Judging a book by its cover

For those self-published authors, or planning to be self-published authors, or even those who are traditionally published, or wait, even readers out there…O.K., everybody: Do you judge a book by its cover?

Here’s three of my favorite authors in the fantasy genre…lovely covers (though Patricia’s don’t translate as well to digital thumb-nails because of the intricate detail).

These authors? Never read them. Maybe they are fabulous, but the covers turn me off.

I ask about your judging books by covers because I am preparing one of my novels’ e-book cover, and might like your help judging it. I say might, because I’m a tad apprehensive in general about throwing my baby out there into the world, let alone ASKING for judgement. You know how it is; you birth that first piece of writing, coddling her at first, then taking a firmer stand with strict editing. You watch her take her first steps when you give her to your test-readers, then reform her character with more edits and proper formatting for Smashwords (then do it all over again for Kindle). Finally, you cloak her in her new cover and…shove her out into the world of 1’s and 0’s to make her own way in the hurly-burly world of e-book fiction. It’s enough to make a parent-author weep.

I read all the advice, admonishments, and reprimands out there for would-be self-publishers. Don’t make your own cover; leave that to the professionals. Nothing says “self-published” like a home-made cover. People DO judge a book by its cover, and if yours is crap they won’t even look at your prose, etc. etc. Well…alright. So I looked at the professionals’ covers in my genre, and studied what makes a cover dynamite  (this guy is snarky sometimes, but he had some really valid and helpful points). Then I thought, “What the hell, I’m an artist. My mother is an artist and photographer, we can do this together, right? How hard could it be?”

Well, it was hard, but really, really fun. I haven’t painted since my youngest was born seven years ago (something about having toxic, permanent paints out for little hands, and not having more than 5 consecutive minutes together for myself during daylight hours), so “painting” on the computer was a great re-connection to my two-dimensional art.   Mom and I wielded our collective knowledge of design, composition, and color, and our skill with Photoshop and GIMP (the super-awesome free version of P.S.) to come up with a cover for Matchmaker of Magics (you can read the first chapter from my Novels page).

So that is where you all come in. I’d like your thoughts on whether we were able to create a cover that 1) is readable, 2) catches your eye at thumb-nail size, 3) would appeal to a Young Adult audience who reads fantasy, 4) gives you a sense of what the story might be about.

If you want, just leave a comment, or do a quick thumbs up/ down. Thank you readers!

Almost there vrs 4

11 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover

  1. Intriguing, exciting and spot on for your genre…in my opinion. I really like it Mara. You guys did a fantastic job! It’s not cheesy or too photo shopy when I view it on the iPad or iPhone. I was too focused on Sacha (who was the muse for her?) to notice the borders. I do think maybe the Cartwot (sp) would be better with less transparency. Bravo!


  2. This definitely draws me in! As others have mentioned, it needs a little bit of clean-up in Photoshop to make it smoother, but that’s a minor issue. And I agree it would be great if your name popped a bit more, too. I really like how the sparkle in her eye is striking rather than cheesy. Nicely done!


    • Excellent feedback. Thank you! I’m glad to hear several people mention the larger font, particularly for my name, which I somehow feel squeamish about–feels like showing off or something. Strange, but there it is.


  3. Now I feel bad for throwing off the curve by saying, “Meh”. Fonts are a big issue for me. I think that your choice of font entices the readers and lets you in on the genre. I think that the title font needs to be a little larger. It has probably gone down with the ease of ebook apps on tablets, but the old percentage a couple years ago was 20% of book folk use an ebook reader. Like myself, many of the covers that they see are in grayscale. I am thinking about copying this over and seeing how it would look in grayscale. Would you lose a lot of the background trees (my favorite part) and the furry fella? When a person is buying a book off of their Kindle, Nook, Kobos, etc., that it how they are going to see it.


  4. You know me. I’m a picky bastard. And I think it’s great. Very well done. If one looks carefully, one can notice a photoshoppy look in the border between the foreground tree and the rest. But frankly, I’ve seen non-photoshopped photos that looked like that too. Sometimes it is the nature of contrast.

    In any event, very cool. Great job.


    • Thanks Jeff! I’ll see if I can clean up the tree a bit. Originally it was a fur tree, but the bark was so rough that it was too distracting so we tried to tone it down a bit with effects, which I think worked over all, but I agree the edge is a bit…stark?


  5. Haha… whether you ask for feedback or not, you’re going to always get it, especially once something is “out there.” 😉 That being said, my advice about book covers is that it doesn’t have to knock the reader out, it just shouldn’t scare them away. Sure, you want something that will draw their attention, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect.
    Okay, now… for your cover. That font above your name will be illegible at smaller size. Remember that most people see your cover at thumbnail size. I always like to see the author’s name bigger as well. Don’t forget that your name is your brand. Don’t be afraid to pump it up a little. Lastly, I like the girl and the trees, but the hyena/dog thingy is throwing me off. I think he’s supposed to be coming out from behind the trees, but it looks like I’m seeing through him. It’s the only visual that’s throwing me off. Covers are hard! The few I’ve made myself are simple stock art with text slapped over them. Otherwise, I’ve paid for my covers. Good luck!


    • Thank you so much for your helpful feedback–I really appreciate thoughtful criticism like yours. The “Coldwight” (that’s the hyena guy) is actually transparent at something like 45%. Maybe it’s not enough if I really want him etherial, or too much if it’s just distracting. In the book, the Coldwights are magic/ dangerous/ not understood by the people, so I guess I was trying to capture that by making him not very obvious. It may be he’s not needed at all.


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