A Promise ~ Or Just A Seduction?

Part of being an author is making friends with other authors. One such author I’ve met is Thomas Amo, who writes in the same genres I write and read. He’s also the nicest person anyone could hope to meet. Oh, and talented! I just started reading his book, and if you’re a horror aficionado, then you’ll want to take a closer look at his latest book, An Apple For Zoë. One look at his cover, and you’ll know why he’s just the person to write this post.

Take it away, Thomas!

Thomas Amo here, author of the Horror Novel, “An Apple For Zoë.”
I would like to thank Michelle Muto for inviting me to write a guest blog for her. So today I’m going to talk about, book covers.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Never judge a book by the cover.” In a perfect world that might prove true. However the reality of the situation is, that all books are judged by their covers. We can’t help it. It’s human nature. We are drawn to things that attract us. It might be the colors, the font style, or just the hot girl or gorgeous hunk giving us those long tempting stares. Regardless of what it is, it’s that first glance that makes us stop and go, “Oh, what’s this about?” The enticement of pick me up, look at me…now turn me over…the words stir something in me that makes me want to see just what’s going on between those covers. I know it all sounds sexual. However, a book cover in a way is the author flirting with potential readers. The cover draws us to look closer. Most of us can tell within just a few moments if we are going to give you a chance and take you home with us. Who knows by the end of the evening, you may just end up in bed with us. (Remember we’re talking about reading.)

So it all sounds so superficial right? Only the pretty books get picked and the ugly books stay on the shelf. So who’s to blame? The writer? The Publisher? The agent? Well let’s hold off on laying any blame and examine things a bit closer. It’s a two-lane road here. One: if you’re a traditionally published author, most likely you won’t have much choice in the final look of the cover. You will get to throw in your input and unless your Stephen King, it’s going to most likely be the money people who decide how “your” book looks. But if you’re traditionally published, it really isn’t your book anymore is it? It’s their book. Sure you’re the writer, but it’s their investment, and while they may like your words, story etc, they have every right to tart it up as they see fit. Even some small presses want control over the cover of your book. Which in the end may kill sales.

Lane two: the indie author. Guess what? You are 100% liable for how your book looks. So you can’t lay blame on anyone. Since you’re in the driver’s seat it’s on you to seduce us with your wares! I myself opted to do this myself with my current novel, “An Apple For Zoë.” Why? Because of my first novel, “Silence” published through iUniverse in 2000. It left me feeling very dissatisfied. First off, it’s an adventure romance that takes place in the 1920’s. Between Hollywood and England. So my input to them was, Hollywood, England, A hotel fire and a runaway train. So my cover is the Hollywood sign, layered with flames, Big Ben and a bright blue light coming from Big Ben.

Is that like an explosion? No, wait it’s a train…a MODERN DAY TRAIN! SHIT!!!!!!!

Anyway no blame, I just learned from my mistake. In future I would insist on my own cover. So flash forward to 2009, I’m thinking about the cover for my book, I want it to have something that will catch your eye, look mysterious and cool. Perhaps maybe even a seductive looking girl looking…well seductive. Maybe haunting would be better, but not VAMPIRE! So I begin planning my own photo shoot and launch a casting session. I spent the next three months auditioning models to be my potential cover girl. Over a thousand models apply. Finally on January 5, 2010 I select my model and in March arrange the photo session. 4 hours and 600 shots later, I begin the task of trying to find what shot will work best. It’s another8 months before I decide. This is of course after considering I might need another photo shoot. I locate a digital artist online and do a test teaser poster. Everyone loves it, but it screams VAMPIRE! This is not what my book is about. Anyway by accident I meet another digital artist who asks if they can have a crack at my cover. So I pitch my idea to them and in a week I have the cover you see now!

Because of planning and being patient I have the cover I wanted and my book gets tons of compliments on the cover. People are attracted to it, because it seems like something they want to read. So mission accomplished, very nearly. Now does my cover live up to what goes on between pages? Have I simply just seduced you with a pretty girl and not delivered? Or does my cover live up to the promise that once you get inside I will entertain you and give you a good story and make you glad you picked up my book from the very start. Of course my goal is the latter.
I strongly suggest that if you have spent the time and effort to write a really good book, why oh why would you cop out in the end and give us a slap dash cover? I know you’re following the myth from the beginning of this blog…hey my book shouldn’t be judged by the cover. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. And just how many fat dudes are on the bachelor?

Remember, a great cover isn’t enough, you have to deliver, you might get someone once with a cool cover, but they will remember and if your book only seduced and didn’t live up to the promise then most likely they won’t be reading your next book.

AND PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR…this one is crucial.
Don’t use template covers! I went on Lulu once to look at novels in my genre to see what I might be up against. Do you know how many books I saw with a White Rose dripping in blood there were? I saw at least twenty. Don’t think your title is so amazing it sets you apart from everyone else. It doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try making your own cover, go online to Deviant Art, there are a gazillion talented artists on there who would love to do a cover for a book, some might even do it for free. You’re a professional now, be professional, be prepared to pay someone for his or her work after all you want to be paid for yours.
BTW I’m not knocking people who have used template covers, I think sometimes they don’t realize how many others are using the very same template or stock photos. Even after all my planning, the one stock piece I used in my cover, I’ve seen on 3 other books. My next book will have no stock images in it at all. Even I am still learning too.

In closing: Do your own work. Or find someone who does what you are not prolific at yet. Check out Deviant Art. Learn Photoshop. Remember your cover has YOUR name on it! Give people a reason to want to remember your name. Don’t just seduce us…deliver on your promise.


4 thoughts on “A Promise ~ Or Just A Seduction?

  1. I agree completely. I’m still waiting on finals to see what my cover will hold in the end, and I do hope I’ve delivered on the inside. If not, I’ve written book two already so I might be in trouble :(.

    As for template covers, I agree with you. If you’ve gone to trouble of writing a story, you’ve done something many dream of and few accomplish. Sure if you jump on Twitter you’ll find thousands of aspiring authors, but the truth of the matter is, there’s alot more people out there that talk about writing books then there are people writing them. If you’re going to put the time in to start a story, create believable characers, build an astonishing world, finish the story, edit it, edit it, edit it, and then edit it, why bunt the ball for the winning run? Swing for the fences and give the work you’ve done justice!

  2. This is a great post, Thomas. I’ll be honest. I am totally guilty of buying books based on their covers. I won’t buy books with ugly covers – not without some heavy-duty recommendations from people I trust. The cover is the first thing your (potential) reader sees, so you damn well better make that one shot the best one you’ve got.

    I’m like you in that I am freaking out about my cover. I haven’t started model searches yet, but I’m getting close to that point. I have an idea in my mind of what I want but can’t find it in the thousands of stock photos I’ve searched through so far. Since I’m publishing a trilogy in rapid succession, I want all three covers to have unifying elements – fonts, colors, imagery, symbols. I think all my finickiness (is that a word? It is now!) will pay off, but it’s a gruelling process.

    Thanks for your words of wisdom. Good luck with An Apple for Zoe!

  3. I’m a very visual person. I have photoshop and started playing with it, nex thing I know I’m doing all kinds of things, blogs, websites, buttons and banner, covers, and now at work I’ve even done financial report covers and trade show banners. Having done all this, I can attest to the HUGE importance of a great cover. It matters. It matters ALOT. Great post!!!! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the posting this, Michelle.

    Wrong or right, these days you have to judge a book by its cover–unless you want to spend days reading the back of the thousands that line the shelves at Barnes and Noble. But each genre seems to have a specific cover type, so just by looking at the cover, you know the ones you want to avoid and the ones that will interest you.

    Unfortunately, as you point out Thomas, in some cases you can’t judge a book by its cover, because it’s been “mis-covered”. Great post that gives yet another plus for going indie.

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