If you frequent bookstores, you know how much a brand-new hardcover costs. You also know the profoundly awful feeling of cracking open a new purchase, reading a chapter or two, and realizing it’s a total stinker. So, when we peruse the shelves, we’re looking to make a sound investment—in time, intellectual engagement, and space on the bookshelf. What goes into making this decision? The book description? Absolutely. The book’s title? A compelling title can certainly sell a book, but it’s not requisite. If the book boasts some solid endorsements or accolades, we’ll take that into account, too, but often the very first thing considered, the thing that spurs us at the outset to pluck the book from the shelf for further investigation, is its cover art.
You know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but in truth, nothing dooms a book like a shoddy cover design.
If your book’s cover looks like it was thrown together by a toddler using Microsoft Paint—it doesn’t matter how well written it is, how many endorsements it has, how perfectly worded the copy is—it won’t be taken seriously. In short, yes, we do judge a book by its cover. To the prospective reader, the quality of the cover design reflects the quality of the overall work. A poorly designed, haphazardly Photoshopped cover elicits negative attention, condemning your book to the bookstore shelf indefinitely (and, if it’s bad enough, lousybookcovers.com or one of the Web’s ever-growing lists of “hilariously bad book covers”).
What can you do to avoid this nightmarish scenario?
First, hire a cover designer. Second, trust your cover designer to, you know, design your cover. You’d think this would go without saying, but many, many a writer has stifled the design process by exercising too much creative control. Are you a designer? No! That’s why you’re paying one. Indeed, self-publishing is a very DIY process, but part of being an independent professional is knowing where your expertise ends and another person’s begins.
You wouldn’t let your mechanic perform open-heart surgery on you. Likewise, you as a writer have little business telling your designer how to design; rather, your job is to give the designer the information and feedback needed to capture the essence of your book in a compelling way. (By the way, it’s far more important for the cover to capture the mood and tone of a book than it is to overload the design with the specifics of your plot.) For more detailed information about working with a cover designer and tips to make the process easier, check out Amanda’s article “How to Work with Your Cover Designer.”
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