Judging a book by its cover

Of course there is the old adage about trying not to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes we’re guilty of just that. And I do mean literally judging a book by its cover, not some thoughtful thing about inner beauty and crap.

When I started reading the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, prompted by my love for the HBO series True Blood, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I couldn’t believe the editors and publishers of these books, which aren’t terrible to read, actually looked at them and said, “Yes, this is exactly what will sell these urban fantasy novels.”

Why. Just, why.

It’s like looking at a digital painting done by a thirteen year old who fancies herself a Photoshop artist without any training or real artistic skill. Bad font choice, bad drawing – and you can’t see it, but most of the books have sparkles on the covers.

Thankfully enough, once HBO got its hands on the series and the tv tie-in covers were released, they got a lot better.

But it says a lot. Covers really are what sells the book. I work in a bookstore and have for three years. I’ve seen bestsellers come and go, and I’ve seen the monstrosities and passable titles that locally published consignment authors have put out. There really is a scientific formula to designing a well thought out and aesthetically pleasing book cover. A relevant image of good quality, if one chooses to use an image at all, with a crisp, neat font – like my soul mate Times New Roman, for example – for both title and author name. It isn’t so difficult. I don’t understand why people don’t see that, and still insist on releasing these godawful covers that make you want to burn the book to holy hell.

Now, I’m not pretending to be all-knowing when it comes to designing a book cover. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer. But I do have a good sense of layout and design, and have the experience dealing with books to back me up.

I mean to self publish as ebooks both Changeling and Purity. While I don’t have a set plan for Purity just yet, I do have some ideas for the cover of Changeling. I want a photo with a woman and necklace relevant to the story, with my name and the title of the book. Simple. I have a few connections with graphic designers and photographers who can help me with the layout and design, as well as a friend with firsthand experience self publishing ebooks. I mean to make it as appealing as possible so people will look past the stigma of self publishing and read the story I’ve compiled.

I’ve seen some horrendous consignment covers at the store. It can get pretty bad. But I’ve also seen those that have been well thought out, and there is some success in them. It isn’t impossible. It just goes to show that not everyone should be publishing books.

Has anyone else encountered this problem? What books have you all read and enjoyed that had unspeakable covers?

2 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover

  1. With such idiotic covers, I don’t understand how Dead Until Dark sold so many copies. I feel like in the beginning the only people who bought those books were mothers who’d thought they had picked up something nice and age-appropriate for their teenage daughters…but they were mistaken.

    1. Seriously. The story isn’t THAT good that it’d just fly off the shelves without a great cover. I don’t know what sorcery and wiley womanly things Charlaine Harris did to make it sell and to make HBO create True Blood. Those mothers were indeed mistaken.

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