I recently changed the cover of my horror story, “Don Whitman’s Masterpiece”, because I thought it was ugly and wanted something prettier. The old cover had done wonders for the story’s popularity on Amazon and I was curious whether the new cover would change that.
It didn’t take long to find out. Almost as soon as the new cover went live, downloads dropped. They didn’t plummet—the story still has a pair of good reviews—but they did dip enough to move the story off the first page of both genre lists for which it had previously been in the top twenty.
The results seem clear. Conventional wisdom about effective covers being big, black or white text as part of a simple design focused on one vivid image is right. That said, I’m not going back to my old cover because it hurts my eyes to look at it, but what works, works, and I’ll take that into account when designing in the future and perhaps try to mix my lessons with my own sense of style to come up with covers that get clicks while not making me wince whenever I see them.