After making a good living as a writer and producer of TV sitcoms for many years, in 2006 I began feeling a bit burned out with the television grind and decided to go back to my great love, writing books. My first YA novel, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, had modest success with a Big Six publisher. I had, and still have a great relationship with the publisher, yet I yearned for something more intimate. I found what I was looking for and more with White Whisker Books.
One of the great things about being with an independent publisher is the ability to tweak things quickly after the work is out there. This isn’t true with the Big Six. It can take months to make a change and you can lose precious time and sales as you wait for the wheels of corporate America to turn.
When White Whisker first published Boyfriend From Hell last September, it had a different book cover. It was a cute cover and lots of readers left positive comments about it on my blog. Boyfriend From Hell got off to a decent start, yet after a month, sales slowed down drastically. Despite doing promotions on Goodreads and popular blogs, my sales fell into a serious slump. After a fairly successful Kindle Nation Daily promotion, sales picked and I started feeling good. Yet days after the promotion ended my sales were once again in the toilet.
One thing I’ve learned from my years of working in television is that when you think something is going wrong, act fast. Fortunately, I had an intimate relationship with my publisher. The book had been out only two months when I went to Christopher Meeks and implored him to change the cover. As I said earlier, we liked the cover: It was cute, but it wasn’t provocative. I told him I wanted a gorgeous cover for my book series, a cover that even in an Amazon thumbnail would make people say “What is that?”
Fortunately, he was amenable. And so I began the search for a cover artist. I found the portfolio of an artist named Adara Rosalie online at a site called Red Bubble. I knew from the first photo I viewed that Adara was the right person. She didn’t just Photoshop photos, she was an artist with Photoshop.
I contacted Adara who, lucky for me, was between commissions and agreed to produce the covers for the entire series. The original cover had been done by my publisher’s (then) art director. I had never art directed anything before, but Adara was easy to work with. We premiered the new covers for Boyfriend From Hell and its sequel, Earth Angel, in December of 2011—three short months after Boyfriend From Hell had originally premiered. That first week with the new cover I sold 22 books. That’s the number of books I sold the entire month of November. Bloggers began posting my covers on their websites without being asked. My covers appeared on 4 different Best Cover lists on Goodreads.
In January, after a Boyfriend From Hell Pixel of Ink feature, I sold over 1,000 books and the books appeared on several Amazon top 100 Best Seller lists. The people at Pixel of Ink really loved my covers and suggested that in March we do a side-by-side feature of both books. I sold 4,000 books the week of the feature. The best news, however, was that people online were now talking about the books—not the covers, but what was inside.
The rest is, as you say, history. In mid-March, my books achieved the near impossible: Both Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel appeared among the top 10 Amazon’s Children’s ebooks. The only other author with more than one book on the list was Suzanne Collins with The Hunger Games and its sequels. Most of the books in the top 10 were Big Six published books, and there I was with two books on the list. Yowzah.
A month later the series was optioned by Jamie Kennedy Entertainment to become a network television series. Many fans have emailed me asking when the next Falling Angels Saga book, Heaven Sent, will be coming out. I hear things like “I can’t wait to read it.”
I am so excited about independent publishing. I know we wouldn’t be where we are today if my publisher hadn’t been flexible and willing to move quickly. I am living proof that people do judge books by their covers.
The next book in the Falling Angels Saga, Heaven Sent is due out at the end of the year. It’s got a gorgeous cover. But just like any pretty face, it may be nice to look at but it’s what’s on the inside that makes it special.
E. Van Lowe is an author, television writer, screen-writer, playwright and producer who has worked on such TV shows as 'The Cosby Show,' 'Even Stevens' and 'Homeboys in Outer Space.' He has been nominated for both an Emmy and an Academy Award. His first YA Paranormal novel, 'Never Slow Dance with a Zombie,' was a selection of The Scholastic Book Club and a nominee for an American Library Association Award. His bestselling novels, 'Boyfriend From Hell' and 'Earth Angel,' are the first two books in the Falling Angels Saga. 'The Zombie Always Knocks Twice' is the first book in his Hollyweird series. Follow him at his website, his blog or his Twitter.