Judging a Book By Its Cover

We’ve all heard the saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s not completely realistic. Buying habits have shifted heavily and more people are buying books online than ever before. The digital images we use on our book covers and websites need to be decent looking. Poor images are distracting and only serve as comedy relief for all those book snobs out there. You worked too hard on that book to just slap any old photo on the cover. No one wants to be represented by a grainy image that screams, “I don’t care enough about my work to take this part of the process seriously.”

Hesitant to use digital images you haven’t taken personally? That’s understandable. People can get in a lot of trouble for using a photo without proper permissions. Just because a photo is accessible via Google Images doesn’t mean it’s okay to upload to a website or use on a book cover. I highly recommend going to a stock photography vendor and purchasing the high-resolution digital files of your heart’s desire. Stock photos are ready-made, categorized images for promotional materials. Just like when you go to insert clip art into a Microscoft Word document, you can search for images by subject. If you want a photo of a horse, just type in the word ‘horse’ and see what comes up.

My favorite vendor for stock photography is istockphoto.com. Since 2000, they have been a trusted source for media, design elements and royalty-free stock images. Royalty-free means that you only have to pay one time to use an image or file multiple times. They also offer a legal guarantee that content used within the terms of their licensing agreements will not violate any copyright laws. There is so much stock photography out there to chose from that the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

Need a crash course in digital imaging? A pixel or “picture element” is the smallest part of a digital image. Greater numbers of pixels in a digital image usually mean a larger image and/or greater detail within said image. A digital file‘s resolution is determined by pixels per inch (ppi). Generally speaking, higher resolutions result in greater detail. The address of a pixel corresponds to its physical coordinates. Digital images vary in file sizes, which impact the pixels per inch. For example, one photo I reviewed was a picture of London Bridge. In order to purchase this photo, there was an option of an XSmall version (347 x 346 pixels) for $8.00. The same image had scalable options ranging all the way up to XLarge (3456 x 3456 pixels) for $34.00. With so many options available, there is sure to be one for your price point.

Maybe people don’t judge a book strictly by its cover, but it is still a representation of the author. Having a quality book cover and cover image never hurts, but having a substandard one sure does. You only get once chance to make a first impression. Why not exceed the expectations of your readers right out of the gate?

What are your thoughts on book covers and digital images?

The Tale of Two Book Covers

One of the most exciting things you’ll get to do as a published author is decide on your book cover. For a long time, your novel may have just been black words on a white page, but a book cover is the pretty packaging that is used to attract readers and get them to purchase your novel. Several thoughts on marketing/branding become important during this process.

Most publishers will allow you to provide input into the book cover. Before my cover was designed, they asked me for some directions. This is what I provided for instructions.

1. Different from what is normally seen in CBA fiction. Who doesn’t want to stand out?
2. Dark imagery/suspenseful/intriguing: dark colors, creepy feel, etc…
3. Not overtly medical. Above all else– this was most important to me. This may be confusing to some as it is a medical thriller (of which I am very proud!), but the reason behind that direction was that I’m not sure I will always write medical thrillers, and I wanted to reach the wider suspense/thriller audience.

Here were the two choices I had:

When I got these from the marketing director I was stunned! I loved both for different reasons.

Here were some of my thoughts.

I loved the cover with the menacing killer, and he actually looked just like the villain in my own mind. How could they possibly have done that? I’m a risk taker, and that cover definitely appealed to that side of my personality. My first thought was: Even Ted Dekker hasn’t done anything this scary. Can I pull it off? Is it wise to have something this risky as a debut cover?

Why was it risky? Well, this is where some marketing comes into play. The largest segment of book buyers (even for suspense) is women. Is a woman going to pick up the book with the evil, scary dude on the front? If she does, would she keep it in her hands or plop it right back on the shelf. Was it safer– maybe smarter would be the better term– to use a cover that will accomplish what I wanted but still attract those who are most likely to buy the novel?

I was fortunate because I got these draft covers just before I left for the ACFW conference last September and was able to get the opinion of lots of people on which one they liked the most.

There was one clear winner.

Another interesting thing that happened was a couple of people commented on the size of my name on the front cover. I got the sense that maybe they thought I might be “too big for my britches” as they say. I found that sentiment a little fascinating as it certainly wasn’t something I had insisted on but wondered if there was an unspoken code of name size that once you sold a certain volume of books– then your name could be in large print.

Which cover do you think I picked and why? Do you think an author needs to “earn” their name being in large print?

Click here for the answer and leave a comment here and at Redwood’s Medical Edge. I’ll be drawing a winner from the comments section of both blogs for a copy of Proof!  Drawing will be Saturday at midnight, April 7th. Winner announced at Redwood’s Medical Edge April 8th.

Cover Art by the amazing Nick Richardson.

%d bloggers like this: