! 

Below is an example of the template I used for Facebook and Twitter posts. These photo shoots allowed me to show publicity text in the black space, including taglines such as 'There's no smoke without Fire', 'A devious mystery lurks behind the choking smokescreen' and 'Who's playing with Fire...'. These are all different from the tagline on the front of the book: 'Where the most dangerous place - is inside your own head...'


My new Psych Thriller, LOST IN THE LAKE, is coming out soon! The pre-order is July 13 and the release date is September 7 (for your diaries!) I'm in the process of putting together publicity material and taking lots of background shots of 'murky water' to set the atmosphere for this book. The essence of the story involves an 'accident' where a van plunges headlong into a lake. The sole survivor goes to therapy looking for answers, but she’s not telling the full story. As a result, the diligent and sensitive therapist gets seriously out of her depth. Will she sink or swim? (Full jacket blurb in a later post).
I asked my husband to throw a pebble into the water to create a nice ripple-ring -
'something has disappeared under the surface'
Natural bubbles and reeds here beg the question - 'what lies beneath?' - just right for the book
Using these images, I wanted to convey a mood of something hidden in the depths, something sinking without trace, forever lost. I also wanted to get across the idea of being 'out of your depth' (just right for the key character in the story!). Taglines such as: 'Everything starts at the lake' and 'She's sinking fast and she's going to take you with her' neatly describe the feel of the book, which is a tangled mystery on the surface and a dark psych thriller underneath.

The cover of LOST IN THE LAKE will be revealed on the Pre-Order date of July 13 (I absolutely love it and hope you will too!). It's all under wraps until then... In the run up, I'll be posting a range of 'taster' photos, jacket blurb and background info to whet your appetites! I hope you'll follow me on Twitter, Facebook, this Blog or my Newsletter to find out all about the book. If you're an author, I hope some of these ideas help!

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AJ Waines is an International Bestselling Author of Psychological Thrillers 


  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017
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