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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all, my first book, Small Fish Big Fish, has been out since October last year, but it's not selling well. Let's assume the story is good and it's been well edited :D The problem could be the genre, the blurb (which I've changed so often I'm totally confused) or the cover!

I'd really appreciate your thoughts on which cover you like better, and whether the blub works for you. This is a literary fiction with a coming of age theme.

Here's a revised blurb:

The lives and loves of a group of teenage boys and girls growing up in an impoverished Scottish neighborhood in 1965 are explored in moving detail in this fast paced coming-of-age drama.

Seventeen-year-old Steven McBride is a college student struggling to find meaning in his life. He has no girlfriend, little money, and no job. Things seem pretty bleak. But when he finds ten pounds on the floor of a grocery store and meets a gorgeous girl at a dance, he thinks his luck might finally have changed.

Stephen soon finds out that luck is fickle and can vanish when you need it most. Robbed, roughed up and constantly bullied, Stephen is forced to make a choice. Stand up for what he believes and pay the price, or run and pay an even higher price.

And the covers (People or Fish)
 

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I prefer number 1. Although the angry guy does bring a lot of drama, I'm not sure what a reader's initial gut reaction is going to be, which is absolutely key for those that judge by cover first before even seeing a blurb.

What does everyone else think?
 

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I like the fish...but it's not a novel about Betta fish, so maybe that would be misleading to some readers. As for the first cover, the angry man is disturbing. I wouldn't click in it.
 

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Design-wise, I quite like both covers, but they give me completely different genres, and I'm afraid neither matches the blurb.

Also, the blurb is not interesting. It cuts out before the interesting stuff happens. You need to give us a glimpse of what sort of thing happens when he picks up the note.

The cover on the left gives me the idea that this is hardboiled crime (the title suits this) set in northern England with uncouth, older and bitter characters.

The cover on the right says literary fiction.

The blurb says... meh. Not really interested in some student finding the meaning of life and hitting it off with a girlfriend.
 

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Take what critique you need and leave the rest:

The right one feels like non-fic, so I would leave that one.

The image on the left is okay, but as Jeff pointed out you need to take the guy on the right. It throws the balance of the design off. What about having the silhouette guy on his own, but not transparent? Looks like he's standing in an environment that speaks volumes. You need to also clarify the age of the guy- because at the moment it feels like adult fic but you said it's a coming-of-age novel, which this cover doesn't convey. If the silhouette guy has that teenage look that should be enough.
 

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I like the fish cover and the title.  The angry man cover doesn't fit the title.  Neither cover fit your blurb.
 

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For a Y A novel an attractive guy on the cover or a figure of a male maybe seen from behind will work better.  Covers need to attract and even if the guy is angry, mean etc. best is not to show it on the cover.  For example if designing a book about illness one would rather use an image portraying great health signifying the cure, or maybe a very attractive woman looking slightly ill.  For fiction it is even more important. Since you have a love theme maybe a couple would work better, or you could even have Julie on the cover?

By the way your silhouette is transparent and it looks odd with the background sticking through his head.
 

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I like the fish one but agree that it makes it look like a non-fiction book. The other cover is a bit much for me.
 

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Neither cover says "coming of age" to me, but with the people cover—between the angry pointing guy and the spatters of blood—doesn't even hint at "literary." (It looks more Denis Lehane than anything.)

I think you need a cover that says "seventeen year old" (so you're hitting your target market) and "literary YA," and neither of these are doing that. (Although I do quite like the fish. Just...not for the book you've apparently written.)
 

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I liked the people cover the best. The coloring and images were very evocative. Definitely got my attention. For the blurb, why not include the catch phase you have on the cover. I took a stab at the blurb, including it. Just some food for thought:

"Life ... is about choices. Sometimes the consequences of those choices are unimaginable. Sometimes what seems like luck is really a mask hiding something cruel and nasty. Seventeen-year-old college student Steven McBride is struggling to find meaning in his life. He has no girlfriend, little money, and no job. Things for Steven seem pretty bleak. But then, he finds a £10 note and meets a charming girl at a dance who he really clicks with, and he thinks his luck has finally changed. He couldn't be more wrong. Small Fish Big Fish is a moving tale of love and a life on the wrong track. "
 

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Like what many of the others said, I too like the first cover with the people.  I would be interested in seeing what this cover looks like without that yelling man on it.  I think it would add mystery to have it without the yelling man.  I think he draws in too much attention, and pulls away from your title and the mystery of what is going on around it.
 

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I say lose the angry guy.  The blurb is boring.    Oh and your title immediately brought Dr Seuss to mind. 
Sorry.
 

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The right cover says light YA or maybe even chick lit. The left... I don't know. It makes me think of Cormac McCarthy. But in a bad way. The title also makes me think of something light and comic. Or at least tongue in cheek.

Who is the audience for your book? If it's a YA, your audience is mostly women, both teen and older, and I don't think either cover would really appeal. An attractive teenage boy looking angsty might work.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Please - don't anybody be sorry for giving me your honest view! This is exactly what I need. The truth is, I've written a book that is literary fiction, but it's a story about a a group of young people fifteen to twenty. It isn't your typical coming of age story, which is why I'm having trouble I guess. Anna Fantabulous gives away the plot in her Goodreads review. I've reproduced it in full:

Carlisle's story is fixed around a bunch of teenage boys and girls growing up in a small Scottish district circa 1965. There's the lead protagonist 17-year old Stephen, studying for a degree in civil engineering with a best friend named D'Angelo. Stephen is dating 16-year old Julie but has a one-off fling with Trish, the slutty sister of Stephen's nemesis - 19-year old Archie, the blond hell-raiser frequently involved in petty thefts and crime with his pals Neil and Johnny who beat up Stephen every now and then. Julie is Daniel's sister, a gang member, who went to jail taking rap for a crime Archie committed. Other bad eggs include Pete and Harry who hate Archie's guts and power. Archie is the most vividly written character in the story, a boy raised in a dysfunctional poverty-stricken direction-less abusive household, whose real father may or may not be Stephen's own dad (!) and he is secretly dating the ill-fated Tianyi Chi, 15-year old Chinese girl who lost her entire family in a boating accident coming from China. Hers is the most fascinating (and incredibly sad) journey in the long list of teenagers whose lives, pasts and presents are explored in bloody moving detail in this 282 page tome to what it means to be a small fish in a big pond.

The lives of everyone involved are changed forever after a murder. One-half of the story leads up to it. The other-half leads to the conclusion from it. At the heart of it is the lesson to take risks, be brave and do the right thing when it matters most. That is what growing up is all about.

Any comments?
 

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I love them both!

The one on the right looks like it could be self-help though. All great advice above.

Am guessing your book would have the most appeal to teenage boys and young men. Sounds like a great story by the way!
I wish I could tell you how to market it, but I don't have much of an idea on that readership. Is it like any other popular literary books out there at the moment? You could maybe put a line in your blurb about it being "In the tradition of X book by X author and X book by X author...."

(What you put in your description can often help your book come up in searches, and, if your book starts to sell in enough numbers, hopefully get into the also-boughts of those books.)

If you were starting from scratch, I'd say a cover that emphasised the typography rather than the graphics would work best - something bold and chunky (and dangerous), like this:

 

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I kind of love the fish cover, but its power depends, I think, on knowing these are male fighting fish. If someone misses the reference, then it's confusing.

I really would not have expected the book from the review from the blurb. I think the blurb needs to up the bad stuff.
 
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