Whilst the adage is an apt one for making snap judgements about a person and their abilities, if taken literally then I feel it may be somewhat inaccurate.
Without doubt, the eBook phenomenon has revolutionised the way books are published, bought and sold, and above all else discovered. I won’t bore you with further regurgitation of the traditional vs self-publish argument; the internet is full of personal accounts both for and against.
Suffice to say that I believe in the self-publishing route, and testimony to this is the fact that if I did not then you certainly wouldn’t be reading this now or even at all. Ever.
I had so many doubts about publishing my own work, mostly centred around the fact that I never saw myself as a creative person but one with an overactive imagination instead. So, leaving out the story of the self-publishing journey for another time, I decided to do it.
Now doing it on a zero budget, unless you are very lucky and know all the kinds of people you will need who will do stuff for free, is impossible.
No, not impossible, just very ill-advised.
“How will someone choose your book?” I was asked. Not being so naïve to think that the niche market of UK-based post-apocalyptic fiction based on reality would have a million readers hungrily searching the digital halls of the Kindle library just waiting for my books to come along, I knew I had to appeal on a more capricious level.
So I thought, ‘what grabs my attention?’ Visual impact. Bright colours. Something that reaches out and says ‘look at me’ when nestled amongst the other titles by people you’ve heard of.
We are inundated, saturated even, with access to more books than we could probably read if we lived to be a hundred. And didn’t work. Or have kids. So really, in today’s world, we choose to look at books based on their visual appeal. That is where I promised myself I wouldn’t be cheap.
A simple google search of ‘worst book covers’ provided almost six minutes of fun; the kind of fun you get from watching face-plant compilation videos but in the book sense instead of severe facial injury. There were some absolute trainwrecks in there, which instantly makes the potential reader/buyer/lifelong fan think that your book must be as utterly awful as your cover.
It is the literary equivalent of going on the X Factor when you can’t sing or dance; who did you show this to? Who encouraged you to actually put that out in the world? Why did nobody care enough about you to tell you the truth?
A lack of honesty in such feedback is the absolute worst kind of enabling.
So I took a risk, albeit a small one, and used credit to buy the artwork. I found an established UK-based company with reasonable prices and worked with the designer (who probably finds me a little annoying by now!) to create the covers you’ve seen. The imagery, the colouring, the sense you get from them should make you excited about the story, not embarrassed for a fellow human being.
The point I’m trying to make is that if the author doesn’t believe in their work enough to take a risk and have something created properly, then they have likely put the same effort into the content, and is that something you’d want to spend your hard-earned money on?
So, you should never judge a book by its cover… unless you are judging books, then (by my ponderous logic) maybe you should.