You know Granny Rainbow was published last year? And this year, More Granny Rainbow was published too? (You can read all about them here.)
Well, I think I've done something that isn't helping sales - and for anyone about to embark on publishing a second book on a similar theme, or a sequel, well, take note. It might help you to learn from my mistake.
Yesterday, I went to Mountfest, a school summer fair. Here's the stall I set up:
I took both books with me, as I know a lot of parents at the school had bought the first book and their children had loved it; I was hoping they'd buy number two. And of course there are always new folk to introduce Granny to... I also took a game with me, based on one of the new stories (Granny Rainbow and the Froggy Fiasco) as I find a game is a good way to get people to come over to your stall in the first place; then you can strike up a conversation if they eye up the books.
However, at this event, the first few folk who came over glanced at the books and said 'Oh, Granny Rainbow? We've got that one.' And walked away.
Now - I had a grand plan when I decided what the cover of More Granny (MGR) would look like. Like all the best series fiction in bookshops, it would be similar enough to the first book for folks to recognise it as 'belonging' to it whilst being subtly different and unique in its own right. That's why I kept the lovely rainbow striped background, central portrait idea and the typeface Imran used on the original.
However - put both books side by side on a table, AND THEY ARE TOO MUCH ALIKE! I had to start saying 'Oh, you've got the first book? This is a different one, with seven brand new stories!' Or 'Yes, I've written a second book about Granny and Old Tom.'
To me, the differences are obvious. The title and author/illustrator names have been switched, Granny's portraits are different, but the overall impression - that quick first glance - just registers 'Granny Rainbow', not 'More'.
So. If ever a third book's written (it's in the wings, but as sales of MGR are not that good compared to GR, it may never get published) I shall have to rethink the cover to get over that first-glance-itis; turn the rainbow by ninety degrees maybe, to make it really stand out.
If you're reading this and are at the point of designing your own book covers... Well, the best advice I can give you (on top of what's already out there as good practise!) is to have a look at some series fiction; analyse exactly what makes the book covers look like they belong to a set, whilst maintaining their own uniqueness.
Hope that helps - even if it is too late for my own books...