Covers… Or, what were they thinking?

Let’s be honest, the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is tossed around for a reason.

And who doesn’t? We all do. You pick a book up because of is cover. Sometimes you put it down because of the cover. Even a great blurb often can’t get a reader past a really bad cover.

Now, as an indie writer, I think that holds true even more.

How often has a NY published friend cried over her cover to you (or maybe you’ve been the one in tears)… and there was nothing either of you could do? Maybe it’s ugly or doesn’t represent the book, or looks like a different genre, or the model is tall and blond when the heroine is a short, voluptuous, red-head… So many ways a cover can go wrong.

And so, when I see bad (ugly, cheap looking, hard to read, doesn’t match genre, etc) covers of indie books I want to scream, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?????

YOU had 100% of the decision-making power over what cover goes on your book. YOU. When I see a bad cover, I wonder if the writer skimped everywhere: writing, storytelling, editing…where else am I going to cringe.

Before I picked out the cover for KISS, I looked at a whole bunch of Rom Com covers. Let me show you a few that I loved and seemed to sum up the Rom Com genre done well to me:

If you’ve been on my Goodreads page, you’ll notice some of my 5-star books aren’t represented here. It’s not that those books don’t have great covers, but the ones I loved seemed to have some common themes:

  • Couples
  • No faces
  • Everyone is dressed

No, really. Everyone is dressed. One of the things I’ve noticed is that with NYC covers, Rom Coms typically equal everyone is dressed. In Indie, not so much. I found that I’d passed over a whole heck of a lot of Rom Coms because I’d assumed they were erotica (or really steamy) based on the 1/2 naked couple about to get it on on the cover.

That may happen in your books, but the reader of Rom Coms has been programmed by NYC covers… the ones that typically don’t have 1/2 naked people on them. Don’t ignore the programming.

Here are some I loved that didn’t it my theme, but they definitely reinforced the “feel” I wanted:

And, let’s add Courtney Milan’s new Indie Pub:

Obviously, this isn’t my genre, but she’s done everything right. It feels like a Courtney Milan book. It looks like what her readers have come to expect from her covers. It’s plain old gorgeous. It has that little key to go with the title, great add. The fonts are easy to read and balanced.

So, after looking at great examples, figuring out what I liked, deciding what best represented Rom Coms to me,  I went in search of a cover.

And couldn’t find one.

It was disheartening, but I put off publishing KISS because I couldn’t find a cover that I was willing to have represent the story.

I was going to make one (yeah, this has DISASTER written allllll over it) – I got friends to say they’d be models. I got the Irish pub down the street to let me take pictures, I was ready to go. And then, as if by divine intervention, a cover popped onto my radar. (points left)

I’m amazingly happy with it and the adds that Razzle Dazzle did. I’m pleased that it has the right feel, it represents the story, it looks professional, and it says (to me), “Yes. The writer put actually thought and work into this publication.”

And so, if you’re looking to Indie Pub, I challenge you — Do NOT publish something quick and fast with a cover that doesn’t say to the reader exactly what you want it to. They will look past it, misinterpret it or just plain make fun of it (thank goodness for that make-my-own-cover-disaster being diverted) – Just like your writing, put your best foot forward.

Start with research. End with a great cover.



  1. I definitely judge a book by the cover. It’s the first thing that makes me pick up the book. If it draws my attention, I’ll read the back copy. For me the images have to be top notch. They can’t be cheap photo stock. I want something that looks professional. Faces… I’m fine with seeing faces. It doesn’t influence me much. I do agree with the clothed part though.

    • Yeah, the seeing faces was just a preference… it was the *cof*bad*cof* covers that always made me cringe. If that’s your best foot forward, waht can I expect from your writing.

      Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. But, that’s all I have to go on.

  2. Excellent observations. I love your cover!

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