Readers Do Judge A Book By It's Cover

Self-Publishing, Part 2: Readers Do Judge A Book By Its Cover

The first thing most potential readers will judge your book by is…

  • The book blurb you’ve so carefully written?
  • The first few words of your first chapter?
  • Your glowing reviews?

No, no and no!  Whether they admit it or not, the first thing readers judge your book by is its cover—even if it’s only the thumbnail size view on the Internet.

Recently, I heard an expert claim eBook covers don’t matter. I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve never purchased a book simply because of its cover; however, I’ve certainly passed over quite a few because of their covers. Let me explain…

When I look at a book cover, several things go through my mind at once:

  1. Does it meet my general expectations for the genre and age group? (i.e. If I’m searching for a Y.A. fantasy, does the book cover scream wizards and teens, or wizards and 3rd graders?)
  2. Is it professional looking?
  3. Does it make me want to read the book? (i.e. Am I intrigued?)

I’d say if your book cover meets at least half of the above criteria (Hummm, that would be 1.5 wouldn’t it? Oh well…) I’ll move on to either one of the next two steps.

  1. I’ll check out the reviews (I tend to read a sampling of the best and the worst…as almost every book gets a few of each.)
  2. I’ll read the book blurb.

Sometimes I read the blurb first. Sometimes I check out the reviews. However, unless I’m already a fan of yours or a close personal friend, if your book cover looks like clip art or like something your teenager put together; or, if I’m looking for a hot romance and there’s a picture of a dog in a funny hat on the cover; or, if your book cover is just plain boring—I’ll move on to another book.

I’m sorry if you think I’m shallow, but I’m telling you the truth. Honestly, have you ever thought, That book cover looks like crap, but I bet the writing’s really good!


Now comes the hard part—the hard part, for me, that is. I’m going to tell you about the mistake I made when first choosing a book cover for my novel, WHEELS. (One of two crucial mistakes I’ve made so far in my self-publishing journey.)

I hired an extremely talented, young artist, who had no experience in book cover design or working with digital media, to design the first book cover for WHEELS. This wouldn’t have been a problem had I had experience in either of those two areas. (i.e. Had I been capable of giving her direction.)

The product I got, while inspired and creative, and truthfully, above and beyond what I had asked for, unfortunately, did not translate well into digital media. Nor, as I came to learn, did it represent the age group I wanted to reach. The fault was mine, not the artist’s. She did exactly what I (the ignorant author) asked her to do. In world of self-publishing, one of the first things you learn is that no matter who assists you on your journey (writer friends, family, artists, etc…) you—and only you—are responsible for the final product.

So, why did I hire an artist who’d never designed a book cover?

Mistake #1: I assumed! Instead of doing some basic research, easily accomplished on the Internet, I assumed an artist experienced in designing book covers and working with digital media would be too expensive.

Like so many Indie authors, after dedicating years of my life to writing my book, I was afraid to invest any money in it.

Despite the fact I knew my book cover wasn’t perfect (It looked terrific as a thumbnail, but was grainy when seen in full cover view) I’d already paid the artist, so I felt I had to use it. I did the best I could, using my extremely limited knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, and published my book with that cover.

Then two lucky things happened.

  1. Anna, from Pocketful of Books (a book review blog) reviewed Wheels
  2. I discovered Ronnell D. Porter (or rather, his website)

Shortly after I published WHEELS, Anna emailed me and requested a copy for review. Of course, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Happily, her review was glowing…except when it came to the book cover. Amateur, I believe, is the word she used. I cringed when I read it, because I knew the original artwork was anything but amateur. Alas, I also knew it wasn’t doing me any favors as a book cover. (My hackneyed Photoshop job certainly hadn’t done it any favors.)

Not long after Anna’s review, I began surfing the web in search of book cover designers. (Why I didn’t do this in the first place, I’ll never know!) Anyway, after googling “Affordable eBook covers” I clicked on Lindsay Buroker’s blog post in which she wrote about two, up and coming, book cover artists—Ronnell D. Porter was one of them.

When I clicked over to Ronnell’s website, I was amazed by how beautiful, as well as current, his cover designs were. Even more surprising was that his price for an eBook cover was exactly the same as I’d paid my artist.

The difference between Ronnell and my original artist isn’t their amount of talent, but their area of expertise. Ronnell creates book covers for a living. Not only that, but he’s a writer and knows what’s selling in the industry. I needed a YA, sci-fi book cover that appealed to today’s teens and would appear crisp and clear whether viewed as a thumbnail or full size on an eReader, and Ronnell knew exactly how to create one.

That’s my story. Never assume you can’t afford to invest in your book. Most writers have small budgets, but because more and more of us are choosing to self-publish, there are more services available and willing to assist us at a reasonable price.

Now, here’s the good news. If you click the 4 Writers tab above, you’ll notice I’ve started to create lists of services that every Indie author needs. If you’ve worked with an artist (or other author service) that you’d like to recommend, email me using my contact form and I’ll consider adding your suggestion to my list.

Next up: Copyediting!


2 thoughts on “Self-Publishing, Part 2: Readers Do Judge A Book By Its Cover

Comment, Criticize or Cajole

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s