Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover. Wait… –
by Richard Flores IV
We all know that saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We hear it all the time. But, we rarely hear it applied to actual books. That is because we all judge our books by the cover.
In a Disney’s Phineas and Ferb episode, “The Chronicles of Meap”, there comes a very funny scene (at least to me the author). In which Candace is with her Mom (Linda):
Phineas: Yeah, it looked way outside, but then it was right in the zone. There’s a lesson, baseball fans: never judge a book by its cover.
(scene flips to Candace, looking at a row of books)
Candace: Boring, dull, stupid, lame— heavy-handed and derivative.
Linda: Oh, thank you for those insightful reviews of books you haven’t read.
Candace: Mom, that’s why books have covers: to judge them. I mean, why did you choose these books from the library?
Linda: They looked interesting.
Linda: Point taken.
Every time I see that scene (and I watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb) it makes me smile. Because it is so true. Books have covers to entice us to buy them. When I am in the book store (yes they still have those,) I browse the rows of books until I see a cover that jumps out at me. I pick it up, look it over (including the back) and I decide if I am going to buy it based solely on the cover.
This is why cover art is so important. Once you get them to pick up the book, you need to get them to turn it over and read that all important “sales pitch” printed on the back. Only after you get past that will you be able to get them to buy the book. Even if the person thumbs through the first few pages, they have to pick it up off the shelf first.
That is why covers are important in the store, but what about online. Do people still browse the virtual aisles of Amazon.com? I think they might. Even if they know exactly what they are looking for, they may browse more. For example, go to Amazon.com and search Richard Flores IV… no wait that sounds vain, search Robert S. Wilson instead. If you were specifically looking for his book Shining in Crimson because you saw my post about it (vanity again). How would you recognize it instantly in the scrolling list of results? THE COVER.
Now, if you click on the link to his novel. You will see Amazon puts that “People who viewed this also viewed:” on the bottom. Now all you see there is the cover, the title, and the author. Now, you may not ever use that (I have), but people do that. Otherwise, Amazon wouldn’t use it. Again, they will make the choice to click on the novel, based on the cover.
So the cover is important in store or online. If you go with a big publisher, chances are they will have someone take care of the cover art for you. But, if you decide to self publish you will need to deal with cover art on your own. Perhaps you hire somebody, or you can do it yourself if you choose. But be prepared to spend some time on it.
A good cover needs:
- To have the title on it. That seems obvious enough, but the title should be the dominate text on the cover. I have seen books where you could easily mistake the Authors name as the Title. Or even a tag line. You don’t need to place the Title on top, but you do need to make it the most eye catching text on there. Use easy to read, stand out fonts are best. Make sure the title contrasts with the rest of the cover art, you don’t want it getting lost in the artwork.
- To have the Author’s name on it. Believe it or not, I have seen covers with no Author’s name on it. If I want to find a book by Robert S. Wilson, Lee Gimenez, or even a blockbuster like Orson Scott Card; you need to have the name on it. I am not going to spend time looking to see who the book is written by. You may not think you are worth looking for, but if you are marketing your book, someone is looking. Even me, the twice published author of two short stories, gets a hit to my website based on a search for my name at least once a week. Again, stand out font that contrasts with the artwork.
- The artwork itself. Many would argue this should have been number 1 on this list. Sure the art may be what catches the eye first, but title is what always hooks me in to reading more. So as far as importance goes, you decide. There are several ways to get artwork for your cover. There are plenty of stock photo/artwork sites. You can buy the artwork per piece or you can pay a monthly fee and get all the artwork you want. Some are even free. Always check the terms and conditions carefully. You may not be able to use the stock art commercially. The other down side to stock is that your image could be used by someone else not giving you exclusive rights to the art. If that is the case, you may want to commission an artist to do your cover art. It will likely cost you (unless you are connected) and it will likely be more than the stock art sites.
- Relevant artwork. Artwork is important enough to get two bullet points (that and I didn’t want to turn off my bullet point format). Make sure you get artwork it is relevant to the story in some way. It should be eye catching as well. The artwork should not be overwhelming either. It is not an art gallery exhibit. Just enough to entice the readers to pick it up off the shelf. The bottom line, you want art work that promises the story you’re telling inside.
- Tagline. The tagline is a good thing to add on most cover art. Though I know some great books without one. But if you have a good strong tagline that will work, add that on there. This should be the smallest text on the front cover, though still large enough to read. A tagline is a one liner that hooks that sells the book. You see these a lot on movie posters to. “In a world…”
- The sales-pitch. Typically this is on the back cover. Not seen right away. But you got the book off the shelf (or they clicked on the link). Now you need to get them to buy it. If you buy paper books like I do, the first thing I do after looking at the front cover, is turn the book over. This is where the author now has a chance to tell me why I should buy the story. Online they have a section for the book description or synopsis. There are whole blogs on how to write that. The main issue is you want to have a quick sales pitch about what your story is going to offer. And then, if you have them, some quotes for fairly well known (or just known) reviewers. This is your chance to get them to check out with your book. A poorly written sales-pitch will result in them putting the book down. Of course, they may also put the book down because the story isn’t what they like to read. That’s okay though. You’d rather have them not buy it than get it thinking it was something else and hate it (and possible tell a lot of people they hate it).
While I am no expert in Book Covers, I do understand that we judge books by their covers. If you want to sell some books, cover art helps a lot. Your cover art will become that books brand. And we all know how powerful branding is. Just think about golden arches. So consider your cover art carefully. You should work together with the artist to get exactly what you envision while utilizing the experience of the cover artist.
When it comes to books, it is okay to judge them by their covers.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG13 to R (Language)