I’m sure most of us have heard the saying “never judge a book by its cover,” right? It’s one of those pieces of cultural wisdom that worm their way into your brain when you’re young and become assumed knowledge. It’s a phrase my parents used to tell me all the time when I was a child, and I’ve heard it over and over again since.
“That movie trailer looks good!”
“Hey, don’t judge a book by its cover.”
“He seems like an unpleasant person.”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover!”
It’s also a phrase that’s always stood out to me, likely because reading was so important to me growing up. Strangely, though, I’ve never applied the concept to actual book covers. Which was a somewhat worrying realisation for someone who likes to think of themselves as an author!
Recently, I’ve been dipping my toes into the exciting world of self-publishing. I had always thought of self-publishing as a lesser route for author’s to share their work. Immediately, I had my preconceptions challenged. There are hundreds of authors making a good living publishing their own books. Self-publishing is now a relatively low cost, high return option for authors, one that allows creators to retain control over the publication process.
I was delighted to find that my view was hopelessly outdated and am now a full-on convert to self-publishing. It’s something I’d love to try. The thought of being my own editor, marketer and publisher is pretty intimidating, though. Thankfully, there is a fantastic community of writers online who love to talk about the self-publishing business. I can highly recommend the Facebook group 20BooksTo50K. I was incredibly lucky to stumble across such a welcoming, knowledgeable community so early in my exploration.
Something I keep hearing about is the importance of your book having a good cover. It can make or break a book. With online retailers such as Amazon becoming the dominant force in the publishing space, that familiar old phrase has changed its meaning for me. There are lots of factors that influence a potential reader towards clicking a book link: genre, reviews, word of mouth. But, I’m scrolling through Amazon, it’s the cover that first catches my attention. And in a saturated market, attention is a valuable commodity.
Of course, the cover can’t tell you anything about the quality of the book’s contents. An amazing cover can’t make up for bad writing. Sure, you might attract a few stray clicks at first but, if your prose isn’t up to scratch, those aren’t going to translate into loyal readers.
Still, the conversations I’ve been having have made me appreciate book covers in a way that I hadn’t before. My first steps into self-publishing have led to some of my baked-in preconceptions being challenged. And that is always a good thing!