ELDERCIDE, my second mystery novel, has been out since the summer. The response has been gratifying from those who've bought and read it, but the title and cover art have definitely scared some people away. When I showed it to my family doctor, he studied the cover and pronounced it "ghastly." And one independent bookseller of advanced years declined to stock it because she hates the word "elder." Other authors have also advised me that the word "elder" may be a turnoff. So I've decided to retitle the book EVENING FALLS EARLY.
I'm going to create a different cover too - not difficult since I'm the illustrator as well as the author. I love the illustration, which reminds many people of Munch, but it's a little too lurid for some. It depicts the killer holding a hypodermic needle above the bed of an elderly woman while her Jack Russell terrier barks in terror nearby. But the needle can be misread as a knife, and it suggests a level of violence above and beyond what's actually in the book. My husband thought the first version was too tame, and he posed for the villain - next time I'll follow my own muse exclusively.
In the past few months I've participated in several panels and signings with the Mavens of Mayhem, our upstate New York chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the experience was invaluable in terms of getting face-to-face feedback. (I actually sold more copies of my first novel, MOOD SWING: THE BIPOLAR MURDERS, than of ELDERCIDE. Evidently the topic of mental illness strikes people as a "fun read" compared with the subject of aging and death.) With my print-on-demand publisher, it won't be hard to make the changes - the novel itself will stand as written. And yes, it still involves eldercide.
What do others think about cover art - how scary should it get? I'd love to hear from you.