Yes, people DO judge a book by its cover

I did a post over at Women and Words on some funny stuff — worst book covers, worst album covers, worst books — and that led me to actually want to post one of those worst covers I really enjoyed. Here it is:

source (re-sized here)

You so know you want to read on…

Before you completely wig about it, the thing about this cover is it might actually be a snark/campfest. DAW books (the publisher) is a mainstream big publisher, and the editor of this collection of short stories is Martin Greenberg, who won the 1995 Ellery Queen Award for lifetime achievement in mystery editing. In other words, it appears to have been made deliberately. . .um. . .awkward on purpose. That said, the Zombie Raccoons cover straddles the border between suckage and snark. Which makes it sort of. . .appealing, in a weird way. Like I said, I kind of like it. But yes, even the big houses put out bad covers that were meant to be good. Especially in years past.

All that led me then to think about writer Chuck Wendig’s post about some (that’s SOME. Not ALL.) self-published books and their covers (and other issues). Wendig himself has self-published, so he’s not just spitting in a monsoon. His point: hire an editor and hire a cover designer. Put your best foot forward. You want your text smooth, crisp, and as error-free as possible and you want your covers to look GOOD. SEXY. You want them to say to a reader “oooo touch me you know you want to yes please pick me up or download me you want this sexytime lookin’ book right here.” Because people DO judge books by their covers. They DO pick a book up and check it out if the cover grabs them. They DO think a cover may reflect what’s beneath it. Click that link up there to see Wendig’s example of a bad cover. He also says this:

I know what you’re saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Mm-hmm. Sure, no, no, I hear you. Let’s try this experiment: I’m going to dress in a Hefty bag. Then I am going to roll around in a dumpster. If I’m lucky, I’ll manage to get a week-old Caesar salad stuck in my beard! Then I’m going to come to your place of work and try to sell you a sandwich. No? Don’t want to buy my delicious sandwich? It’s really good. Wait, what’s your problem, man? Does my smell turn you off? Hey. Hey. Don’t judge a book by its cover. You should look deeper. Beyond my eye-watering odor. Beyond my beard-salad. Gaze into my heart, and then buy my motherfucking sandwich.
Source: Chuck Wendig at his blog,, “Why Your Self-Published Book May Suck a Bag of Dicks,” Feb. 2, 2011.

His point? Hire a cover designer.

Here’s another discussion about this subject on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Network Forum that took place earlier this year. And another over at One commenter noted that an author on Smashwords was selling steadily, but poorly. So the person got a more professional cover and immediately sales went up.

Yes, if you’re going the indie path on your publishing, it might be expensive to hire professionals to edit your work and do your covers. But it’s WORTH IT. Your books are a LONG-TERM investment, not a short-term “just get it out there now before I get bored” kind of thing. If you are a serious author, then take the time and spend the money for a good edit and a good cover. And when one book is published, work on the next. Work on improving your craft. Then pay your editor and pay your cover designer to help you make another pretty book. Give readers a quality product, and don’t end up on a “Worst Book Cover” list somewhere.

I’ll leave you with another bit from Wendig’s blog, to which I linked above.

You’re going to put something out there, make it count. Don’t fuck it up for the rest of the authors — you know, the ones who actually put out a kick-ass book. Hell, some of this stuff goes for me, too. I can do better. I can always do better. We should always strive to improve our books, our sales, our connection to the audience.

And it goes for ME, too. I can do better. I can always do better. And I will strive to improve my books, my sales, and my connection to my audience(s).

Happy reading, happy writing! (and happy book covers!)

Comments are closed.