By Milli Gilbert
“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” We hear it all the time, just not in regards to books. Unless you’re an author. Not only do we hear it all the time, we say it all the time. And we mean it quite literally.
Except here’s the problem. A book cover is so much more than just the picture on the front of the book with the book’s title and author on display. It tells a story. The right images, or lack of, gives us a glimpse into what the book is about as much as the blurb on the back and the title. It’s the first line in marketing.
The cover is what gets the first click. For me, if I don’t like the cover, I don’t click. It’s that simple.
“Oh, this image is close enough,” you might think when designing a book cover, and slap it on. I have laughed at and skipped over book covers that are something my six-year-old could do. Not even kidding. I have seen covers I can’t unsee. And I’ve seen covers that make me want to cover my eyes until I’ve moved far enough past it that I’ll never see it again.
I’ve also seen covers that I can’t read, think I could have done better than the cover designer on, or they’re too busy (which is possibly one of the reasons I’ve never gotten into fantasy – I’m a fan of simple). I’m no expert, by any means, but I think you can see where I’m going with this. I’d skip right over all of these for a multitude of reasons – I suck at drawing, so I stick to words. Why is the cover artist getting as much attention on the cover as the book’s author?! I can’t read that, and… the font is far more science fiction than it is thriller or horror, which… I think? might be what the book is about?
But some covers are going to snag my attention, whether I actually purchase the book or not. I’d still click on them, even if they weren’t in my usual genre. I might look at them with a critical eye, and say, “I love the simplicity of the cover image, but I’d go a little bigger with the title so I can read it”, or “I will never ever ever ever buy this book, but GAWD, that cover is perfect!”
And then there are books where I see the cover and need to buy the book, never mind they’re not in my usual genres, never mind that I may not ever read them. I want that pretty cover on my shelf. For the record, I’ve not read any of these books, and it’s likely I never will, The Wolf Border being the possible exception to that statement.
There’s a lot of consideration that goes into the creation of a book cover. I struggle with it every time I write a book. Does the imagery accurately portray what the book is about? Is it too cluttered? Is it legible? Did I remember to put the title on? My name? Is it the right dimensions for Amazon? Are the individual components of the cover placed in an aesthetically pleasing way — is the title covering the MC’s face? Or does my name blend into the background too much? Can I justify the money to spend on a cover designer on Fivrr? When will I be able to?! Never mind, I kinda like designing covers – no, I don’t I hate it, but ooh! Look! I really like the way this one turned out, so I guess I really should just stick with it – they’ll only keep getting better, right?
You hope and pray that the cover does the book justice, and that the judgement on your cover is of the good kind, that it provokes the reader into making the first click, or entices them to pick it up off the shelf to look at the blurb on the back. Don’t even get me started on blurbs. Those are a whole ‘nother post, and one I don’t want to talk about. But covers are crazy beautiful, simply complicated.
An eclectic writer, Milli Gilbert is a stay-at-home mom who loves to play with words almost as much as she loves to play with her kids. All of her stories involve romance, and maybe a little bit of mystery. Milli loves to write about cowboys and shifters. And smut. Don’t forget the smut. And can usually be found trying to find interesting ways to combine them. She has several short stories published, and hopes to have her first full length novel out in late Summer 2017. She just took off after one of her couples to follow them around for a few months – but don’t worry, she’ll be back. If not, you can find her on Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest, or follow her on Twitter.
And of course, on her blog, Hairballs of Genius. She is also a regular contributor, here on Happy Author’s Guild.