Guest Author: Charlotte Brothers and A Year in Cherrybrook

My guest this month was featured here two years ago with the first of her sweet historical romance series. I enjoyed reading Creatures of Habit, A Fair-Weather Friend, and A Bird in the Hand. Book Four of the series known as A Year in Cherrybrook, is scheduled for release later this month. But instead of talking about her books, I asked her to share another process that she went through while completing her stories – switching the covers. The original covers were delightful – they featured scenes that Charlotte painted herself! Unfortunately, the lovely covers didn’t catch the eyes of readers, so she made the decision to change them. The new covers are quite eye-catching, and books now seem to be doing well. I asked Charlotte to come and share the process she went through for changing the way her series is branded through the covers. Please welcome her back!


Thank you, Patricia, for inviting me to share my Cover Story (ha ha!). I always enjoy reading what you write, and am happy that you feel the same.

We all know the pain of sunk costs, right?


After two years of trying to improve my original covers for my first book series, I finally made the decision to change them significantly.

This was a tough decision for me to make for two reasons.

The first was, because I am a professional artist, I was proud of the fact that I could make my own book art based on actual scenes in my stories. It was fun being able to paint the dogs, the seasons, and accurate protagonists’ clothing and hair colors. Besides… I was so tired of seeing countless books in my genre with the same basic look, and oftentimes the same cover model. Yawn.

I thought it would be too easy to get lost in the shuffle if I followed the crowd.

Speed forward one year later and see me lamenting my poor sales numbers. During that year I realized that, in the advertising world, high impression rates that don’t lead to clicks means that either the cover or title are lacking, or they are too far off track for the genre. Readers aren’t recognizing that the book is their kind of book. I noticed that my books looked nothing like other books in their sub-genre. While some readers and authors told me that they liked my book covers because they were different, in the end, I decided that they stood out too much. They were too different.

When a reader knows what they like, they want more of the same (Bryan Cohen). More than one marketing element that’s different from all the books they already read and liked is usually considered a high risk purchase. They’ll pass the new, chancy book over and take one that looks just like all the others! It struck me forcefully that what’s inside the book has no bearing on whether or not a reader takes a chance and buys my story. All a book shopper has to go on are three or four things that they absorb in a second or less: cover, title, then blurb and tagline. 

The second reason bothered me more, because it affected others. I balked at changing the covers in a big way because the books are in a series. An incomplete series. And there are readers who have the first 3 paperback books in one or two former cover iterations! Oh, how sad for them and embarrassing for me!

In the spring, I had hired cover designer Nancie Janitz to work with me to rebrand the series, and it was her idea to add the jewel-toned color banners to unify them. She also came up with the unique book back and spine using my original artwork, which I love. Nancie’s great to work with, and is an all-around lovely person. 

I began selling books with the new covers, but I still had misgivings. I increasingly felt that I was holding onto an idea that just wasn’t going to work, and now I had just invested more time and money (as well as Nancie’s time) into them. More sunk cost and effort.

Just before my re-release of Book 3, Nancie had a family emergency and was unable to finish the 3rd and 4th book, so she kindly passed the cover files to my daughter to finish. Together, Majken (my daughter) and I started setting up the last two books, and I thought, “It’s time. Change them now or never!” I stayed up late that night, scouring for options, and came up with public domain or paid photos that could easily be tweaked to look like my story protagonists. The next day, with me hanging over her shoulder, my daughter worked the photos into Nancie’s designs. We covered up just the centers of my original book art so that the settings are painted, but the figures are from photo sources. My daughter manipulated the colors and clothes, etc. and “Voila!” I love the results!

Even though I no longer felt self-conscious about being indecisive (that band-aid had been ripped off), I did still worry about readers who had purchased older editions and wouldn’t be able to get matching covers to finish their collections.

I decided that there was a silver lining to low sales. I have posted a notice offering to replace physical copies at cost if a reader can show me that they own an older edition. If they cannot afford the small cost, and it’s important for them to have a matching set, then they are invited to contact me privately and “I’ll see what I can do”.

Within this first month, my sales have risen, and other authors in my genre are more eager to recommend my books in their newsletters. I’m really happy that I decided to keep trying and listen to my inner critic.

For the first three books in the series, here are the original covers, then the cover artist’s suggestions, and then the final cover.


Thanks so much for your insight! Best wishes on the success of your books with these beautiful new covers.

You can find Charlotte and her books at her website and on Facebook. Her books are available at Books2Read, BookBub, and Amazon.


About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page:
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15 Responses to Guest Author: Charlotte Brothers and A Year in Cherrybrook

  1. Welcome back, Charlotte! Such beautiful covers!
    No matter what the business, giving the public what they want is rather a ‘must’, but I am glad that in this case, you certainly did not have to lessen you ‘product’ or loosen your ideals.
    How much I wanted to paint when I was young, but I was far too inhibited and a perfectionist.
    All the best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thank you, Tonette! Yes, it’s sometimes difficult to please the public and oneself, and I hope I’m faster at finding my way in all my future series covers. And… it’s never to late to pick up a brush. Relax and have fun with it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. pamelasthibodeaux says:

    Oh man I feel you. My covers have gone through changes too over the years!
    Thanks for sharing your story.
    Good luck and God’s blessings

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff Salter says:

    thank you for doing all that research (& soul-searching) and sharing the results with us at 4F1H. Lots of sobering content here, including: “…what’s inside the book has no bearing on whether or not a reader takes a chance and buys my story…”
    I’ve had a similar journey with several of my titles which “dropped” from Am*zon after a publisher closed its doors. Thankfully, another publisher has picked up 5 of those 10 titles and we had to (jointly) work on the new covers. Too expensive to re-purchase the original cover that the first publisher had already paid for once. So we started over. In one case, I had been the one to locate the primary art and I’d kept that file (& link) in my folder… so the new cover was a fairly easy transition, using that original primary image from the service the second publisher also subscribed to.
    The others were more difficult.
    In this process I finally realized that the Cover Art Forms (CAF) I’d completed for those original covers had squeezed me (& the cover artist) into a rather specific corner. We were focusing on what the heroine and hero looked liked, rather than what the story was about!
    In the most dramatic example, I finally realized — and this was 8 yrs after the initial release — that the original cover did, indeed, reflect PART of the story… but actually omitted any suggestion of the MAIN story element: suspense.
    I won’t bore y’all with all the details. Suffice it to say that (when we design our covers) we shouldn’t neglect the main story element while trying to assemble the various specific components.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jeff,
      Yes! That’s brilliant. You realized you were focusing on likenesses rather than genre or what the story was about, which is the part that really pulls the right readers in. So true. It’s hard to see some things clearly until we have the better concept in front of us. I hope I’ll be faster next time. I think what you shared is very helpful and great to keep in mind. Yes, I could see that my older covers could have looked like YA books.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad you figured out a solution to you dilemma. I’ve changed not just covers but titles as well! It’s hard, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. The new covers look perfect for your genre!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Diana Stout says:

    Interesting to see the before and after. I liked how you basically got to use your original painting, keeping the landscape. Beautiful backgrounds. Thanks for sharing the details of your process.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elaine Cantrell says:

    Welcome, Charlotte. I enjoyed your post very much. It was informative and helpful.


  7. Lucy Kubash says:

    While I loved your original covers, I can see where the new ones are more eye catching to today’s readers. Here is wishing you much success with them. I am currently rewriting a book that I have gotten the rights to again, and I feel my biggest loss in republishing the title is losing the cover I love. But in its new version (and as part of a trilogy), it will have a new cover. Hoping to find another one I love. Best of luck, Charlotte!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lucy! Yes, there’s a bit of luck n’ magic involved in finding just the right book cover. I recommed checking with Nancie to see if she has time. She’s done excellent ones (as you know, I’m sure) for several Michigan authors. I’ll be interested to see what you come up with for the trilogy.


  8. Julia Masters says:

    Charlotte, thank you for sharing your cover story. I love how you blended your original artwork with the heroine. I like the addition of the banner across the top to emphasis that each story is part of the series. Wishing you much success with your new covers!


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