It’s a phrase you always hear from your role models when growing up: 

“Don’t judge a book by its cover!”

Yeah. I get it. It’s good to not be superficial. You’re reading the blog of a cheapskate who drives an inexpensive car, owns an inexpensive phone, wears inexpensive clothes, and is by no means a flashy person. Don’t judge people by their appearance is a very good lesson in life.

But with books, it’s different. I don’t care what your parents, teachers, grandparents or whoever else you look up to have said, judge that damn book by its cover and this is why. 

To make a good book, it takes a lot of hard work and this isn’t every step either:

  • It needs to be written.
  • It needs to be revised and edited by the author.
  • It needs to be edited again by professionals.
  • It needs to be laid out for printing and/or eBook formatting.
  • It needs to be marketed.

That last step can entail a lot of things, but one of them is designing the cover. If you traditionally publish by a reputable company, chances are they will take good care of giving you a fine book cover. If you’re self-publishing, don’t skimp on this step just because you took an intro to Photoshop class.

To someone who knows about the industry, if you half-ass your book cover, critics are going to wonder if you half-assed your editing, your layout, or even your story. Even for consumers not well-versed with the industry, they have a gut feeling it’s not a quality piece when they see that crappy book cover made with a demo of Photoshop and some stock 3D character models. 

Genesis of Oblivion by Maxwell Alexander Drake

Good cover art isn’t cheap and cheap cover art isn’t good. Some cover artists can cost as much as $2,000. I recall that’s about how much the cover art was for the Genesis of Oblivion series by Maxwell Alexander Drake according to the author and I believe it. That cover art is by Lars Grant-West who’s done art for Wizards of the Coast and Blizzard Entertainment. 

So this brings me back to the topic of marketing. When you’re perusing your local bookstore (whether in person or online), a book cover only has a split second to catch the consumer’s eye before they walk or scroll past it. You MUST have something that will reach out and grab the reader. Keep this in mind the next time you’re browsing for books.  

When fighting for the attention of a prospective reader:

  • The cover will buy you the blurb.
  • The blurb will buy you the first page.
  • The first page will determine if they buy the book.  

Soldiers of Earthrise by Daniel Arenson

I know this is a habit by now, but let me go ahead and shill for Daniel Arenson’s Soldiers of Earthrise again (full review here). It’s such a great example of a self-published book that gets it all right. Look at the cover. There’s a badass space soldier who looks like something out of Crysis, a fleet of imposing ships in the background, and a sick-ass stylized wing logo behind the title. 

Move onto the blurb. It gives you a quick rundown of the story. It sets up the main character, the overall scope of the story, and the stakes. 

I honestly like the first line of the book better because that’s what really grabs you. 

“Jon was waiting to join the war when his brother came home in a body bag.” 

HOLY CRAP! Now I’ve got to read this. 

This is how vital it is to have good cover art, so yeah, judge that book by its cover.