Judge a Book by its…

I finished an almost-last draft of a novel! Or maybe novels! I don’t know! (Word counts are hard.) Either way, it’s sitting with my editor. After that, I’ll take a look at her notes, revise as necessary, and then…

And then.


I may self-publish. I’ve been actively learning this whole publishing thing, and I may give it a try. And if I do, that means I’m on the hook for that cover thing.

You know. That first thing you see when you’re scanning through Amazon. Or looking through a bookstore. Or digging through someone’s trash.

Look, I don’t judge where you get your books!

But of course, no one would throw my novel(s) away, I’m sure. They will be highly prized. They’ll be placed on pedestals in everyone’s homes and lauded.

Maybe I’m a bit delusional.

But there’s a reason my sanity is slipping (more than normal). You see, I have to figure out a cover. How do you find a cover for a novel?

Well, what’s a cover for?

The purpose of a cover: Grab the interest of possible readers. And once you have that interest, convey something true about what is under the cover. There’s a reason that many times, books of the same genre will look similar. Those cover conventions tell readers what to expect.

Does the cover have a half-naked man passionately kissing a beautiful woman? I bet it’s not a character-driven hard sci-fi investigation of society.

Does the cover feature the close-up of a gorgeous man’s face, and he has fangs? Maybe it’s about World War II submarine combat!

There’s a reason those conventions exist: To let readers know what they’re getting into. I’ve bought books I thought were fantasy based on the cover design and back cover blurbs, only to discover I picked up a rip-roaring romance. I was greatly disappointed; I didn’t get what I expected.

At the same time, you want your cover to stand out. So, you want to make it different… but not too different!

Often enough, it’s the front cover that will draw a potential reader to check out the back cover. That’s where you have the chance to reel them in with your world, plot, and characters. But that front cover is essential!

So if I’m in charge of getting a cover artist for my novel, it’s good if I already have an idea of what it should look like. What genre is the book? What do I want to communicate to potential readers?

Well, the book is epic fantasy. That means I’ll likely want a painted cover, not computer-generated. Probably not just words. And I probably don’t want a half-naked man on the cover seducing the potential reader. (Probably not a half-naked woman, either.) That’s especially because that while the book does have romance subplots, none of them are featured plots.

What makes my epic fantasy unique? Well, in this world stories are alive and demand that you tell them.

…but how do you convey that on a cover?


Well, it’s a good thing I’ve got some time before I get the novel(s) back from my editor to ponder the question. No, I’m not asking for advice or suggestions– don’t worry about that. All I’m saying is: Picking out a cover design is tricky, but important.

Next time you’re browsing on Amazon or a brick-and-mortar store, take a look at the covers of your favorite genre. See how they’re similar and how different titles stand out. What is the cover trying to communicate to you? Is it communicating well?

And while you’re pondering, consider the headaches someone had designing those covers!

Published by Jon

Jon lives in Kentucky with his wife and an insanity of children. (A group of children is called an insanity. Trust me.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: