Don’t Flunk the Interview

The other night my wife and I went out to dinner and because the weather was so nice, decided to take a walk.  The restaurant where we ate was in a mall, kind of like an outlet, with a big open area leading to all the stores.  Of course we stopped in the Borders.  Even though we have e-readers, sometimes we’re in the mood for for some paper and ink.

We walked around our usual sections grabbing whatever looked interesting.  And let me stress the “look” part of my last statement.  EVERY single book we checked out was visually interesting first.  It really drove the point home on how important an eye catching book cover is.  Makes sense when you think about it.  The book cover is like having a job interview every time a potential buyer picks it up.  And how do we look for a job interview?

So I wanted to share a few covers that passed the interview.  Out of all of them, only one was by an author I recognized.

I know Jim Butcher from his Dresden Files series, but I had no idea he had an epic fantasy one.  Still, the cover caught my eye before the name.

I love how the purple in the heroes cape blends with the spirits and rain.  And the green adds to the overall earthynesss of the picture, which made sense when I read the blurb.  The people in this series have a unique bond with the elements.

The final little touch was the chain-like borders across the top and bottom of the book.  It adds to the epic fantasy theme of the cover and because it’s part of series, is a way to group future books.  There’s six books so far and they all have this.

As important the title of a book is, the font is just as important.  This series is about a girl who gets sucked into other people’s dreams and the title really sells that idea before you ever get to the blurb.  The glowy effect, the way it’s stretched across the cover, plus the lone pillow tell me everything I need to know about the book before I read the blurb.  I should also note the tagline in this picture was not on the book I purchased.

Subsequent books in the series have a similar cover design.

Again title and cover art working to sell the book.  The hero is dressed as a resistance warrior and standing before him is what looks like the aftermath of a battle.  The reds and oranges feed that notion and the title completes the package.

This book also uses the grouping effect like the Jim Butcher series.  Here the marker is right under the title along with a symbol.  Not only does this look cool, especially with other books in the series, but anytime I go looking for the next installment, they’ll be easy to find.

In a job interview, if your clothes are wrinkled and stained, if your hair is a mess, that is a reflection on you and your work ethic.  The same applies if you plan to self-publish.  The above books and many more are your competition.  If you can’t match what’s being done by the major houses, it won’t matter how well written your story is.  With that in mind, here’s what I think makes for a good cover.

The cover should immediately convey the genre. If your book is on a display or mixed in a list with other top selling books, the cover needs to tell potential buyers what you’re all about.

Colors are very important. Whole aspects of marketing are based on color combinations.  It pays to understand what they mean.

An overall theme works better than a specific scene. With a theme you can play with imagery and really let your imagination go to fun places.  You’ve only got seconds to convince a buyer to give your book a chance.  Unless you’ve got the most amazing scene in the history of scenes, go with a theme.

Not everyone is an artist. You’ve really got to be honest with yourself on this one.  Conveying an idea without words is a SKILL.  Grab some books from your favorite authors in your genre.  Does your cover measure up to theirs?  If not, can you tell the reason why?  If the answer is no, then you need to hire a professional.  Find out what artists were used for the covers you like and seek them out.  Or ask the author who does their covers.

Money might be an issue and I can understand that, but you have to ask yourself: Is the money you’re saving on an okay cover worth the sales you might lose?  Even if it takes time to save the money, it’s a wise investment.

Get unbiased opinions. This is a tough one because even if you go with friends who are artists, you have to wonder if you’re getting the whole truth.  You’ll have to make that determination.  I’m sure just like writers forums, artist ones exist and that might be the best place to get an honest opinion.  Who knows?  If it turns out you need a pro, you might find one there.

Don’t rush your cover.  Don’t cut corners.  Treat your cover with the same care as your prose. Pretend your job depends on it.

So, what do think?  Agree?  Disagree?  When you’re looking for a new author, how important is the cover in that decision?  Have you passed on potential buys because the cover was uninteresting?

Info stuff- Follow my ROW80 progress every Wednesday and Sunday and be here Tuesdays and Thursdays for new posts on me, writing, superheroes, monsters, comics and any other geeky stuff on my mind.

17 comments on “Don’t Flunk the Interview

  1. Hey!

    People judge a book by its cover, it is just a natural instinct in my opinion. I enjoy reading indie writers, but I don’t read free books and I don’t read books with a lame cover. It is a filter.

    If you are looking for a cover with drawings (and by the look of some of the covers you posted, you are), I really recommend you to check . They have artists there that are crazy good.

    • Don’t completely write off free or cheap books. Especially when you’re unknown, a free or cheap book is of low risk to the consumer and will widen your reader finding net. (Unfortunately you can count on all of them to read the sample first.) There is a lot of junk to sift through, but it happens at all price levels in my opinion. Two good friends, Susan Bischoff and Kait Nolan have used this strategy with great success. If like paranormal romance, I recommend giving them a look.

      Thanks for the rec!

      • No, no, I read the cheap ones. God knows how many .99 books I have read. But if I have to choose between a free book and a .99 book, I’ll go with the second. You just got filter somehow, there are too many options. Though, if the cover was really pretty I would go with the free book. I think the cover tells you the level of commitment the author put into it, and that’s all I ask: commitment.

        I know this girls, I even follow them 🙂 And I’ll start reading paranormal romance like crazy after my novel is done, and obviously they are on my list.

        ps: the link came out all wrong, but the name is deviantart. I hope you enjoy it.

  2. I agree with you on covers. That’s why in my house we call Robin Ludwig “God’s Gift to Authors.” 🙂

    But mostly I just had to say that “Furies of Calderon” is an AWESOME book. It totally lives up to the cover. I need to keep reading–I want to read the whole series–but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Because of, you know, the whole WRITING thing. 🙂

    Good point about covers being like the interview. I don’t know that I’ve ever passed on a book simply because of the cover, but a bad cover makes me a lot less likely to pick up a book (or click on a book). Of course, as much as I love the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin, I doubt I would have picked them up just by the covers–they’re pretty plain and bland. People kept recommending the books to me, so that’s why I picked them up. I’m starting to think that, honestly, recommendations are far more important than anything else…..

    • Cool about Furies! Years ago I read this awesome series called the Runelords and haven’t read much epic fantasy since, but have wanted to get back in.

      Agree about the Martin covers. I picked him up, solely based on your rec. Word of mouth is the best, but if I’ve got two recs in my hand, the better cover will probably sway me. And when you’re an unknown, a fabulous cover is key to grab the readers attention.

      I love the Robin covers too.

  3. I definitely am swayed by covers. I have found myself put off by the typical paranormal romance covers involving anaemic-looking girls and roses covered in blood. And I love paranormal romance. Mostly anything with a good dragon will get my attention, but you don’t see so many dragons these days. Sad…

    I actually went into a bookshop the other day, for what felt like the first time in FOREVER, and liked several of the covers, but then didn’t immediately connect with the stories. I think I’m very picky at the moment, though, so it was probably just me being strange 😀

    • We’re a visual species. We see something that looks nice and we’re interested, so those books did their job of getting your attention. I think it’s one of the toughest parts of the sale. That same day I saw a book that looked like someone used nail polish to paint blood on a cover. I was immediately turned off and didn’t care what the story was. I’d need a ton of recs to consider getting it.

  4. I love the “Wake” cover. It’s my favorite of all of these.

    Covers are important, I definitely agree. But I think the title is what catches me the most. That’s why I have such a hard time coming up with titles to my books. But with a good cover AND a good title, people are definitely going to take a look.

  5. Very much agreed! When I go into the book store, sometimes I’m not there to buy a book. Sometimes I’m actually just there because someone might need to pick up something specific or maybe I just need something specific. But then a cover catches my eye, and the book is in my hands being flipped through before I’ve even thought about it.

    And all good tips too. Thinking about genre is so important, too. It’s another question of “what do I want to convey?” and “Does it actually work?” I imagine I’ll be opening up any covers for critique just like I would writing!

  6. I hate to admit it, but I’m a total tart for a good cover. *sigh*

    You’re so right!

  7. You are so right about covers. That’s what catches your eye when you’re book browsing or book buying.

  8. Covers are soooo important. I picked up Butcher’s ‘Furies of Calderon’ the first time strictly because of the cover. It looked cool. After reading the back flap, I bought it and tore through it. The story was quite engaging. I proceeded to buy the rest of the series (well worth it, btw) and I have also bought most of his Dresden series as well. In each of his book covers for Furies, the art depicts a pivatol scene in the book. That was one reason why I was so eager to read it – I wanted to see how the character on depicted on the cover got to that moment.

    We are visual creatures and what appeals to our eyes first will be what we pick up. As goes for books goes for food as well. If the food LOOKS unappealing, you are not going to want to try it. If a book looks uninteresting, it remains on the shelf collecting dust.

    • When you mention food, it reminds of when Heinz briefly had different colored ketchup. That was a flop. Apparently, the public likes their ketchup red or it doesn’t look appetizing.

      Thanks about Furies! Between you and Amy, now I know I’ve got a winner.

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