It Wasn’t Easy Being a Judge

awardSeveral 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.Joanne Fluke

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?

Heaven Can WaitI 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 The Silken Cordcreated, 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.

e . ayers @ ayersbookA Son  by  E. Ayerss . com

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.

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24 Responses to It Wasn’t Easy Being a Judge

  1. Hi E – You are such a good writer and I love your articles. Plus you have an eye for covers. Thank you for the great work you did in being the guest judge! The winning cover you chose has an amazing element of stark contrast that really makes it stand out – a good choice.

    Melody

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Thanks, Melody, and thanks for stopping by. Being a judge was the biggest challenge I’ve ever had an author. We all put so much into our covers, we want them perfect, and we’ll do almost anything to make sure they are.
      Thanks so much for giving indies this monthly contest as it showcases the best of the best and it allows the world to see that indies are a cut above the establishment.

      Like

  2. Nice Post. As a reader the cover will catch me, but it’s the blurb that’ll hold me. Some of my favorite stories with Fabio on the covers (yes that’s how old they are), were re-released with plain jackets and the same titles. I’ve often wondered how that worked for them.

    Rose

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Thanks, Rose, for stopping by. I can’t imagine a plain cover ever doing much for a book. Covers make us reach or it. Covers cause us to linger, to see what it’s about, to read the blurb and the sample pages, but it’s the cover. A cover can tell us what to expect. The cover pulls us to that book.

      I know Joanne Flukes covers, but I also know what I will find between the pages. Mona Risk also has a distinctive look to her covers. You know what she writes and you know her covers. You expect a certain type of story.

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  3. leighmorgan1 says:

    Covers are hard because different symbols resonate different across viewer and readers are even more complicated because we all know what we love to read and have soft spots for books in the same vein. Anyway, I’d chose the Silken Cord cover because it sets a mood. Simply by looking at it I fell drawn into a time and a place. The other cover is extremely well done, but I don’t know if she’s dying from the title or what that 20’s esque image has to do passion. Covers are hard for me and I’d definitely pull both off the shelf in a traditional store and look at the back blurb and perhaps some random pages to see if I like the writing. The Silken Cord cover just resonated more with me. Another viewer/reader could and will have a different opinion, I’m sure. Some of my favorite books~like RoseAnderson~ are Fabio covers…they REALLY work for me!

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    • leighmorgan1 says:

      Jeeze, I should learn to edit…resonate differently among readers and viewers…sigh.

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      • E. Ayers says:

        It’s comparing apples to oranges, but yes, The Silken Cord sets a mood. But so does Heaven Can Wait. So maybe it depends on the mood? I haven’t read either one yet, but I can’t wait to read them. No only do they have super covers, but apparently both authors are top-notch. I’m really looking forward to both books.

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  4. I was honored to have HCW as runner up for January! I can’t imagine the angst involved in looking at all those great covers and choosing only one. Thanks so much for the recognition. It has helped me decide on how to choose the cover for the book that follows this one. While the image will be much different, I want the same style and feel.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      I can’t wait to see how you’ll top Heaven Can Wait. Thanks so much for stopping by. And thanks for showing the world that indies are producing some of the best books out there! I’m looking forward to reading your book.

      Grab a cup of coffee or tea and hang out with us over here on Main Street. We love having other authors join us and interact with our readers.

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  5. JoanReeves says:

    Book covers are endlessly fascinating aren’t they? As with most things dealing with books, it’s mostly subjective, but there are some universal elements that resonate with most readers in a genre’s target audience. For the most part, indie book covers are pretty darn good!

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Well, that contest showcases the best of the best, and there were some terrific covers. The sci-fi covers are awesome! Two of the covers contained original works of art made just for the books. Indies rock!

      Like

  6. Carol says:

    Choosing the best cover from the entries had to be a hair-pulling event! Both finalists book covers were great. I’m sure it was hard to pick just one. We never know what catches a reader’s attention.

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    • E. Ayers says:

      The covers were awesome! And it wasn’t like digging through a barrel of apples to find the prettiest one because I was comparing all the different genres against each other.

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  7. lindabroday says:

    My choice for best cover is Heaven Can Wait. I loved it when I first saw it and I immediately downloaded it into my Kindle. It’s really outstanding.

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  8. E. Ayers says:

    Waving hello to Linda. Fix yourself something to drink and hang out with us. You’re ahead of me because you obviously have read Heaven Can Wait. I want to read all the books out there. But those final two have tugged at my heart.

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  9. Hi E, I like a good cover, but am a blurb fan myself. These two covers you show above are both wonderful in different ways. Both would win in their own categories. Can’t wait to see which one you chose.

    Jane

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    • E. Ayers says:

      Hi, Jane. Blurbs are so important, but the cover will grab the attention and draw a potential reader to the blurb. You’ve got to do something to catch the eye of the reader.

      They are both such wonderful covers. And really they both are historical romances so they were dead heat against each other.

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  10. Jill James says:

    A good cover (to me) will always make me stop at a book and check it out. Silken Cord up there is awesomeness. It is almost grayscale, but not. It really stands out to me.

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  11. Tough choice E. I would have had to go with Silken Cord….I think 🙂 Congrats on being cast in the role of judge, it’s a nice compliment to you for sure!

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  12. Leigh Bale says:

    I was so honored to have the cover of my book THE SILKEN CORD highlighted this month. Thank you! This is an inspirational medieval romance. I hope readers like the action and bits of suspense in this novel. It was a delight to write. And thanks again to eBook Indie Covers!

    Like

    • E. Ayers says:

      It’s a beautiful cover and I can’t wait to read the story. I did check out the blurb after I judged and it sounds like a wonderful story. I didn’t dare look at blurbs until after I had made my final selection because I didn’t want to prejudice my cover choices. Congratulations!

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  13. Leigh Bale says:

    And congratulations to Cheryl St. John! Her book cover is absolutely beautiful. It’s fascinating to me that both of us are inspirational authors for Harlequin Love Inspired, and both of these books are inspies. Hope you enjoy reading the books as much as looking at the covers. Enjoy! 🙂

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