Sunday, 16 June 2013

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover?

'How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy' gets an updated cover.

'How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy'
The original concept sketch and the finished cover.
Everyone's heard of the phrase 'Never judge a book by its cover' and while I would agree with this advice when it comes to judging people, when it comes to an actual book I think the advice doesn't always hold true.  In terms of the quality of the book and how interesting and enjoyable readers will find it, then yes, you have to look beyond the cover and actually read the book to discover whether it's the book for you.

However, you can nevertheless usually still judge some things from the cover of a book.  For example, if the cover shows a dude and a dudette looking lovingly into each other's eyes over a romantic candlelit dinner then you can guess that it's probably a romance novel.  Or if the cover shows a werewolf under a Full Moon then it's a fairly safe bet that werewolves will feature in the story somewhere.  So in some cases you can generally at least judge the genre of the book by its cover.

I wanted to follow that principle with my own book cover, and give readers a very basic idea of the plot.  I think I'm not giving any spoilers away when I say that the plot of 'How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy' deals with aliens who are planning to destroy the world*, so on that theme I decided an image of the world with a gravestone on top and an alien spaceship flying away would make an appropriate cover which gave potential readers a brief window into the plot.

* Or are they?

I then described this idea to my mate who's an artist and he drew up the original concept sketch which visualised my idea.  He made a couple of slight improvements to my initial description, for example I originally pictured the date on the gravestone being obstructed from view by the spaceship, but he used a cloud to obscure the date, but anyway in about five minutes he quickly knocked up a concept sketch which captured the general spirit of what I was looking for.

The original title of 'How To Save The World'
was 'A Lush Snaky Trick' (a Geordie expression
 for a funny prank) but my mate misheard me and
originally thought I said, 'A Lush Sneaky Trick'.
Due to various reasons, he never quite got around to producing a final cover, so further down the line I decided to make a more colourful cover myself, and I based the updated cover on his original sketch.

Publishing websites generally advise against doing a cover yourself, and recommend paying a professional designer or artist.  Once you reach a certain established level I would agree, but when you're just starting out I think it's important to be humble and realise that the overwhelming majority of indie authors don't make a living from their books.  It's probably not wise therefore to spend money in anticipation of significant sales.

As it turns out there have been periods where I've made far more than I expected from my books*, but in my case as an indie author my motivation is the fun and excitement of publishing my books.  It's an amazing buzz to see something you've worked on for months or years available on the internet for people all around the world to buy and read.

* Due to my unambitious expectations, and not due to significant book sales!

So I figured that seeing as how self publishing a book is an extremely exciting experience, why pay someone else to experience part of the fun on my behalf?  If you later become established and it becomes more about making money, then yes, a professional cover absolutely becomes an important step, but in the early days it should be more about the fun of creating.

Given that most people's introduction to your book will be a tiny 2cm thumbnail on Amazon, I figured the best idea for a noticeable thumbnail would be to either have a colourful cover or to fill the cover with the title.  As I wanted to stick with the concept sketch, I therefore went down the colourful route.

I produced an updated cover using Gimp (an excellent free photo manipulation app which I definitely recommend) and overall I was pleased with the results.  The new cover coincided with a five day free promotion I had on Amazon which more than exceeded my expectations, so perhaps the colourful new cover was more eye-catching than the original black and white cover, and maybe played a small part in attracting attention and getting so many downloads.

In recent weeks I've also updated the covers for books 2A and 2B in the 'How To Save The World' series and once again the theme of the covers centres on an image of the world.  Once again each cover also gives a small glimpse into the plot of each book and I plan to use similar Earth themed covers for the forthcoming releases of parts 3A, 3B and 3C in the series.

Some of the photos I used when creating the updated cover.
Footnote: If any indie authors reading this reach a level where you decide to use a professional cover designer, then I would recommend using a website such as  How it works is you describe your book, set your budget, and then designers submit their cover designs and you pick the best one.  Design Crowd features some excellent designers submitting really eye-catching book covers, so if you do decide to pay for a professional cover then it's definitely worth a look.

I wouldn't recommend going direct to a designer, unless you know them personally.  I've seen some pretty bland and anonymous looking professional book covers which authors have actually paid money for, so using a website like ensures you avoid the risk of ending up with a cover you're not entirely happy with.  With Design Crowd, you have a choice of covers to choose from (an average of 46 ideas per project), and you're not just handing money over blindly without knowing what you'll get for your money.

If you're a new author just starting off though, then I would recommend doing the cover yourself and enjoying the fun of creating.

. . . . . . . .

How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy by Charles Fudgemuffin is currently free for Kindle from Amazon:
US: How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy
UK: How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy

Reader discretion is advised, however, as the 'How To Save The World' saga is suitable for ages 18+ and is not recommended for prudes or squares.

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About The Author

The 'How To Save The World' books
by Charles Fudgemuffin
Charles Fudgemuffin is the author of the alien comedy 'How To Save The World' books which are available for Kindle from Amazon.  The first book in the series is available from the following link:
How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy

As with all Kindle books, you can also download a free sample of the first few chapters.

Please note, the 'How To Save The World' books contain material suitable for ages 18+ and are not recommended for prudes or squares.