Every Picture Tells a Story


by Raymond M. Coulombe

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Then again, it’s exactly the way we get our first impressions of a book. If the cover has an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Hobbit on it, it’s probably not a text book.

As a writer, never discount the power of good cover art. We’d like to think that covers don’t really matter. It’s the story that matters. That’s true, in a way, but a book with an ugly cover probably won’t get read. It does not matter how great the story is. Unless you are one of a handful of very famous authors, you need good cover art.

The old pulp magazines knew their market. On the cover, male astronauts needed full space suits. Female protagonists only needed a bikini and a fishbowl helmet. The magazines knew their market ran heavily towards adolescent boys. Sure, we laugh at that now, but look at what they do for Fantasy stories. Male warriors need full body armor. Female warriors only need an armored bra, g-string and a honking big sword.

Those covers pander to a certain segment and don’t have to be very sophisticated. There is more to good cover art than that. A cover that shows an interesting character, fascinating environment, or a mysterious landscape can also draw a reader in. Appealing to a buy’s intellect can sell books too. It’s not all about appealing to below the belt urges.

Some writers are also good artists and can do their own books. Many more think they are good artists but aren’t. Even if they are good artists, it doesn’t mean they have the skills to compose an intriguing book cover. Don’t be afraid to employ the talents of a good cover artist. After all, you went through the trouble of writing a book. Don’t give up on the final mile. Make sure it’s well presented with good art.

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