You’re somewhere in-between elementary school and middle school when you learn an important English idiom: Never Judge a Book by its Cover. Perhaps this wisdom was departed by a grey-haired woman, parroted by a well-meaning classmate, or an all-knowing parent. You widen your eyes and nod emphatically. Of course, I should never judge a book by its cover!
While this idiom may hold true in a metaphorical sense, I am jumping on the controversial wagon of disagreement for its literal message. I DO judge a book by its cover, and I think you should too.
Maybe once upon-a-time, this idiom held some literal truth. I imagine it was hard enough to get inks and paper, much less reproduce creative works of art for each book distributed. But now in the modern age this is not such an obstacle. There is absolutely no reason an author/publisher should not have an astounding & fantastic cover for a new release novel. Think about it, the author has put months, or even years, into this work. It’s their baby, their heart and soul. Why on earth would someone go through so much blood, sweat and tears and not invest the same into the one image that will display that work to the world? There is no excuse, and it’s an insult to good literature.
I’ll give a parental comparison here: My mother did not dress me up in a potato sack skirt and shove me down the street. No, she dressed me up in a frilly white dress and put red ribbons in my hair. She was proud of me, and let the world know it!
A decent cover will run an author/publisher $0-$1,000. Of course, it depends who you know, or if you have some stellar art skills yourself. But even if money is an issue and your creative well has run dry, there are plenty of new artists out there that are looking for some credit. It will take some elbow-rubbing and effort to search out the right cover, but that’s effort well spent, isn’t it? (If you have kindle unlimited, here is a free resource for Book Cover Design Secrets)
When I’m searching for a new novel, I normally go first by word-of-mouth. But when I am browsing Amazon pages or wandering the aisles of Barnes&Nobel, there is only one thing that’s going to make me reach out and grab or click that book. The cover has grabbed my attention. If I see an epic battle scene of elves with swords and flying arrows, I guarantee I’m going to pick up that book and check it out. Because I get an immediate impression there is some awesome battle scene in there that I’m going to want to be a part of. And likewise, the author has done their best to represent their work in a properly marketable fashion, they put in the effort that says they care about their work.
If I see a poorly drawn flower, a lopsided character’s face or otherwise boring cover on excessively-cheap paperback, I likely won’t pick it up. The author/publisher did not put in any effort, so why should I?
Now, for you readers who are shouting, BUT! “Such-and-Such” was FABULOUS, and it has a HIDEOUS cover. Yes, I’m sure there are plenty exceptions to this generalization I’m making. But likely that author either 1) did not care about their work enough to sport a decent cover, 2) were too inexperienced to take the time to look at the options 3) has enough awards under their belt that they can do whatever they want.
No, as book-purchasing members of society, we deserve better than that.