Though I don’t do so very often, I’m going to take today to do a wee little bit of ranting. Because, you know what? I judge a book by its cover. I know, I know, we hear it said that we should never judge a book by its cover, and, in quite a few instances, this is true. It’s not entirely fair to always judge a person based on appearances, but, you’ve got admit, sometimes, the judgement is right on the mark. And while traditionally published books may sometimes suffer from a disconnect between what is depicted on the cover and what is printed inside, more often than not, I’ve found they tend to be fairly harmonious. Traditionally published authors get the excuse that they don’t always have a choice in the cover art.
Wheel of Time: Lords of Chaos. Some notoriously bad traditionally published cover art. Sorry, Darrell K. Sweet…but it’s true.
Independent authors, however, have absolutely no excuse for producing a bad cover.
This post has been festering inside of me for a while, and it was sparked when I was checking out an independent publisher’s website and simply could not get over how poor the quality of the covers were. I tried to get over it, I really did, but I could not. They were just so offensive to my eyes…and, if we get right down to it, offensive to my head as well, if I was expected to be impressed by these covers and urged to think, ‘Now this is a company I’m interested in being a part of!’ I’d rather not think about all the author’s websites I’ve been to, as well, that have poorly crafted banners of their works, their already iffy cover art stretched and blown up to horrifically pixelated sizes that make me question their judgement if they honestly think it looks good. I feel bad; I feel like kind of a pompous ass, actually. But then I think about it a little bit, and I just get kind of mad.
Having a bad cover, to me, is like showing up for a job interview in holey jeans and a dirty t-shirt. It’s our first impression of you; do you really want it to make us recoil, be it in disgust or in the attempt to suppress giggles? Now, if you’re traditionally published, sometimes you’ve got to wear the suit that the company gives you, and there’s nothing you can do to help it, but as independent authors, we have the choice. Why are we choosing mediocrity? Why aren’t we taking that extra step to be as obsessed about our covers as we are our editing?
I’m definitely not suggesting that my cover is perfect, it isn’t. I’d even say that it looks more amateur than it does professional, but I feel that has to do more with the style than anything, and it is exactly the style I wanted. But there’s no denying that it’s well done. It is the only part of the books production I spent money on, and I feel it was money well spent. I gave the task to a friend of mine who I knew could create something unique, original, and pleasing to look at, since she works professionally in this field. It could be entirely possible that I’m delusional, like some of these other indies, and the cover doesn’t look nearly as great as I think it does, but I’m willing to hedge my bets on the fact that it’s appealing and whimsical, just like the book itself.
Thankfully, for every bad ebook cover out there, there’s at least one completely phenomenal one out there, too. Do yourself a favor. Spend the extra effort to make sure your cover is a good one. Be mindful of how your cover might look when stretched out across a banner…if you’re stretching your covers across banners, don’t. It looks awful and diminishes your credibility. Take the time to fix it into a more appealing banner, even if it means getting someone else to do it for you. This is especially true for publishers: how are you going to appeal to new authors if you’re making your current authors look bad?
Your work is probably amazing. Don’t let it sequester away behind a bad book cover. Because, as much as they tell me not to, I probably will judge a book by its cover, and I suspect others will do the same. Is anyone else with me on this? Will a bad cover make or break your decision about checking a book out? Do you believe in the importance of a good cover, or do you think indie authors can be given a little bit of leeway in quality? Am I just being a bitter cover Nazi?