It’s time to have the book cover conversation

I’ve rubbed elbows with self-published, independent-published, and even vanity-published authors on a daily basis. I’ve gone to conventions and browsed the author’s alley, and I’ve spent countless hours scouring the web for new reads. One thing influences my decision to buy more than anything else—the cover.We all grew up thinking that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And while that’s definitely the case when we’re talking about people’s internal, rather than external, qualities, it is a rule that strangely doesn’t quite apply when you’re actually talking about books. Publishers, distributors and customers know a professional book cover from an amateur one. People in general absolutely judge a book by its cover. It’s a fact of life.

I’m going to show you an example using my own book, No Place. On the left are two book cover mockups assembled from an artist I found on Fiverr. It cost me 5 dollars. It’s…alright I guess? To me, it’s just a stock photo and text–something you really don’t see in any professional publication. For comparison, on the right is the final cover that was published. It has a better layout, font, and contains all of the industry-standard information. This is clearly a professionally-designed book cover.

Your book cover is the window to the soul…of your book

When your potential customer first encounters your book, they will only stay focused on it if you get their attention. So how long do you and your book cover have? Not long.

The tech bloggers at Inc suggest 8 seconds as an absolute maximum, while the influence experts at Create & Cultivate suggest it’s as little as 2.7. You’ve got that long to grab attention and keep it. The first thing your potential customer is going to see is your book. If it looks amateur, and the customer doesn’t already know you, they are going to pass, hands-down (even on free books).

And bookbuyers can tell. Whether you’re selling to a bookstore or to a company, they will judge a book’s quality initially by the cover alone. Too often, I have seen customers at conventions and author events turn down a fantastic book solely on its cover! Case in point: I recently met a New York Times bestselling author who also co-wrote another book with a friend who was indie published. The cover was…well, it wasn’t so great. Apparently it was drawn by the other author’s 19-year-old daughter and was mocked up in photoshop with stock filters and fonts. According to the bestselling author, the co-written book was his favorite of them all, and he mentioned that it was perhaps of a better quality than the books he wrote solo. Guess which ones got bought…and which ones didn’t. And I don’t mean that they got bought less—no one bought it at all for the entire event.

So why do so many writers neglect the book cover?

Simple: too many writers think it’s not worth the money. But if we’re honest, sometimes authors think that about editing, too, and that just can’t be helped. But a strong book cover should never be neglected, because no matter how good your story is, it won’t get read until you get it into your customer’s hands.



Sam Swicegood is an author, speaker, blogger, and podcaster from Cincinnati, OH. He is the author of fantasy and science-fiction literature, including The Wizards on Walnut Street and No Place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to get updates on products, exclusive previews, discounts, and more!
(You won’t get more than 1 email in a 30-day period, I promise. I hate spam, too!)

No, thanks!