Put Your Best Foot Forward
For those who don’t know, I run a promo post on my blog (usually) on Sunday mornings. There are a bunch of conditions, and a place to send the Amazon link to your book. What there isn’t (ever) is a guarantee that I’ll have read your book. (Why? Because, well… I don’t have that kind of time. Also I often have trouble reading books from friends, because it gets complicated.) I shall paste the rules below.
The thing is, I sometimes get books with horrible covers. I don’t mean aesthetically displeasing. It’s possible for a book cover to be ugly as sin or at least blah and fulfill its purpose. I mean horrible in terms of sales (yes, that shall be explained.) When I come across them, if I have time — not lately — I will offer to make a cover (sometimes.) Last week there was an overabundance of them, and I snapped.If you want to read what my snapping means, it’s here. Keep in mind it’s the first time I snapped. And yes, I did so with my usual care and understated gentleness. No. Not really, because when I lose it I lose it.
So, were they violating any rules? No. And that’s the worst part. Because the rules are these:
Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog. Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so. As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste. If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months. One book per author per week. Amazon links only.
So, why did I lose it?
Because every time in the past I’ve contacted people sending me books to promo whose covers were fricking appalling, I get this type of response:
“Well, if it made money, I was going to buy a real cover.”
“I don’t think the cover matters that much, does it?”
Or if I contact them about horrible blurbs or typos on the first three pages, I get “Well, I didn’t have money to get an editor” or “I don’t know how to write blurbs.”
Stop. JUST stop.
Note that the woman who used to be my best friend, the person I came up with as a writer, uses the “People don’t care about covers” excuse.
Look, what are you doing, actually? Do you think people have an obligation to buy your book? Do you think that you’re so intellectually superior to everyone else that people will be dazzled with your brilliance and buy you, regardless of how bad your book looks? DO YOU THINK — actually think — there is a psychic service that will make people INTUIT that your book is great, even though you gave it a cover that’s not even in the right genre and slapped your name on it in Times New Roman in letters so small it looks like it’s embarrassed and trying to cower in a corner? Granting you that every book has typos — the average is a dozen or so for traditionally published works — do you think you can have three paragraphs of unintelligible English up front and people will magically intuit the book is great after that?
And what, precisely, do you think my putting your book up when the cover is horrible do for you? It won’t get you a ton of sales. You might make one or two sales to the very bored. BUT not a ton. And in the process, you make every other book advertised with yours look slightly less professional.
Let’s say you have a vegetable-mart. No, two vegetable-marts, side by side.
One of them is excellent. The owner routinely drives around sourcing local produce, and everything is fresh. But after all that driving, he doesn’t have much time to actually arrange the produce, so he just sort of dumps them in piles inside, and people have to go looking to find what they want, sometimes under or behind other produce. he also never sweeps the sidewalk in front of his shop. And who has time to do a shop window display? He just puts some stuff there. In a heap.
The other supermarket just buys from national distro. The lettuces are like paper, the tomatoes could be red painted tennis balls. BUT they carefully arrange produce in the window.
Which supermarket do you think will do better? PEOPLE don’t taste the great produce. They see the terrible shop window, and they walk on!
What you’re doing when you have a cover that doesn’t work, or a blurb that makes no sense, or a bunch of typos upfront is turning people away. They’ll never know how great the rest is, they just know what they see sucks, and there’s a lot of other books to read. They might not be as good as yours, but they’ll never know how good yours is! You never gave your poor book a chance.
But Sarah, you say, I don’t have money. And? I think at one time a friend who was broke put a book out for $20. And most of that was buying the stock art. And that’s only if you can’t find it free. Look, for instance at pixabay with a simple Science fiction search set on illustration. Or if you have $20 look at dreamstime.
Then go look at books in your genre and subgenre. See what the covers look like. See how large the font is, and what it looks like. THEN try to do something like it.
It doesn’t have to be a work of art. It certainly doesn’t have to be a scene from your book (HOW would people know before they read it? And why would they care after?) it just has to be “not horrible” and signal genre and subgenre correctly (I don’t care how beautiful your drawing of your dog is, it does NOT signal science fiction.)
Your cover is a promotional billboard.
As for editing: if what you’re looking for is copyedit, the prices start at around $200. But even that is not a negating factor. FIND SOMEONE WHO KNOWS GRAMMAR. You should have a buddy or two who will do this for free. Or give it to ten of your buddies, then collect the results. Between them they should catch most typos. And then YOU go over it. Back to front. If needed with a “window” (a piece of cardboard cut so it displays a line at a time) to allow you do concentrate on each line. Even better, find another indie author and TRADE COPY EDITS. (Make sure you both know at least rudimentary grammar, first. And that both of you understand NOT to edit out the voice.)
None of this has to cost a ton. Sure, if you have money it’s faster and easier (isn’t everything?) But you can do it on a shoestring. You just have to work harder.
But if you try to just throw the poor thing out there without minimal effort? You’re not giving it — or yourself — a chance. You’re just throwing it out to fail.
There must be easier, less painful ways to self-flagellate.
So, stop doing it. Give your book — and your writing — a chance.