Cover Your Book: How important is the cover?

Recently, I read a Huffington Post article by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, suggesting that your book cover might need to be upgraded in order to boost sales. This isn’t the first time I’ve read articles extolling the virtues of having an exciting, first class, professional, super expensive book cover. But is it really necessary? What ever happened to the time honored cliché about not judging a book by its cover? Generally, clichés are true, right? I suppose a bad cover can keep me from buying a book but in those cases, usually the entire binding and production process is off-putting and amateurish. And I’m sure there have been times when I bought a book based solely on the cool cover. But I can also remember being disappointed by the ugly prose inside.

While covers are consistently praised for their supposed ability to boost sales, they have also been at or near the bottom on lists for “reasons people buy books.” One study was particularly interesting; I printed it out and pinned it on my bulletin board. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it came from. But the cover was at the bottom of its list. Below “reading group pick.” The two top reasons? Author reputation and personal recommendation.

So before shelling out loads of cash that starving writers don’t have, shouldn’t we ask, “Is an expensive cover a good investment?” Especially when places like Createspace offer covers “free” using theirs or your own photos and art.

So far, except for “Where the River Splits” which came from my publisher, I’ve “created” my own covers. As may seem obvious, they are included here. I consider them average. Do they inhibit sales? Do the covers merely cover my ass (CYA), or does it convey a sense of professionalism?



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