Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Reader's Perspective: Indie Publishing: Covers

Last time I talked about my own short-lived experience with indie publishing. Just to confirm, what I'm talking about now is not from the perspective of an author but of a reader with some knowledge of how the publishing world works.

I bought my Kindle two years ago when I was rehabbing after a total knee replacement. The discovery of easy-to-get books, some even free, was like an unending stream of booze to a wino. I downloaded them by the dozen and read them the same way. I found some authors I adore; I found others whose books, sadly, weren't ready for publication.
I continue to read a lot of indie books, and I've made some observations about what does and doesn't work for me as a reader. Today it's covers.

I understand most people don't make a lot of money from their indie books, but like the old adage says, you've gotta spend money to make money. Covers have always been the first or second attention grabber for me (tied with titles). Whether in print or electronic, a cover can make me look twice at a book or it can turn me off one.  
If it's in print, I may go ahead and pick up a book with a really bad cover to read the back blurb. If the blurb is interesting, or if I'm familiar with the author, I may buy the book anyway. If it's electronic, unless the title really, truly intrigues me or I know the author, I won't go any farther. It's way too easy to skip to the next one on the list.

I know authors who've gotten great covers for $15 – 200. Professional covers. Covers that give you a feel for the book. Don't use your son's/niece's/friend's art unless they are really talented artists. You can put together your own cover with stock art, but don't just toss something on a page and publish it. You're a writer; odds are, you know other writers. Get input. Print out a mockup and show it to reader friends. Be selective with fonts and colors. If you have to, print out a dozen different versions and stop strangers in bookstores for their opinion.
My least favorite cover ever wasn't on a digital book, but from a small press with a hero and heroine who looked like plastic toys that melted and reformed in strange humanoid shapes. I have to say, I picked up the book because of the horrid cover. I had great sympathy for the author, because even a book full of blank pages deserved a better cover than that.


  1. Great post, Marilyn. Didn't you get saddled once with a cover where the hero had three arms? (Actually, now that I think about it, three arms could come in 'handy') ;)

    1. Ahh, the infamous three-armed man. It wasn't mine, but I got a kick out of it. (Three arms could make a man very popular, couldn't they?)

      My worst cover was for SAFE HAVEN. The hero was a Deputy U.S. Marshal, 6'+, broad-shouldered, super-tough . . . and on the cover, he was short, slim and had ears like Dumbo! He could've gotten airborne with a slight breeze.

  2. Marilyn--
    I didn't like the cover of my book--very disappointed, but it was unusual. When I released it on my own, I thought the cover was great.
    Had to kinda laugh as I started packing my office when looking at your book covers from early to now. My MJPs are safely vacuum locked in a plastic tub.

    1. I liked both of your covers, though I thought the one you indie-pubbed was sharper and edgier. Which is what you want on a suspense, right?

      The Silhouette/Harlequin covers really have changed over the years, haven't they? I kind of miss when they used illustrators. I became friends with Peter Caras, who did at least the first three covers for the Heartbreak series. I loved those covers.

      And love the idea that the boks are vacuum-locked! I actually sealed up a few early copies with my food sealer. :) Keeps that old-book smell out.

  3. I thought I helped design fun covers for my MG's, but I've had other writers tell me that they aren't dark enough.

    Could I have sold more copies if my covers weren't so quirky? No telling. You just don't know.

    1. I love your covers! I don't know that I would have gone darker with them. With your audience being middle-grade readers, it's hard to say.

      They are quirky, but they're very different, too. They stand out.