by Melinda VanLone
Here on Writers In The Storm we’ve talked about putting the promise of your genre on the cover and how vital it is for selling your novel. As I’ve said before, a good cover is a contract with the reader that this story fits in the genre they’re looking for.
Note: For more information see Book Covers 101: Your Cover Sells Your Book.
But what if you’ve written a cross-genre story?
Here’s the short answer: it’s almost impossible to do both at once. You have to lean one way or another, or you’ll miss both sides.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve written a sci-fi/romance novel. Think carefully about the main story elements. Is the romance really front and center? Or is it more interstellar shenanigans with strong romantic elements?
My latest series, Raegan Reid, is a blend of urban fantasy and sci-fi. When I look at it objectively I see that it’s heavier on the urban fantasy elements. If I put a typical urban fantasy cover, a badass female protagonist standing in a sinister city landscape, and then tried to insert a futuristic element into the background, I would end up with a confused cover and no one would buy my book. It would leave both urban fantasy and science fiction readers scratching their heads, and their main thought would be: “I don’t know what that is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not for me.”
You do not want that reaction for your book.
Steps to a successful cross-genre cover.
1. Take a step back and analyze the major story elements in your novel.
- What genre do they belong to?
- Which reader is it going to appeal to more?
Typically, you’ll find you’ve got more elements of one genre than the other.
For instance, I did not lean into the science elements hard enough in my story to market it to science fiction readers. If your cover incorrectly promises your genre, you’ll end up with angry readers, bad reviews, and a mental cross beside your name when it’s seen on future books.
As a side note, some genres are more accepting of experimentation, while other genres are more purist. If you’ve read within the genres you’re publishing in—as you should have—you’ll know which is which.
2. If your story is truly evenly balanced and you can tip either way, consider which genre has the biggest audience. You are seeking the largest pool of potential readers, because a bigger pool means more potential customers.
For instance, if your sci-romance is equal parts science fiction and romance, I’d lean romance. Biggest. Genre. Ever.
If you’re still not sure, take a look at the covers from your comp authors, and see which genre they’ve chosen to highlight. If they’ve been selling well…it’s a smart move to mimic their approach.
3. Once you’ve picked the genre you think is the primary focus of your story, cover your book accordingly (see previous Book 101 posts for more advice on what graphics go with which genre).
Keep in mind, if your book isn’t selling you can always change your cover to lean into the other genre. Maybe you got the dominant genre wrong. Maybe the smaller genre is hungrier and more willing to try a new type of story.
Remember, the two basic mottos of indie publishing are: if at first you don’t succeed, try again, and don’t be afraid to change your approach. The power is in your hands.
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Melinda VanLone writes urban fantasy, freelances as a graphic designer, and dabbles in photography. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and furbabies.
When she’s not playing with her imaginary friends, you can find Melinda playing World of Warcraft, wandering aimlessly through the streets taking photos, or hovered over coffee in Starbucks.