Posted in Writing

Don’t judge a book by its cover

As the saying goes. I’ve never been all that keen on that saying. I understand the sentiment, but applied literally it makes very little sense. Which probably goes for a lot of sayings. Which is why we don’t apply sayings literally.

Anyway, my point is, you can judge some things about a book by its cover. An ugly cover may be hiding a great novel, and a beautiful cover may conceal something that is truly painful to read. But you can tell the content of the book, you can generally guess at the genre at least. It would be weird if you couldn’t. The cover is the first thing a potential reader sees of a book, so it should give a general idea of what kind of book this is.

And like it or not, yeah, people will assume quality from a cover.

But that’s not a problem, because no-one will deliberately create a shabby cover. Everyone involved in publishing a book will want it to look its very best. Which is why cover design and art is done by professionals, people who design and illustrate stuff for a living, and most covers end up looking OK.

Except when the design and artwork isn’t done by a professional. Like if the book is self published and the author decided to do the cover themselves. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. For my own reasons I wouldn’t self publish, but people who do, and who want to do the cover, there’s nothing bad about that. But art and design are just as much… arts, as writing is. If you’re a writer who just likes drawing as well, or playing around with graphics, then that’s not really enough. Traditionally published books have covers designed by professionals, and you have to be on the level as that if you want your book to look good.

The same can go for illustrations too, if it is chosen to have them. Obviously, people won’t see those without opening the book first, so bad illustrations probably won’t lose readers. But still, if people have paid for a product, it should be a quality product all round, not just in the quality of the writing. That’s far and away the most important thing, but the presentation is important too. Traditionally published books with illustrations have, once again, professionals doing the work. If you’re going to do your own illustrations, then it would be good to get some truly objective opinions on them, just as with the writing. There have been times when I thought I was pretty good at drawing, then I’ve looked back a few months later and wondered what these creepy looking things on the paper are supposed to be. As with anything, it’s difficult to look at your own creations with a truly critical eye. But you need to have that objective opinion if you want your creations, be they writing, art, graphic work, or anything else, to be the best they can be.

In short; if you’re self publishing, and you want to do your own cover, and perhaps illustrations, remember that art and design are both fields in their own rights, and they deserve proper attention put into them too. Artistically inclined people, in my experience, tend to be inclined to more than one area, but if you’re going to try and do more than one thing properly, then each of the fields deserves respect. If you’ve put time and passion into your writing, then present it with a cover which you made because you just like messing around with graphics or drawing sometimes, then no matter how good your book is, some people will not pick it up.

I for one, if I was publishing a book I’d poured so much effort into, that I’d made the very best it could be, would want it to have a cover deserving of it. And the truth is, I, personally, would not be able to give it that. Some could, but that’s something that should be given serious thought.


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