It’s my great pleasure today to welcome Helen Matthews back to my blog to discuss her latest novel, Girl Out of Sight.
A tale of two covers BY HELEN MATTHEWS, AUTHOR OF GIRL OUT OF SIGHT
We all know the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. This probably holds true for many important decisions, such as choosing a life partner. Whether we’re straight or LGBTQIA+, I’m guessing many of us have fallen for the handsome hunk who turns out to be a control freak or the vacuous beauty who has nothing to say. But when it comes to choosing a book, we should be able to rely on the cover to guide us.
What’s prompted me to think about covers? It’s because my latest psychological suspense thriller Girl Out of Sight has been released this week. This is a new ‘old’ book. It’s actually a second edition (lightly edited) of a novel that was first published in 2017 by another press.
Girl Out of Sight is a suspense thriller with a theme of human trafficking. The story opens in Albania where seventeen-year-old Odeta has left school and is working in her father’s shop in a remote area. Her life isn’t especially grim but it’s colourless and she thinks nothing interesting will ever happen to her again. Then an enigmatic stranger from the capital, Tirana walks into the shop and tells her about the dazzling career she could have if she travelled with him to London. Odeta’s dream of an exciting new life is about to turn into a nightmare.
The original title was After Leaving the Village. The book was under contract for five years and when that ended I took back the rights and was delighted my current publisher, Darkstroke Books wanted to publish a new edition.
After Leaving the Village won first prize in the opening pages of a novel category at Winchester Writers’ Festival and sold well by small press standards. When it first came out it was in bricks and mortar bookshops and I was able to hold book launches in two branches of Waterstones. Other shops hosted me for signings. One independent bookshop owner became an advocate of the book, describing it as ‘One of the most important books I’ve been involved in launching’. My book became a number one bestseller in his shop!
My original publisher had a sales team and their business model was highly focussed on selling into physical stores and overseas. The book made it into libraries all around the world from Singapore to Santiago and was recently spotted by an author friend in an airport bookshop in South Africa! But the eBook never properly took off. I’ve since figured out some of the reasons (no dynamic pricing, for example) but could it also have had something to do with the cover or the title?
When we buy an eBook from ‘zon and other online retailers, we rely on a split second view of a cover image no bigger than a postage stamp. If that image isn’t right or doesn’t signal psychological suspense thriller to readers of that genre, they will scroll past without clicking to read the blurb.
The cover of After Leaving the Village was designed by a professional cover artist and combines stock images with original sketches. The artwork is a thing of beauty and I was delighted with it but – back then – what did I know? My publisher was looking for a standout cover that was striking and different and they achieved that because bookshop owners told me if the book was displayed on a browsing table, readers definitely picked it up. But what if it wasn’t on a table?
I found other ways of getting my book to readers. In the pre-pandemic, pre-lockdown days, I regularly gave author talks and went to book fairs and paperbacks sold extremely well, adding to the volume sold.
When After Leaving the Village had been out a year and sales were tailing off, I did my own survey, posting the cover in book groups on social media and asking people what genre they thought it was. To my disappointment, a good number of them thought it was historical fiction and commented, ‘I don’t read that so I haven’t looked at it.’
For its resurrection with Darkstroke Books, I feel my novel is in safer hands. The revised title Girl Out of Sight is appropriate to the suspense thriller genre AND the stunning cover gives exactly the right ‘behind closed doors’ vibe.
Take a look at the covers side by side. What do you think? If you’re a psychological suspense thriller reader, which book would you pick up? If you have a view, I’d love to hear it. Do follow me on social media and let me know. My details are below.
If you didn’t read the original edition of Girl Out of Sight, you’ll find numerous five star reviews on ‘zon under the old title. I’m especially proud the novel was endorsed by the founder and former managing director of anti-slavery charity Unseen UK, Kate Garbers. In her Foreword to the original edition, Kate wrote:
Do not be fooled into thinking that the novel you are about to read is based on an isolated occurrence, that Odeta is simply an unfortunate woman. Her story is a very real one for many women today.
If that intrigues you and you care about the plight of the disadvantaged and dispossessed in our society, as well as enjoying a gripping pageturner, this is a book for you.
About The Book:
How well do you know your neighbours?
Odeta’s life has shrunk to a daily round of drudgery, running her father’s grocery store in a remote Albanian village. One day, an enigmatic stranger from Tirana turns up, promising her an exciting career in London. Odeta’s life is about to change, but not in the way she expected.
Kate, a journalist, lives on a quiet London street, but her seemingly perfect life is filled with anxiety for her son, Ben. The boy is obsessed with online gaming but struggles to make friends. Kate sets out to create a simpler life for her family, disconnects them from the internet, and tries to build a community on her street.
On a visit to her home village in Wales, Kate is forced to confront a secret from her past. But even greater danger lies where she lives. Perhaps her neighbours are not the friendly community they seem at first glance…
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