Judging a book

I must preface this post by confessing I do have a vested interest in the subject since I do offer a book cover design service. And yes, I want to interest you in my wares (I dare you to look behind the curtain — you know you want to.) But ultimately my goal is to help to make the indie author movement look as professional and appealing to everyone. With that said, I want to help everyone involved understand what it is so important to spend a bit of that hard-earned coin on a professional cover for your work.

As much as it pains me to say this — we are a shallow people. Looks are incredibly important. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t spend so much time, effort, and money on looking our best. But it doesn’t stop with our physical appearance; no, we want our houses, our cars, our meals… everything to look good. We want to drink the drinks that will make us sexy, make us irresistible to others. We want to drive cars, listen to music, wear clothes, use the right washing machine detergent — to ensure we will come off as sexy to all involved.

A ton of money has been spent on understanding the why and how of this. But we all know it boils down to ‘sex sells’. Of course I would like to alter that just a smidge and say ‘smexy sells’ (Smexy being my mash up of smokin’ and sexy). I digress.

There’s an old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” The unfortunate reality is this:

You can’t, but you do and you will.

The saying basically means you cannot judge what’s inside by what’s on the outside. And there is so much truth in that. In fact, it’s something I hold dearly to when referring to humanity. You know — so many of those extremely well-dressed people out there are those that you’d really least want to know. But the truth of the matter is, that looks are the very first thing people DO judge. And the easiest way to get your book passed by is to slap on a half-assed, unprofessional cover that offers little to no insight into the emotional heart of the book, doesn’t appeal to the reader, or is hard to read.

Don’t believe me? Open up your own ereader and go to the book store. Start flipping through books and see which books call you in to give them a second chance. It’ll be the books with interesting, professional covers. Here’s how it works:

  1. A reader goes to the book store.
  2. They start flipping through.
  3. They see a book cover that appeals to them.
  4. The tap on that book to give it a second chance.
  5. They read the synopsis.
  6. If they like the synopsis, they’ll download a sample.
  7. If they like the sample, they’ll buy the book.

Figure A

None of the above would have happened, had it not been for the cover. Take a look at Figure A. Here you see a view of one of my covers (for Die Zombie Die) as seen from the Kindle store on an Android Tablet. You also see a few other covers — some of which are appealing, some of which are not.

Take, for instance, the cover for Zombie Syndrome. It’s an appealing cover, but says nothing about the book. Someone slapped on a stock photo and didn’t bother to include the author’s name, title of book, or anything. If you saw that thumbnail outside of the Kindle book store, you’d wonder what in the hell it was. Sure, the image is alluring, but says nothing of the book.

Take a look at the cover for Zombie Syndrome 2 — what in the hell? I don’t know. It’s a shame, as the books might well be pretty damn good. Most people won’t know, because they can’t get beyond the cover.

Now, take a look at the cover for Dearly, Departed and Horde. Both covers are nicely done but the text is hard to read. Covers MUST be legible at thumbnail size. Oh sure they might look brilliant at scale — but you size them down to fit on an ereader store screen and things just disappear.

There is a bigger picture to this as well. Many of you know how I harp on how we are all in this together. When one of us looks bad, all of us look bad. When the vast majority of indie authors out there slap up an unprofessional cover on their work it says this:

  • I don’t care about my work as much as I should.
  • I don’t care about the indie movement as a whole.

Ultimately there really is no excuse for this — not when there are plenty of cover artists out there (like myself) offering low prices for our craft. Sure you can pay up to $1,200.00 for a cover for your book. Or, you can pay as low as $75.00 for a basic package from myself or any other cover artist out there. It’s worth the investment.

Just like paying for an editor (which you should be doing), a professional cover for your book is only going to HELP attract readers into your world. And that invest will be recovered easily within the first few months.

It may sound like I’m just trying to drive clients to my service. I’m not (though I won’t complain should you come knocking). What I really care about is that you get a professional looking cover done SOMEWHERE. Go to Tamra Westberry or Christine DeMaio-Rice or any other artists — just find someone to help you present your work in as professional a manner as possible.

In a strange, non-incestuous way, we’re all in this together. Let’s make sure we all look our best and prove to the world we’re not only here to stay, but ready to take over where traditional publishers have failed.