Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What you shouldn't judge a book by...

We all know the answer to that one, or we at least know the words that finish a well known refrain. But let us examine that refrain and be honest with ourselves.

Which one do you want to buy?

Yeah... even if you don't want to buy either of them, one is eye catching, the other is not. One makes you wonder what kind of story could have inspired that cover, and the other makes you, at best, wonder where that lovely photo was taken. (The answer is the coast of Australia, if you're wondering.)

I made both covers so don't worry about offending me. I was proud of the lefthand cover when I first made it because a. it was only the second cover I had ever made and b. I was literally using google draw to design it. 

I had not yet discovered, or, and I had not yet learned how to use gimp. (Which, if you are an aspiring independent author, and you cannot afford to hire other people to make your covers, you should certainly become acquainted with.) The cover on the right is testament to the usefulness of all three of those resources. 

And yet, even though I didn't know how to make one back when I made the lefthand cover (and it's arguable I still don't), I knew that a good cover was key to selling books. It's the main reason I ran a Kickstarter in October of last year. The two most important things that I was raising funds for were cover art and editing. (I've already told you all how I feel about editing, so I won't repeat myself here.)

People judge books by their covers all the time. And the truth is, old sayings aside, you can't really blame them. Books aren't people (who truly should not be judged by their metaphorical covers) they're small portals into other worlds. And the portal should advertise what kind of world lies beneath as best it can. 

Are there excellent books that have horrible covers? Certainly! Here's one of my favorite books of all time, which is also an example of one of the worst covers of all time. 

It may not seem that terrible without context, but if you've ever read the book you know that it's laughably bad.

Luckily, I was inclined to pick up the book anyway thanks to a number of recommendations. And for anyone despairing for dear Mr. Slavatore, please note that his books have all been redone to look amazing. 

Maybe it's just me, and I'm certainly biased by having already read the book, but I find this one WAY more appealing. 

Good books are hidden behind mediocre to terrible covers all the time, and mediocre to terrible books have been known to hide behind great covers as well. I'm sure that's why the saying advising us not to judge them in such a superficial way came about.

And, to be honest, I only decide whether or not to buy a book based on the first ten pages of actual story. However, to even get to the point where I'm handing over enough of my time to read the first ten pages? You're damn right I judged it by its cover. Then I judged it by its back cover blurb (although I will often skip them because they tend to be either spoiler ridden or overly praise laden, neither of which I appreciate). And if the cover and short description draw me in, then I read the first ten pages and decide whether or not to buy the book.

Ultimately, writing is what sells me on a book (hence the importance of editing), but if a book I've never heard of doesn't catch my eye, what else is going to make me pick it up to begin with? 

I buy books that no one has recommended to me all the time. When I have enough money to spend on physical books I love wandering book stores and picking random books off of the shelf to read the first few pages and see what I like. When I don't have money I do the online equivalent with ebooks. 

The only downside to this method of acquisition is that it is largely cover dependent. Don't get me wrong, I also read lots of books that have been recommended to me whether I like the cover or not. But, without personal recommendations I am unlikely to pick up a book that has an unappealing cover. 

Of course, what makes a cover appealing is subjective. I imagine one or two people reading this are probably looking at the two covers for Rain on a Summer's Afternoon and wondering why I bothered to do anything more than improve the font on the first cover. And it's true you'll never manage to please everyone with a single cover. However, you really only need to attract the kind of people who would like your book anyway. So, think about who those people are, and do your best to create an image that you think will make them stop and wonder what lies beneath...

Hmm... I guess all of that was just a lengthy way of saying, "Hey guys, I redid the cover for Rain on a Summer's Afternoon: A Collection of Short Stories. I also redid the interior formatting for both the ebook and the paperback ( I learned a lot about that while making Blade's Edge and applied those tips and tricks accordingly)."

If the boring cover was keeping you from buying the book, let it hold you back no longer!


  1. I love the tree cover!!! It's beautiful and definitely eye-catching!

    1. Thanks, Joanna! I'm so glad to know someone else likes it. (I like it and my husband said he likes it, but it's good to have additional confirmation.) As a convenient bonus, it actually relates to one of the stories within as well. :-)