The Smarter I Think I Am…

One of the blessings/curses of being a fiction writer is that I spend a lot of time surfing the internet for my research.  (Other people waste time on the internet, but I’m doing research.  Honest.)

I’ve gone down all sorts of rabbit holes, but it really messed with my mind the day I discovered illusory superiority and the Dunning-Kruger Effect.  Dunning and Kruger’s tests showed that the less competent a person is in any given field, the more likely they are to think they’re an expert.

Yep, the dumber we are, the smarter we think we are.  (Which explains why 90% of drivers think they’re better than average.  You math majors, stop giggling.)

When I first read about that study, I had an ‘Aha!’ moment:  At last I understand why there are so many idiots out there who think they know everything.  It’s immensely annoying to those of us who do.


Seriously, though, I know I’m not good at everything.  In fact, I know I suck resoundingly at a lot of things. But in the things I think I do well…

What if I’m just too stupid to know the difference?

Thanks for nothing, Dunning and Kruger. You’ve made me second-guess everything I once thought I knew.  And seeking constructive criticism won’t help:  Apparently there’s another cognitive bias that lets people believe only the parts of criticism that they want to hear, while disregarding the uncomfortable bits (i.e. the information that could actually help them improve).

So now that my brain has been twisted into a particularly unattractive macrame project, I’m really glad I live out in the country so I can wander around mumbling to myself without anybody calling the nut-catchers. (Fortunately Hubby is used to me mumbling to myself, so I’ve got a free pass there.)


I have no illusions of superiority in the field of graphic design.  So I’m hoping that all you brilliant readers will help me: I’m thinking of updating the covers for the Never Say Spy series.

I still like the current covers, but the latest trends lean toward lots of colour and bold fonts. Also, the current covers don’t hint that there’s a sense of humour in the stories, and I’m wondering whether a different design might draw in readers who aren’t necessarily looking for a hardcore shoot-’em-up thriller.

Here are the original and proposed covers side by side — what do you think?

Please click on the poll below to vote.  The first five questions are for everyone, and the last question is only for people who have actually read the series.  And if you have any other comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them — please drop them in the comments section of this post.

Thank you so much for your help!  🙂



45 thoughts on “The Smarter I Think I Am…

  1. The survey said NO! I hope that means you’ve had lots of feedback.
    I’d like to vote for the original cover. If you want to update it, maybe revamp the important elements of the original — red hair, guns, action, but a different design. The proposed new design doesn’t have enough emotional content, I don’t think.


  2. Maybe combining bits of both covers? What caught my attention was you and your magnificent hair. Maybe using your pose (without the other person) with the new cover? The new font is definitely the go. Good luck


    • Thank you for the compliment, and for your advice, Alison! 🙂 Today I’m working on a new version that incorporates elements of both covers. I’m not sure if it’ll be worse or better, but I’ll post it here on the blog and see what everybody thinks. Thanks again for your help!


  3. One of my favorite bumper stickers in the US is “Don’t be an idiot!” So, dumb people are smart and smart people are dumb? Quite the revelation. No, I totally understand what the tests are getting at. It just doesn’t apply to people like you and me. 🙂

    The cover debate… a toughie. The second one does stand out more, because of its colors and font, but is more “shallow”. The first one has more character, meaning, depth, if that makes sense. That’s my opinion anyway.


    • Thank you — it does makes sense. That’s a really helpful observation!

      And you’re right; surely that study doesn’t apply to us. “Don’t be an idiot” is my new favourite slogan! (And mantra… just in case…) 😉


  4. I agree with so much others have said.
    Yes the second cover does remind me of Evanovich books. Quirky and colorful in nature. But, in all honesty, I don’t really like the second cover. It really doesn’t give any hint as to what the book is about.
    The first cover – I love seeing your picture on all the front covers. Seeing this same character appear on the various covers is one of the things that first drew me to your books. It make it even more special knowing it’s you. I always look forward to seeing the new covers and the new “situations” that you/our heroine depict on the covers.
    As for the background of this cover – love the colors and the coding. It could imply that the book is a serious one. Conversely, it doesn’t necessarily give this impression.
    However, the font used in the original book seems very formal, implying perhaps that the book is that sort as well. Perhaps a quirkier font, at least for part of the title, would imply that? A mix of the old and the new?
    And yup, it would be nice to see the book number. Maybe in a quirky font to imply humor?


    • Also, maybe put in a link so that when you click on the book, it takes you to Amazon. Just in case someone is inspired to buy the book after reading this post. 😉


    • You’re right about the original font — it’s ever-so-classic, isn’t it? Totally not an “Aydan” font.

      That means I have to go font-hunting, sigh. It’s fun, but far too easy to get lost for hours! 🙂 And I agree with you about the mix of old and new — it’s sounding like the best solution. Thanks for your feedback!


  5. I like the original, and for all the same reasons others have listed: the female lead character pictured, the bold image of her holding a gun while her reflection “behind the digital veil” doesn’t need one, the contrasting of dark and light…I feel like it conveys a lot actually. The colors of the new cover do grab attention but it doesn’t really tell you anything about the book, except that there are bullets and computers involved. The titles themselves, I think, hint at humor, so the title being bigger could potentially help. But unless earlier books are merchandised with the current release I’m not sure it’s an obvious enough hint. Then again with the larger font on the series name maybe that’s enough. Lol, good grief: might, potentially, could, maybe, I’m not sure…. I’m eye rolling at my own helpfulness here. It’s truly awe inspiring. Hahaha! Bottom line, it’s your series and if you want them to have a makeover go for it. As long as my favorite characters don’t get personality transplants, I’ll continue to buy them and share them no matter what the covers look like.


    • Aw, thanks, Michelle! You may not feel as though you’re being helpful, but you are. All reactions and thoughts are important, even if it’s nothing more than a gut reaction of “I like that one better”. Every little scrap of feedback gives me another piece of information to slot into my analysis! (Can you tell I’m a total geek? Must… have… more… data…) 🙂


  6. No harm in mumbling. I talk to the geese, beavers hiding in the river and myself most days walking along the river. At the very least it gives other people something to talk about.
    I’ve done the survey but let me just say I love the new cover!


  7. The survey doesn’t seem to be working on my mobile phone for some reason, Diane. But hey, with any luck I’ll be back on line on my actual computer at the weekend and I can try again then. I like the old versions of the covers, but maybe that’s because I’m used to seeing them. I don’t dislike the new version, however. I’m an expert in knowing what I like – or maybe I’m not, looking at that study you’ve discovered. I get confused… or maybe I don’t. Yikes!


    • You’ve captured my feelings exactly! I’m absolutely certain I’m confused… I think…

      It’s weird that the survey doesn’t seem to want to work on your phone — I’m sorry about that. Thanks for trying, though. Technology… grrr!


    • Thanks, Shirley – that really helps! Design is an area where I’ve never had confidence, so it’s easy to second-guess myself. I might still tweak the fonts and layout a bit, but I guess if it ain’t broke, I won’t fix it. 🙂


  8. I’ve done the survey but in brief I prefer the first cover. The cover plus the title is what moves me to pick up a book to read the blurb and then do a sample read of the contents, and I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book with the brighter graphics, when I really ponder it. Reaction to covers and titles is an intriguing study in preference, isn’t it?

    As for the Dunning-Kruger effect, I have seen it in action so often but didn’t know it was a proven thing with an actual name 🙂 Thanks for that!


    • You’re welcome. It’s always nice to know exactly who to blame. 😉

      And thank you for weighing in on the cover. I like the bright new design, but it’s a bit generic. And I think most of us are subliminally drawn to photos of actual people. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the original covers…?


  9. A couple of those question stumped me (or rather caused me to use my deficient memory) I read e-books exclusively. So I couldn’t tell you if either design would cause me to buy one off the shelf. Also, if I buy an e-book because of the cover, it has a nearly naked man on it. So my suggestion for a new cover would include John, Arnie, and Aidan. All scantily clad, or even better, mostly naked. You could throw in a gun and some 1’s and 0’s. As you can tell, I am not a graphic designer. I am an accountant, just an accountant. 😆


  10. Don’t ask me about cover art. I’m clueless there. But if I admit I don’t know, I am the 10 % who are really a true expert – I mean compared to the 90% self declared experts who know nothing…

    so confused. Wait, that would be a normal day.


  11. For a middle-aged bodice ripper, shouldn’t the protagonist be much more scantily clad and the male have a large uh gun? But what do I know? I am one of the 10% that make the other 90% above average


  12. Is that a spider or a bullet hole on the Y?? was my first reaction….after that, I’m more drawn to the first one. Maybe because I’m a woman and a female main character is more intriguing. Let’s face it women ARE more interesting and quirky. How to suggest that there is humour??? Bright and colourful covers can have that effect. Tough call! (I realize this comment is completely useless and no help at all )


    • Not useless at all — on the contrary, it’s really helpful to hear that the first one draws you in more. (And I chuckled over the ‘spider’! Judging from the comments so far, I’d say the bullet hole is a hard ‘no’. 🙂 )

      I’ve always known that the original cover design isn’t the ‘look’ of the mainstream thrillers. I considered it an advantage because it stands out in the sea of other covers; but then I started second-guessing myself. Thanks, Dunning & Kruger… NOT!


  13. New reader here. I like parts of both covers–the bolder text of the new cover stands out much better, as does the use of color. Yet I like seeing an image on the front cover, and prefer the cooler colors (blue and grey, with the red hair as the accent).

    Looking at some other covers out there among Amazon’s bestsellers, and thinking back to some books I’d read a while ago (when I was more into sci-fi and fiction–today it’s biographies and cookbooks), the covers I like tend to like have either a very simple graphic with words, or have a photo (or graphic rendering) against a background that could extend subtly behind the words. Find a picture of Mel Odom’s “Lethal Interface” on Google and you’ll see what I mean–the “circuitry” graphic is faded yet still visible behind the letters once you head north of the faces on the front cover.

    I don’t know how you could convey humor in a front cover, unless your original cover showed the gun as a gag cigarette lighter, with the flame lit. 😁 The photo, however, says “lady spy” to me, so that sets the book apart from everything else out there that might be too James Bond-ish. You’d lose that in the new cover.

    How about combining the ideas? I have an idea but it’s hard to put together without wanting to mock (or muck) it up in Photoshop. I’m seeing a shorter, wider version of the original photo, yet find a way to extend that “binary wall” to the full height of the book, faded somewhat behind the bolder font from your new cover. Using that same font from your new version, I’d reduce the size of “SPY” to match the rest, yet still accentuate it in a different color or keep it white while finding another color other than yellow (even a pale grey or blue, but something bright enough that will still “pop”), and use some other effect behind all of the larger text to make it stand out. Optionally, the “Book 14…” could be used in much smaller text beneath the title, acting as a divider between the tile and author name, leaving the bottom open for the photo. Or leave author name where it is.

    Disclaimer: I am not a pro at graphic design either! Although I’ve had my share of it over the past 20+ years.


    • Welcome, Rudy™ — nice to have you here! Wow, those are great ideas! Your comments about differentiating the cover from what’s already out there really ring true. You’re obviously an order of magnitude more of a ‘pro’ at graphic design than I am.

      Now I’m eager to go and play with some new looks!


      • It’s not easy to choose a look. I used to handle web development (including graphics) before it all got offshored many years ago. Trying to create something that was professional and attention-grabbing was difficult when most of my attempts at it looked so amateur. So I totally get it about trying to come up with a new cover! I’m happier on the technical side of things these days…or some days, I’d rather revert to my teenaged years, pushing a lawn mower and pulling weeds for fun and profit, honestly!

        I think you’re on the right track, though! For a direct comparison, it’s the photo on your original cover that draws me in–it’s part of the identity of your series. On the new cover, it’s the bolder text, and I can comprehend and remember that text easier, whereas I feel as though I have to deliberately look for and read it on the original. Mash up the two somehow, and I think you’d have a winner!


        • That’s a great plan! I’m happy to hear your opinion about the identity of the series — I always thought that seemed strong, so maybe now I can find the best of both worlds.

          I definitely agree with you about the technical stuff (and about landscaping for fun and profit). I’ve never been confident about design, but I love anything where success is quantifiable: Does the program work, or not? Is the grass cut, or not? Ahhhh, bliss! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  14. I like the new cover idea its different.
    Being completely honest with the ebooks I don’t think it really matters as it’s not always visible. With paperbacks it’s more important. I love the books on my shelf the black spine with white writing looks sleek and sexy. The covers are so different, I have a mix of old and new (the original model and the stunning redheaded newer model), I think they suite the books they give you a hint to story if you are into the series. I think the new idea could also work, would you different colours for each cover?

    Going back to the current cover I like the way the pure black on the spine makes it stand out.

    I’m going to confess here I do judge a book by the cover I know it’s wrong and I shouldn’t but if the cover catches my eye I turn it over and read the back if that appeals I open it and read the first couple of pages and if I’m starting to enjoy it I put that book down and pick one that hasn’t been opened yet and buy that one.

    Hangs head in shame yes I’m that person, if buying a magazine I take one from the middle after looking at the first one.

    To continue the honestly I downloaded never say spy as it was free, it had it ages before I read it, once I read the first one I loved it so much I bought the second and devoured that and bought the next and the next and the next. It wasn’t long before I was telling everyone about the series and waiting impatiently for the new ones, reading your blog each week, even if I didn’t always comment.

    You have inspired me to write or try not to write porn I often don’t always get much opportunity to do it but I’ve always enjoyed it from being in primary school and being set homework to write a story about a school.

    Well im sure I’ve waffled on long enough.

    Love both covers and having read them I’d buy either


    • Thanks, Karen! And hey, don’t be ashamed of judging a book by its cover — we all do! That’s why the cover design is so important: It’s all about getting somebody interested enough to pick up the book and give it a try. I just don’t know whether new covers would do that better or worse than the original covers.

      Regardless, I really appreciate your support and tireless promotion — thank you so much! It means a lot to me personally, and it also pays the bills so I can keep writing more books. Win-win! 🙂


  15. I would prefer the original but with the number in the series placed some where on the cover discretely. When looking for books in series I really,really resent how Amazon list them on authors page. I know it is a marketing ploy but it still is frustrating.
    Good luck on the sales of new book look forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ken! The original cover actually does have the book number as a subtitle right below the main title; but your comment is really helpful — if you didn’t see it, then likely lots of other people aren’t seeing it, either. If I keep the original covers, I’ll see if I can make the book number more obvious.

      I hate trying to figure out which book is which in a series, too — there must be a better way!


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