In Defense of Judging a Book by its Cover

“Mom, I’m hungry.”
“I’m sorry, honey. Just don’t think about it.”

You can tell people not to judge a book by its cover, but like telling a child not to think about being hungry, it just ain’t gonna work.

bad book cover 2  bad book cover

 

No offense to the authors, but what are we honestly supposed to make out of covers like these?

 

 

Maybe we should be judging a book by its cover after all. Especially when it comes to self-published authors – unprofessional book covers more than likely translates to unprofessional editing.

Of course there’s always the case of a diamond in the rough, but it’s kind of like playing the lottery – sure you could win, but why waste your time and money when the odds are not ever in your favor?

Here’s the issue: Independently published authors have a rough time in exchange for the freedoms they enjoy. They get to have complete creative control over almost every aspect of their work. In exchange for that freedom they have the curse of having complete control over almost every aspect of their work.

3D Book Cover

 

When I self-published my first book, The Stitcher, I knew I could make a very minimalist cover that could still look good and that I wouldn’t have to shell out $200-$500 to get it done for me.

 

 

But when I finished my manuscript for Upheaval, a Middle-grade Sci-fi adventure, I knew that I couldn’t go the minimalist road. Middle-grade books tend to be bright, colorful, and action-y.

Screen-shot-2012-04-15-at-11_28_44-PMThe-Time-Travelers

 

I looked at a lot of MG books to get an idea for the look and feel.

 

 

I had no plans on doing my own cover for Upheaval. I resigned myself to the idea that I would just have to suck it up and pay a professional.

But fortune smiled on me, as I have a brother who is a professional graphic designer. That, of course, doesn’t translate to being excellent at book covers, but when he offered his services, there was no way I would refuse.

After two months, about three months until the release date, he contacted me with disappointing news: The quality and style I was looking for was “beyond his skill set.”

I definitely wasn’t pleased with the news, but I did understand. I turned my attention to an amazing artist on DeviantArt and requested if she was available for commission for a fantasy/sci-fi book cover. Luckily she said yes.

Unluckily, her price was $2,000 for the front cover.

So, just a couple months before release, I had the unenviable task of creating a book cover that my much-more-talented-brother said he didn’t have the skills to do. After a few days of doodles, I finally came up with the sketch of the image I would finally use:

Sketch

 

MG Covers are usually character-focused, so I decided to put my characters front and center.

 

 

 

The good news was that my brother was still willing to help with the cover, so I sent him a scan of the sketch for him to color.

worked on by josh

After some time he sent this back. He’d gotten a nice start on it, but due to time constraints, couldn’t do much more.

 

With the baselines all covered, I took his image and went to town, doing my best to make it as colorful and exciting as possible.

worked on by me image

 

Hours and hours of work later, this is what I ultimately came up with.

 

 

 

So, in the final analysis, the cover for Upheaval was not professionally made, but it still looks like it is stylistically competent – especially if looked at in a line-up.

13595022Cover for Smashwordsbad book cover

What I really don’t want is for one of my book covers to be used as an example of what no-to-do. Only time will tell if I succeeded.

What is your all-time favorite book cover (whether good or bad)? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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Hosting a Book Signing Event – An Introvert’s Survival Guide

book-signing

For those who don’t know:
in·tro·vert  ˈintrəˌvərt/noun
1. a shy, reticent person.

2. Someone lacking the requisite constitution to be holding a public event for which he/she is the focal point (i.e. you!).

My advice? Get over it, ya wuss! End of blogpost.
Okay, so maybe that advice isn’t the most useful, so let me give you some actual pointers.

But before we do, I just want you to know that I do qualify as someone who is experienced at being scared to death of humiliating themselves by doing something stupid in public (or even just standing around in public).

Like most writers, it’s my nature to be alone. I guess you could call it my natural habitat. It’s where I feel rejuvenated, happy, and creative. I don’t have to worry that my hair looks stupid, or that I’ve been caught picking my nose or something.

But enough about me being a twat, let’s get onto the list of helpful tips:

  1. Find a fellow writer or group to join you.
    This can be beneficial for many reasons. First, unless your the next J.K. Rowling, you’re going to have a lot of “down-time.” Having a friend to talk with will make it a million times less awkward as you just sit there and stare at people, hoping they’ll come over to talk to you. It can also be a benefit to cross-pollinate your readers groups.
  2. Get up and talk to people.
    Okay, I know this one sounds backwards. How exactly is that a tip for an introvert, anyway? But tell me this, what’s more awkward, politely asking a person to come over and take a look at your book or making eye-contact as they just walk by? Take a play from the girl scout’s playbook and reach out to people as they pass by. I’d be more weirded out by a girl scout who didn’t try to sell me cookies.
  3. Have ready-made answers to frequently asked questions.
    “What’s your book about?”
    “Why’d you write this book?”
    Etc. The last thing you want to do is mumble about during the moment you should be making your best pitch to sell your book. Keep your stock answers short and interesting.
  4. Ask people questions.
    Don’t let the onus of the conversation rest on the other person. Talk to them and ask them what their favorite books/authors are. Be ready to share a little. It will make the conversation much less awkward.

In the end, it’s something you get better with in time. I am much less afraid of the spotlight now than I used to be. It’s certainly not where I feel most comfortable, but after years of performing, teaching, and giving lectures in and out of classrooms, I’ve found that my first statement, although a little blunt, is actually true.

“Just get over it.” Practice, practice, practice.

I’ll be taking my own advice May 7th. See ya there!

booksingingmay