They say an author's backlist can provide for him in his old age because of the "long-tail" theory of marketing ebooks. Basically, that says that since the cost of keeping an ebook "in print" and available to the market is essentially zero, it really doesn't matter whether you sell a lot of copies of any of your stuff on any given day, because if you have enough stuff available, you'll eventually make a bunch of money on it over time.
There's two things that make the long-tail theory not work out quite that automatically. First of all, I'm old. I'm already retired, so I don't really care as much about how much money I can make over fifty years from my backlist--I'd like to get some of that now, thank you. Second, just because your product is out there and available doesn't mean anyone is going to find it and buy it. Amazon ranks more than 10,000,000 books. (I know, because an anthology I have a story in is currently ranked 11,830,698th, down more than 11,000 spots since yesterday; of course, a more recent anthology which includes the very same story (always market your reprints) is currently ranked 20,660th. The anthology which first included the same story is now ranked 813,213th.) Watching your rankings drop and your sales graph flatline for days at a time can be depressing. Updating your Amazon pages regularly, trying new categories and keywords, and promoting your work can help boost your numbers.
So can a good cover. In fact, some advertisers and book promotion sites won't even help market your book if it has a crappy cover. Oddly enough, my most reviewed book is one of those books that needed a cover upgrade. My first novel, Forced Conversion is a near-future military scifi tale set in a world where most of humanity has converted to living in virtual reality and a military force is left behind on the largely depopulated earth to find the stragglers still living in the real world and force them to convert to the virtual reality world of their choice.
They can have heaven, any heaven they want, but some people don't want to go.
Forced Conversion was originally released in hard cover by Five Star, a division of Gale/Thomson that caters to the library market. The initial cover showed a patch of the Conversion Forces on the sleeve of a soldier's combat fatigues.
It was pretty much what I asked for, except that instead of making the patch look like an actual patch, it looked like a crappy paper mock-up. Oh well. The book was the second selection in Five Star's scifi category in November 2004 (behind Jim C. Hines' GoblinQuest). It did okay, though not as well as GoblinQuest.
Eventually, Five Star remaindered the copies leftover to me (I still have some for sale if you are interested) and rights also later reverted. I created an ebook version five years ago, mocking up a cover that used an actual Conversion Forces patch I'd made up for marketing purposes and a green leather background from one of my law books. Given my lack of Photoshop skills, it didn't really look that good. In fact, it looked like this:
Legible and serviceable if you were looking for the book because, for instance, you read Robert J. Sawyer's blurb on it ("Visceral, bloody--and one hell of a page turner! Bingle tackles the philosophical issues surrounding uploaded consciousness in a fresh, exciting way. This is the debut of a major novelist--don't miss it."). But not really a grabber if you were just browsing through ebook thrillers.
I've done better with most of my other covers, including a number of homemade ones using my own photographs or art downloaded from a photo site. Feel free to browse through the rest of my site and let me know which ones you love and which ones you hate. But I've been meaning to upgrade Forced Conversion for a while. Because I include the opening chapter of Forced Conversion in my Father's Day 3-Pack Deluxe Edition and I usually move some copies of that around Father's Day, I decided to get my act together and put out a re-release of Forced Conversion with a better, more dynamic cover. So I hired a guy who actually knows what he is doing and worked with him to get the new cover you see at the top of this post. He's also creating a spine and back cover so I can do a trade paperback POD version of the book, which should be available soon.
We'll see if it was worth the hassle and cost, both short term and in terms of that long, long tail. Grab a copy for yourself and/or Dad here:
Amazon/Kindle (25 reviews; 4.4 stars): https://amzn.com/B0050YUXXU
BN.com/Nook (3 reviews; 5 stars): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forced-conversion-donald-j-bingle/1006902004?ean=2940012786289
By the way, here's what the legendary Ed Greenwood had to say about Forced Conversion: "I loved it! Many writers have explored hard-hitting and brutal possible futures for Earth, and told colorful tales of people trying to stay alive in them, but few have brought such imagined futures as vividly to life as Don Bingle--and no other book I can think of examines how and why such a future might just happen as well as FORCED CONVERSION does--or provides half the breath-catching twists and turns of Bingle's yarn. twists and turns of Bingle's yarn...Highly recommended!"
Your honest, thoughtful reviews are always appreciated, too.