Illustration · Masters tales

Judging a book by its cover…

If you are going into self-publishing does it matter about the cover? I mean you have taken time to write it and then you have to think about what to put on the front, but surely it is what’s in the book that’s important?

And I wish it were, but we all buy because of the way a book looks. Sure the classics can get away with:

But would this induce you to buy it?

Recently, I went to a lecture and there was a self-published author as a guest, Judith Arnopp. She had a tale that I took to heart. Judith writes historical fiction and her first book had a red cover. I must admit as she held it up I could see no problem with it, but she explained that sales only picked up after the cover was re-designed with a woman holding a sword. Actually, all you can see is the feminine hand grasping the hilt of a broadsword. It worked and the book sold – well.

But why?

I design and draw my own covers and I also buy a huge amount of books. Personally, when I buy, I go on the title and the cover. And that cover is in black and white as I have the old-fashioned kindle. I don’t buy books with long titles and boring covers… But put an eye or a person on the front and my attention is piqued. I want to know what adventure lies within.

So when I design a cover I go about it by drawing something that makes you want to turn the page. For ‘The Phantom Horse’ I used the eye of a horse. But if you read the story that it relates to you realise that the horse is a nightmare, so the drawing is more mystical than a straight drawing.

phantom horse book


I increased the size of the eye and played with the colours.

The next book I felt more confident about. I knew what I needed to do and, as the stories all had a theme, I realised that I was limited as to what I could put on the front. Originally I went with a heart…



But it seemed clinical. I mean, my stories are about people and their interactions and the drawing did nothing to describe the content. So I went with this one:

cover 3

Which I think is all about love… Of course the stories are not all about romance, but by reading the write-up that can be discovered. I need the cover to grasp the readers attention in order to get them to read the write-up.

The next book? Well, it’s another anthology and I have one story written but the cover and other illustrations are already planned. I have found that the cover is as important as the content. If you can’t do it yourself then get a professional to do it. Don’t just give it a plain colour, think about it. Play around with it.

Go to your own shelves and see what is on the cover of your favourite books. I bet they aren’t blank. And have fun. Don’t stress out.

And don’t forget if you need a drawing – I accept commissions (a shameless plug…).

This post was inspired by the daily prompt – binding judgment.

8 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover…

  1. Now you see? We are so different. I barely glance at cover art. I read reviews by people who’ve actually read it and that is usually what decides me to buy or not. Plus a general description of the story and characters. Is it a genre/type of story in which I’m usually interested? If it isn’t something I usually like AND reader reviews are tepid or worse, you could have Van Gogh designing your cover, but I wouldn’t buy it — though I might admire it 🙂

    1. Thanks. Everything points to it being good marketing, but being an artist I just love being as creative on the outside as on the inside. The next anthology is almost an artwork and story anthology combined… I think my indie stuff may become the place I let my art and writing walk hand in hand.

  2. It’s true you can nt judge a good book by its cover. Top selling classics often have quite bland covers take ” catch 22″ as an example . However I am also a big comic book fan and I often buy books based on the artist rather than author also books on art and photography relie on image. Have you read John Bergers ” ways of seeing” as a artist and author I think you would enjoy it

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