Judging Books By Their Covers

Authors rarely have cover art approval because publishers think that is best left to the pros in the design department. The resulting covers range in quality and appeal from brilliant to nausea-inducing. Every published author has at least one horrible cover in the past and/or in the future if they're unlucky.

I didn't want to insult another writer by posting one of their ugly covers so I've stuck my least favorite one up to illustrate this problem. Even so, I hope the artist who created the cover doesn't read this. I really don't want to insult artists. My daughter is one so I know how sensitive they are. But artists can miss the boat too. So, dear cover artist, I apologize in advance.

Why do I abhor this cover? Dorky, completely unappealing people adorn this brightly colored hardback. Does this cover say "laugh out loud comedy of errors courtship romance?" I don't think so. Buyers didn't think so either. But what's a writer to do? Grin and bear it is about the only sane course.

One of the most difficult tasks facing those who sell to electronic publishers, self-publish, or act as book producer, i.e. a freelance writer who ghosts a book and completes the production process as a turnkey project for a client, is cover design.

In the beginning most writing professionals could glance at a book cover online and know whether it was an E-book. Why? Because of the amateurish cover design. That's not true now for many E-publishers because they've really stepped up their game in this area.

If you're not an artist, how do you know what good cover design is? If you need to know this, fortunately, the Internet brings you resources to explain covers, illustrate good covers as well as bad ones, and sites that allow you to vote on covers if you're following the POD route.

6 Book Cover Resources
1. Here's a great link to a video presentation featuring Dorchester Publishing onNovel Covers.

2. Book Design Review is a blog devoted to the best in book covers.

3. Covers features some unique ways to display books.

4. Paper Cuts is a blog about books that show the best book covers of 2007 according to the NYT.

5. Rate My Book Cover is a blog that let's you vote on covers submitted by brave authors.

6. Smart Bitches Trashy Books dishes the dirt on covers.

If you're a traditionally published author with a royalty publisher and you're proud of your book cover, maybe you should enter it in the annual Book Cover contest sponsored by the Bay Area Houston Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Takeaway Truth
1. Don't ever judge a book by the cover.

2. Don't ever think an author has any say regarding said cover. Unless you're talking about Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, Jayne Krentz, Anne Rice, et al.

3. Do learn something about design elements if you're responsible for cover art or if you want to argue with your editor about it.

4. Learn to grin and bear it.

5. Learn how to promote the heck out of your book so the cover art won't hurt sales. If possible, capitalize on the lousy cover. Years ago a friend of mind Christina Dodd had a historical romance with a cover showing the heroine with three hands! That's right, three hands! Christina got more mileage out of that cover that if it had been a normal cover.

1 comment:

  1. I've done a couple of books with Five Star. One has a great cover. One has just about the worst cover I've ever seen. Maybe worse than the one on yours. They've gotten a lot better lately. They've even let one guy I know design his own covers.