The cover of your book is a piece of shit. An inspirational blog post by yours truly.


This is specifically for writers – people who are planning to (or are in the process of ) writing a comic book, e-book, or novel.

If you’re not one of these people you can keep reading along if you like. 😉

Strap in, people…you’re in for a wild ride.

A few weeks ago I was facing a long car ride. Alone. Although I relished the opportunity to have some desperately-needed “me time”, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the prospect of a 3 hours drive – especially down a highway where the landscape is wallpapered with nothing but old farms and bails of hay. Hell, the last time I drove it I wasn’t even lucky enough to see a cow.

So this time, I was going to be prepared: I signed up for an Audible.com account and searched for an audio book to download.

I had NO idea where to start. I was searching random authors and subjects until I came across an awesome cover that stopped my hyperactive clicking finger in its tracks: a Storm Trooper helmet hanging on a hook, covered in blood.

Whoa!

A Star Wars bloodbath? Hook me up!

Huh? What? Within the confines of a PG-rated galaxy, it was beyond my comprehension that a Star Wars story could contain this level of carnage and bloodshed. How was this even possible? Instantly I clicked on the cover…

The book, ‘Star Wars: Death Troopers’ had a number of glowing reviews, specifically praising the narrator and the overall production value. It was only 6 hours long and was unabridged.

SOLD.

Listening to the audio book (which was really great, BTW) I found my mind wandering a little around hour 2…I realized something: I LITERALLY judged a book by its cover. Am I one of ‘those people’?

It was hard to say…yes, the reviews, the book summary, and of course the subject matter drew me in, but it was the cover that initially caught my eye, and resulted in the actual sale.

Taking an iconic image and doing something daring with it was all it took to hook me. If the cover had been generic – like a painting of a couple Storm Troopers, or a space ship flying through the galaxy, would I have passed it by? Probably.

So how important is the cover of a book, e-book or comic?

VERY. Let’s face it: if you’re creating a book – and reading this article – there is a 99.9999% chance that you’re not a million-selling author. Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer have the luxury of throwing whatever piece of lame art they want on the covers of their books because their names alone will do the selling.

But you probably don’t have that luxury (yet).

You need to wow someone at a glance, and that’s nearly as difficult as writing an amazing book itself.

If you’re an artist, focus more on what you draw, rather than how you draw it (a tip I stole from comic book creator/genius Scott McCloud). If you’re hiring someone, get a clear picture in your mind of what you want, and give them explicit direction.

And if you’re planning to use photography, make it compelling. Nothing is worse than a lame picture that has little or nothing to do with the story.

The bottom line: Go pro. If you’re not an artist or a wizard with Photoshop, hire someone who is. Deviant Art is packed with talented people who are willing to create your dream cover for a reasonable fee.

If you’re serious about getting noticed, you shouldn’t be sweating over a hundred dollars on an art commission – it will be worth every penny in the longrun. The difference between an excellent cover and a boring one could be the difference between stagnant sales figures, and standing out in a sea of thousands of other titles.

I hope you enjoyed my first writing-related blog post in a while…I will try to keep them coming on a more consistent basis.

I love you guys (but you probably already know that…)
Blake xoxox

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20 Responses to The cover of your book is a piece of shit. An inspirational blog post by yours truly.

  1. Jeff Jackson says:

    Yes. You are correct.

  2. I have bought books because the cover caught me, totally. Usually not the pretty ones, but the interesting ones. George C. Chesbro had some fascinating covers, bought one, ended up reading everything her wrote. Because a cover drew me in.

  3. Greg says:

    Hilarious, and true to boot. Always felt the same way about book covers, but you can’t help but feel some pangs of guilt when that happens.

    I figure, if someone is this lazy with their cover design, they really can’t care that much about what is inside. Flawed? Probably. But I still won’t buy it.

  4. Dussssstin says:

    I wanted to add on your comment about Stephenie Meyer. The Twilight covers were very clean and simple and sorta unique. If you look at the teen fiction section in book stores today, most books in that section share similar cover art to draw a similarity to Twilight. Check it out next time you’re at the bookstore.

    It’s similar to how a lot of self help books have white covers with simple serif font and usual a singular item as an image. They draw the same appeal of Malcolm Gladwell’s books.

    Also I bought Deat Troopers day one hard cover after reading a preview online. Of course the only reason I read the preview was a thumbnail of the cover.

  5. theJustinW says:

    The front cover of anything, be it comic, magazine, book or even a dvd are important as its the first thing you’ll see, especially if your not aware of that particular author or are just browsing the dvd section of your local shop. I’ve watched many a shit film in my time but the only reason i watched the film was because the cover looked pretty cool. Admitedly i’d read anything by Joe Hill, Richard Laymon and Ed Brubaker but if the cover of Heart-Shaped Box wasn’t so cool i’d probably never have read it, so yeah, for anyone just starting, make sure the cover of you work kick’s ass as its what will sell your work to the like’s of me, who has a VERY limited budget.

  6. I read the first paragraph, the first page. The author needs to show me he/she can write and has a compelling voice. Ever get a fast start only to have it die half way through? Sure. Ever find a good read with an indifferent start. Yeah, To Kill a Mockingbird. Ever get fooled by a cover? Nope. I wonder; how do you listen to the first page of an audio book? I guess you could check out the print version.
    So how did I decide to pull the book off the shelf and read the first page? Cover art. Point well taken.

  7. Michael says:

    I used to pick my “new” book reads by the cover art many moons ago but later after a few bad book purchases in a row, came to the realization that you “can’t” judge a paperback by it’s cover.

    As for comic books I learned pretty quickly that I better look inside as we all know that comic “innards” aren’t always illustrated by the cover artists.

    ArrrOOoo!

  8. 🙂 LOL. And see, I don’t like horror or blood really, so that cover would have made me run for the hills. Also a good thing, because had it been generic, someone like me might have read it and then written a 2 or 3 star review because it wasn’t what we expected from the cover art!

    Also in this vein, I griped about author photos on my blog. I see so many authors throw any old photograph up (and yours truly isn’t immune, I am redoing my author photo very soon). But why would you use a photo of you with unbrushed hair, a grubby T-shirt, and you’re not even smiling in it as your official author photo? Are you trying to scare readers away????

  9. AH says:

    I agree, you are right – an author needs good cover art.

    I worked at a Waldenbooks for 3 years.
    Books that are ‘front faced’ (the cover facing the public) sell more than books that are ‘spined’.
    One of the chores at the end of the day was to re-file the books and to create as many front faces as possible. That’s also why we did endcap displays – more space to display cover.

    I often pick up a new author based on the cover art. I miss the cover art of Boris Vallejo but that’s a bygone day.

    By the way – I’m in the middle of reading Death Troopers now. I normally don’t read Star Wars but the cover and title gave me the impression it would have zombies in it. Thanks for not including any spoilers.

  10. Yeah, it’s a shame that so many good books are overlooked because of poor cover design. As a writer, not an artist, I’ve always tried to overlook this aspect of the trade but we can’t. It’s important, immensely so when dealing with a graphic medium.

    But a misleading cover is just as bad as a boring one. I’ve found TONS of books, graphic novels and comics where the cover is so different from the contents that I’m rather pissed about the purchase, or, if not there yet it get’s plopped back on the shelf/box.

    It’s a careful matching process.
    But oh to be Dan Brown and not give a shit. Or Danielle Steel, I don’t think she even looks are her own published books anymore. Haha!

  11. This was the single biggest expense in relation to the completion of my book (see below for a link). I debated about whether to go with someone less talented, but in the end, I chose someone was unbelievably talented (Fantasio Fine Arts).

    I paid for the work (a lot), but I cannot tell you how worth it having such fantastic art grace the cover of my book is. I was completely involved in the creation through the whole process, and it couldn’t have turned out better.

    I’m very excited to work with this artist on the covers to the sequels – so much so that I already signed a contract for them, before the books themselves are even written (or outlined, in the case of the third).

    I have had many people who just saw the cover ask me what it’s for, and it has generated a ton of interest and positive comments. I can only imagine what the result will be, due to this great work – and I shudder to think what it would have been without it.

    Pay for the cover. It’s worth it. Even if it costs a lot. You will thank yourself later, I promise.

    Jason Kristopher
    Pre-order the zombie apocalypse tale The Dying of the Light: End by Jason Kristopher now through June 1st and receive the ebook free!

  12. bradydale says:

    Being an Audible member gets pretty addicting. Fair warning. Hopefully you have things to do that require some attention but allow you to listen, but it’s a great way to increase your amount of “reading” if you do. I listen to them while inking my comics (but, interestingly, usually not while pencilling).

  13. the1940mysterywriter says:

    Elizabeth Ann West makes a good point. The cover shouldn’t only attract the intended audience, but can also repel the uninterested. But finding a workable balance (as I’m trying to do now) is as hard as writing the book.
    Gunnar

  14. pgolo says:

    So true! I just returned home from the local bookstore, and when you are faced with such a plethora of options, your eye is naturally drawn to art/typography that appeals to your tastes. It does not mean that a good cover will sell me a book, but it makes it a LOT more likely to pick it up, read the back cover, and start flipping through a few pages. This is true even on online stores. You need something to narrow down the options you are sorting through. I second the opinion on DeviantArt. They have some incredibly talented artists on that site!

  15. gfxm says:

    I judge a book by the first two chapters. I AM guilty of buying books based on their covers, but not in the way you think. I’ll hit a used bookstore and buy the one whose cover is worn. To me, that’s an indication that the book was enjoyed enough to have been carried around.

  16. That’s a great cover and I love your post title. I am sweating over the design of my cover and will definitely be hiring someone to do the art. Even my stick figures look bad. 🙂

  17. Paula says:

    I have read and bought a lot of books by cover, and I realised that it mattered. Some how I liked the books better or they just were better. Maybe author or publisher had more money or something but good cover is a better cover. For me visual look is and will be a big deal and I don’t feel guilty buying the books by cover.

  18. I bought “Generation Dead” for its cover. I admit it.

  19. ALAN NAYES says:

    how write you are, comicbookgirl–i mean right–sorry. i spent $475 bucks for the cover of BARBARY POINT and though i’ll never make a profit–hey i got a goodlooking cover. so what’s my point–not as in barbary–but my point is you are so write. Damn, i mean right. Maybe if i learned to write…

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