We’ve all heard the old idiom, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” And that’s totally right — judging something based on a first glance often leads to false impressions and close-mindedness. However, covers, even in the age of eBooks, are still an incredibly important part of the browsing experience, and are often the first interaction a prospective reader has with a book. A cover should be artful, interesting, and represent some essence of the book. Often, it’s the only actual image a reader will receive to spark their imagining of the world of the novel.
But, sometimes, especially with first-time authors, or authors whose art is solely the written word, covers can bring you the wrong kind of attention. For instance, you don’t want to show up on Nathan Shumate’s Lousy Book Covers Tumblr. While his site has caught a lot of flack, and unfairly ridicules artistic endeavors, he does offer some wise words in a Huffington Post article for authors when it comes to book design:
“Print design is a mode of communication all its own, and there is at least as much study and experience involved in gaining a competence in design skills as there is to becoming a credible wordsmith…a book’s author is not automatically qualified to design her own cover.”
It’s true that there are tons of authors out there who are also insanely capable and skilled artists, but sometimes, we writers tend to overreach. We think, because we have just finished a book, why not just knock off the cover art right there? It’s best to take a step back and think about different artistic skill sets. The last thing an author wants to do is put off a potential reader because of an unattractive cover.
Like everything else an independent author does, getting a nice cover for your book is a mix of networking and savvy. One idea is to take the whole cover design project and to make it into a promotion for your book. Post a sample chapter of your book and ask readers to use it to come up with ideas for a cover. Have a design contest, with the winner getting a free copy of the book they helped design. It gets the word out about your book before it’s published and can help you reach out to readers and fans. Another option is to use one of Lulu’s Book Cover Design services. A great way to avoid the “lousy cover” trap is to put the job in the hands of a professional artist.
And even though they are important, don’t fret too hard over the cover. As prominent book cover artist Chip Kidd reminds us in an Esquire article titled How to Make People Buy Books: “There are so many factors that go into whether somebody buys a book — the jacket’s just one of them.”
And, to end on a high note, we have plenty of noteworthy examples of exemplary book covers by independent authors. You can peruse them in our Pinterest Indie Cover of the Day Album.