Books that have a sequel or series of them require special handling. Readers expect books that build on a previous story to have unity in design and flow. Sometimes, even the titles need a bit of continuity, but generally, this is not necessary. What is essential, however, is a cover that immediately calls to mind the previous books while still keeping enough of a uniqueness that the reader immediately knows they haven’t read it yet.
Think about popular series. Harry Potter, for instance. They are universally recognized even by those who don’t care for them. The same is true of books such as the Mitford books. Even parents who refused to let their children read books like Goosebumps recognize the covers from a mile away. Your book needs this. People need to see the cover and have an immediate connection with it. People are collectors. They like sets and collections and will work hard to fill them if they see something that fits. A cover that jars can break that necessary loyalty that keeps readers coming back for more.
My series, The Annals of Wynnewood, takes place in the fictional forests of Northern England. I created a village where people are still superstitious, where Christianity is still new, and where dragons could easily fit into the realm of “reality.” Because the story centers around secrets and a cloak, I chose to make my titles flow into each other. This really isn’t necessary, but it did add quite a bit to this series.
The images are a little small, but the titles of the books are, Shadows & Secrets, Cloaked in Secrets, and Beneath the Cloak. I chose to make the covers look seasonal to reflect on the “Annals” part of the series. Anyone who has read the first book can easily recognize the subsequent ones. This is essential in a series. Think about this as you write your book; there is more to a series than a compelling story. You need an excellent plot that can travel through several books, intriguing characters, and the ability to help the reader visualize your tale, but you also need to plan for how a reader will be drawn into your tale.
Think of it as selling your house. Realtors will tell you that “curb appeal” is essential to grabbing a buyer’s attention. In essence, your covers must not only reflect the story within, they must also appeal to the collector in readers. Remember that when deciding what elements of your story you want to feature on the face of your book.
Sometimes a great cover idea grows from a good one. In my Aggie series, I found the perfect picture for the first cover and immediately went looking for the second. Found it and loved it. Then my two books morphed into a third as I was finishing the second. Because I love design so much, I immediately went looking for cover art. When I found the perfect picture, I realized that I had a problem. You see, my second cover idea was good. It fit the book, was interesting, and I liked it. However, the third book brought up interesting ideas for the second. Let me show you.
Here were my original two ideas. I loved the idea of the walls changing as the house was slowly renovated. It fit the theme of the story and kept the covers related to one another. Then I found the third book’s photo. Do you see what made me pause?
The first book had the main female character depicted on the cover. The last book has her and the main male character on the cover. The middle book was perfectly fine. After all, the main storyline of these books has to do with the main female character, Aggie, becoming guardian of her eight nieces and nephews. The first two books are primarily about Aggie and the children. So, it makes sense for the covers to reflect that. However, when I added the wedding photo to the cover of book three, suddenly I wasn’t happy with the second book. I wanted to show the introduction of Luke, the main male character. The final result was exactly what I wanted.
Continuity in series is very important, and I think I achieved that well by replacing the tricycle with the man on the ladder (Luke doing an entire house renovation is also a large part of the story).
When discussing your series or sequel with your book designer, make sure you consider all volumes you plan to publish. You’ll find that it will help ensure the best possible success for both your design plan and your marketing strategy.