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I’m amazed by poor book covers. I know that part of the problem is that it easy to self-publish without getting anyone else’s opinion on the cover and content. Especially in the ebook arena. But still I wonder, don’t these writers look at other books that are being sold? How do they think their book will succeed? If they can’t be honest about the quality of the cover, how can I trust their content?
We’ve all heard the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but that phrase wasn’t actually talking about books. If the cover of a book is bad, it tells me, “stay away!” If you haven’t been unlucky to see bad covers, you can take a look at some examples at Lousy Book Covers.
The cover is the first thing a reader sees. It says so much—title, author, a hint to the story. At a glance, a reader can often tell the genre of the book. It implies whether or not the book is professionally prepared. I like what Jo Linsdell says, “The cover is not only a billboard for the book, but, in a sense, the first page of the story, because it is here that the book can communicate a little of the style and mood of the tale inside.” Read her full post on covers here.
Unless you have graphic design experience, creating your own cover could be the equivalent of “shooting yourself in the foot.” Self-published author Susan Rodger says, “One of the best gifts you can give yourself as you enter the world of self-publishing is the time to find a cover designer who understands design, who allows you the freedom to weigh in on the images and their composition, and who ‘gets’ your story and what message you need to impart to potential readers.” Go here to read her complete post.
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, says, “When we see an image, it makes us feel something.” We want that feeling to be positive, not a turn off. The cover should intrigue, grab attention, and hint at what to expect.
Besides poor images and poor layout, some unprofessional covers will have fonts that are unreadable, not appropriate for the genre, or downright dumb looking. Designer Eleanor Bennett has a post on “5 Common Book Cover Mistakes Made by Indie Authors.”
Midwest Book Review says they triage their books submitted for review. “Stack #3 are those titles that are immediately rejected . . . because they are poorly designed or defectively produced in terms of presenting substandard, inadequate, or otherwise unattractive covers.”
Do writers have to go it alone with a cover? No. Some Indie Facebook pages encourage writers to post covers and ask for feedback—members are usually good at responding with kindness and honesty. People will question images, fonts, give feedback on tones, and more. A really good approach is when someone posts a book cover and asks members to indicate what genre they think the book is. Responses are often very telling since even a very professional looking cover isn’t right if it is sending the wrong message. Also, articles like this one have good advice about cover design. And if you want some humor as you learn about book design, watch this Ted Talk by a book designer (who has a preference for physical books).
You get what you pay for. There are professional book cover designers out there who offer covers for reasonable prices. There’s a good post on how to find one here. There are also people on sites who offer to design a cover for $5. Really? You’d pay more for a specialty coffee. If you decide to hire someone to do your book cover, be sure and look at completed sample covers. Do they look like covers you’d see on a shelf in a bookstore? If not, run away. Does this designer design books for your genre? Personally, I’d hesitate to use them if the answer is no. Do you like their sample covers? I know I was thrilled to say yes to these questions when I visited the site of the designer who did my book—paid for by my publisher. She also asked me questions before making the cover and was responsive to my questions and changes. You can see her work here.
I know my opinions on book covers may not be popular. If you have comments, feel free to respond.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.