Several weeks ago, I was asked to be the judge of an indie book cover contest. This contest takes place every month and it is open to all indie fiction writers. As the judge, I needed only to choose the best out of the finalists. Sounded easy.
So why was I asked? I don’t know for certain, but I do know that every month the judge is chosen from some part of the industry. I’ll assume I was approached because I am an author with a strong background in art. Which is a little like saying that I know what a goldfish looks like. That means I’m supposed to know a good cover when I see one.
This all seemed so simple. Pick the best cover from the January finalists. Easy peasy, except there were all these wonderful covers.
Before I go any further, let me explain. As indies, we are responsible for edits, covers, formatting, and a host of other things so that we can release a book to the public. Some of us who know how to use graphic software, make our own covers, or make covers for friends, but those days are slipping away very quickly as cover sizes have increased to keep up with the new, super e-readers. So what are indies doing? They are turning to professionals and telling them exactly what they want.
Gone are the days when manuscripts were sold to publishers who put a cover on it and the author had almost no say it what the cover was. Today indies have all the control and it shows. They are producing fantastic covers, many with original works of art. They are hiring top-of-the-line cover artists, and they are working with unknown but extremely talented cover people.
There’s a saying in this industry, that to succeed you must write a great book. That’s as true today as it was fifty years ago, and in some ways it’s even truer today as there is more competition. And writing a great book means it must be carefully vetted and edited. (That’s part of writing a great book.) But do we dare judge a book by its cover?
Covers are important. It’s what catches our attention. Makes us stop and really look at a book. There was a time that we walked into a brick and mortar store and wandered through the aisles until something (a cover) caught our attention. Then we’d stop and pick it up, read the back cover, the fly, and the first couple of pages. But that attraction, the thing that made us reach for the book was the cover.
The cover tells us plenty. I can spot a Joanne Fluke murder mystery book from fifty feet away. Yes, they are that distinctive. And I’m sure many of you can spot a favorite author the same way. In the business, it’s called branding. Indies have learned from their favorite authors.
Today most books are sold online. But the same thing applies to a cover today. It’s got to make us stop and click on that cover. It’s got to look great as a tiny thumbnail, it has got to attract us, draw us in, make us stop to read the blurb, and the sample pages. With a simple click, that book magically and instantly appears in our ereader, and for some, in the mailbox a few days later.
Now, let me return to judging the January indie covers at http://ebookindiecovers.com. There were sixteen finalists in January. Two had original works of art on them. They aren’t all romances, but they were all fiction. I watched throughout the month as the each week’s finalists appeared. I checked them as thumbprints, and ran them up full size so I wouldn’t miss the fine details. It was tedious. I didn’t want to make a mistake. I didn’t want to unfairly judge a cover. Art is always subjective and covers are a form of art. Was there something about them that made them stand out from the pack?
I was getting down to the wire and coping with two outstanding covers. Cheryl St. John’s Heaven Can Wait and Leigh Bale’s The Silken Cord. Eenie-meanie-miney-moe, catch a bullfrog by the toe. Flip a coin? Best out of three? Nope, I had to actually choose one that was the best. I pulled my hair out. I beat my head on the desk. Two amazing covers. Both made me want to rush out and buy the books. Both were beautiful compositions. Both not only rivaled anything a big publishing house would have created, they excelled in their genre. They raised the bar for all of us.
If you had to choose, which one would you have picked and why?
I promise I’ll be back and tell you which one I choose. But I really do want to hear what you think. Which one grabs you? Does one pull at your heart strings?
I hope you like the cover for my new River City book A Son. Drop me a note by taking ALL the spaces out of my email addy and I’ll be sure you are notified as to how to get your free copy of this soon-to-be release.
Talk about a mess! It’s not Gerald’s baby, it’s Joey’s. Katie is a chubby redhead. Her parents are divorced, and she’s been pulled between her parents in custody battles for years. Her mother is a democrat, and her father and stepmother are Bible-thumping Republicans. They are not going to be happy with Katie, but she’s done being pulled. She’s trying to stand on her own two feet, and she’s going to do what’s right for her son. Joey is brilliant, handsome, and his mom was 1/2 black. He’s kicked Katie out and denies paternity. Gerald Olsen looks like a Nordic god, all blond and blue-eyed. He’s also heir to the Riverton Chemical & Petroleum Company. But Gerald falls in love with Katie, and he’s not choosing between body parts. He wants her and the son she’s carrying.