Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by David Michael Williams.
About the author
David Michael Williams has suffered from a storytelling addiction for as long as he can remember. With a background in journalism, public relations, and marketing, he also flaunts his love affair with the written word as an author of speculative fiction. His books include The Renegade Chronicles, a sword-and-sorcery trilogy, and The Soul Sleep Cycle, a genre-bending series exploring life, death, and the dreamscape. If Sin Dwells Deep will be available in paperback and e-book on Oct. 2.
About If Sin Dwells Deep
Even good girls have secrets.
When straight-laced Allison sleeps, the rebellious goddess Syn wakes. Having a fling in the dreamscape may seem like harmless fun, but when a sadistic predator learns her true identity, the fantasy begins to bleed into real life.
If Sin Dwells Deep — a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep — exposes the hidden world of dream drifters and explores the war between gifted government agents and those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and that which lies beyond.
GUEST POST: When it comes to book covers, go ahead and judge By David Michael Williams
Some proverbs are just crap.
For example, “Live every day like it’s your last.” At best, it’s impractical. The human mind isn’t programmed to infinitely sustain a carefree attitude. At worst, it’s dangerous. What happens when tomorrow does come, and you’ve quit your job, spent all your money, and/or need a place to board your impetuously purchased alpaca?
Then there’s “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Doesn’t that sound like something an ugly book would say?
I call shenanigans.
Covers accomplish a lot
Book covers serve an important function beyond shielding the softer pages within.
In addition to sharing pertinent information, such as the title, author’s name, and teaser text, a cover’s configuration can give prospective readers a glimpse into the story’s characteristics:
- Protagonist and/or antagonist
In other words, covers are meant to be judged so that buyers ascertain enough information to help match them up with their ideal read.
Covers are already being judged
Let’s set aside subject matter for a moment and talk about quality.
If a new car company ran a cringe-worthy commercial, how likely would you be to purchase one of their vehicles? Would you even want to learn more about what’s under the hood?
A book’s cover is arguably its greatest marketing component. The cover must be engaging enough to get a prospective reader to scan the title, hopefully read the back-cover blurb, possibly flip open to the first page, and ultimately decide to buy the thing.
When a cover comes across as mediocre — or worse — the book has a huge hurdle to overcome. A crappy cover implies a crappy book.
Even if you don’t personally judge books by their covers (and I’m pretty sure you do), everyone else does. Why? Because we all have a finite amount of money and time, and we need to use every bit of context available to help guide the spending of both.
Indie authors, CYA
Does every book bearing a bad cover sport a sorry story inside? No. Likewise, there are excellent covers wrapped around utter tripe. Yet the law of averages wins out.
Consider this: Professional publishers hire marketing experts to seek out appropriate cover art for upcoming books. There’s a science behind it, and the science is steered by profit. Publishers want to make money, so they take the necessary steps to acquire an attractive cover.
But what about self-published books?
Sadly, self-published authors are the biggest offenders. The problem — and I say this as an indie writer/publisher — is that you are forced to wear a lot of different hats, including that of marketer. We aren’t big businesses, so we don’t necessarily have access to the same resources (or budgets) as the Big Five. We have to stretch our skill sets.
However, there are some things an author shouldn’t do:
- Proof his or her own work
- Spam social media feeds with BUY MY BOOK! promotions
- Attempt to create a book cover
Mastery of the written word does not necessarily extend to all facets of the arts. Photography, graphic design, visual composition — these are skills that require talent and training. It’s somewhat insulting to presume that anybody can do it. (How would a writer feel if graphic designers started impersonating novelists?)
I’ll go on record here: If you want to present your work as professional and polished, you will outsource the cover design. You may need to do a little work to seek them out, and, yes, you’ll probably have to pay them. Eat Ramen noodles for a month if you have to.
If an author can’t be bothered to procure a quality cover for his or her book, I worry about the contents within because professionalism impacts the whole package.
Full disclosure: I’m blessed to have worked with many talented designers at my day job over the years, so when it came time to find cover artists for my novels, I didn’t have to look far. I’m extremely happy with what came out of those collaborations, and I know whatever success my books find, the amazing cover art deserves much of the credit.
The final word
We like to think “it’s what’s inside that counts.” Sure, the story is of the utmost important, but what does it matter if a book is a masterpiece if no one picks it up?
Bottom line: Every book deserves a kick-ass cover.
And if the cover ends up being better than the story inside, well, at least it’ll like nice on your shelf!