Back before this ‘writing lark’ became my obsession, I used to do a lot of art (traditional and digital) in my spare time.
Some of my work was published on a DVD-ROM for ImagineFX magazine’s FXPosé section twice in the early and latter part of 2007, which has been published worldwide.
I’ve recently had to produce the front covers for my novel, ‘For All Our Sins’ (soon to be re-released) and the short story ‘Broken Palace’. My second novel will also be released soon, so I’ll have to design a cover for that as well.
Taking a look back at my old work, I’m now extremely glad I invested the time trying to get to grips with Photoshop and I’m now proud that I took an ‘Art and Design’ GCSE and A-Level at school.
I used to get told I was ‘wasting my time’ doing art as a subject, but, being a rebel, I was determined to prove people wrong.
When I won a writing competition back in 2011, I got to have lunch with Matt Bates, the fiction buyer for WHSmith Travel. He’s responsible for getting books into the airport, train station and motorway shops, where there’s the greatest footfall of potential readers looking for something to read on their journey.
Take note: Matt told me that the jacket cover of a book is one of the main influencing factors of whether he will take a book on for these stores.
I’ve never believed in the saying, ‘never judge a book by its cover’. When I go into a book store or browse online, I’m drawn to fantastic covers. It can be a deciding factor of whether I pick it up/click on the thumbnail, to read more and make a decision about buying/downloading it. Sometimes, I remember a book by the cover, and not an author’s name.
One of the biggest mistakes self-published authors make is neglecting to take the time over the front cover. You may have written a masterpiece, but, chances are, those readers that are just browsing for a new book will pass yours by if the cover is uninspiring, or, dare I say it, just plain awful.
You also have to be careful of the font and its colour when trying to get a design just right, and try to keep ‘branding’ in mind for future covers. If you’re not the ‘arty’ type and need to commission an artist to design your cover, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Some art students will be happy to be paid a fair price for their work, and be glad of the exposure. It’s something to add to their portfolio.
If your covers look professional then it shows you are a professional author and take your writing career seriously.
Keep it genre specific!
I’ve also seen a lot of covers that don’t do the novels justice. If you write crime, a picture of a half-naked man on the front is just going to scream erotica, not detectives chasing the bad guys.
Example: John Connolly’s ‘The Wrath of Angels’, a thriller with elements of the supernatural, has an amazing front cover. If you look closely in the fire on the jacket you can see all kinds of demon and angel-like creatures. It’s truly beautiful, and the reason I bought the book.
I’ve designed my own covers, and I know they are far from perfect, but I’ve had fantastic feedback on them, so this is very encouraging. I’ve added a new section to my blog to display some of my art, and if you’re interested, you can find it here.
When I think back to the teachers who said, ‘You don’t need art’, or ‘You need maths not art. Art won’t get you a job’, I have to smile. And smugly at that! 😉
Art might just get you a few more readers to take a chance on you. With so much competition, and so many people self-publishing, you need to stand out.
Get the cover right. Don’t underestimate its importance. It just might pay off in the long run.
So, in answer to the question, who judges a book by its cover?
Just about everyone!