Book Truthiness Time Does Your Book Cover Soar … Or Does It Suck?

Does Your Book Suck … or Soar?

For the Publishing at Sea event each winter, I must supply a copy of each book that each author will sell on the ship. The “gatekeeper” gives her thumbs up and okay. What would the book need to do to get the approval? She wanted to see for her eyes:                                                                                        

  • Is the cover professional looking?
  • Has the book been edited?
  • Could the book be identified as offensive?

Numbers 1 and 2 shouldn’t be a problem—I had done my eyeball assessment as I opened each package from the various authors as they came in … it was the #3 that I held my breath when the box was all put together and forwarded to the cruise line. Offensive—one person’s definition of offensiveness may be the direct opposite of someone else’s. With a book that I had just completed shepherding, I knew that within, there were verbiage and descriptions peppered with what many could deem offensive. And a recent leadership book had what some could deem a tad spicy.

Because of the nature of each of the books … one from a very successful business executive and other from a formally successful Las Vegas escort service (before it was busted), I knew that because of “the language) a few of the printers I use would turn the job down and therefore, I would seek a bid. The topic and contents would be offensive from prior conversations.

I suspect that I will get the green light for all books submitted. But what about yours? Will it get the green light from a book sponsor or buyer?

Let’s start with:

Is your book cover, the spine and the back cover professional looking? Did you make the investment … and it is an investment … and have a cover created that is competitive with your genre? Have you made a visit to a physical brick and mortar store and studied what is current and on the shelves? That’s your competition—at least it was for the Publishing at Sea participants.


Why authors think that their DIY will be “the one” is the “best” has always amused me. In the old days, when an author would proudly reveal his or her newly birthed book … I would verbally support them and offer encouragement. The conversation I would be having in my head may have had a totally different dialogue.

Today, I no longer keep my thoughts within if I’m asked for my opinion. The author gets it—sometimes glowing; sometimes with a: What were you thinking? … This cover is a disaster.

Yikes, it’s out of my mouth. The author may be hurt, pissed, curious or befuddled. Maybe all of the above. Or not care. If I’m asked, I will respond—it’s what the blunt to the point of me does.

Book Readability Truthiness Time
Promise me … I won’t find a typo in the first 10 pages or a major grammar or boo-boo if I have your book. Editors who are unconnected to your family and do it for a living is what you need. And get this—if I had a room with a dozen editors in it, they would have a different take on many parts of the book. There are similarities but not exact duplications of what they would correct or alter.

Book Truthiness Time
Yes, too many book covers suck. They have fallen down and can’t get up. Too many books are an editing mess.

So, how do you keep yours … and possibly your book from spiraling down the drain?

Start by looking at covers that you have been presented as options. Is it a plain Jane? Is it vibrating with the title? If there is an image, is it a grabber?  If there is a back cover sample … is it appealing? Does it have a headline to pull the reader in? How about visual breaks from text? Is it readable? Does it use keys words and phrases that connect title/them with the reader?

Get yourself to the nearest large book store. You are on a scouting mission. Look at all the new titles. What are the fonts and sizes—what grabs your attention? What about colors? Use of images? What covers are vibrating –speak to you—look at both fiction and nonfiction book covers.

Years ago, I was enjoying a cup of tea with Marcella Smith—at that time the voice and vision of the Small Press Division of Barnes & Noble. We were seating in a large booth, surrounded by the vendor’s massive display of book covers. As Marcella let her eyes travel around the booth several times, she started to jot notes. What was she doing—getting ready to put in an order—never reading the books, she judged them only by the cover. In talking with other book buyers, the universal response was, “I don’t have time to read a book—a buy by the cover and the 15-second pitch.”

Amazon Book Truthiness Time
According to BSIG, Amazon now sells over 60% of all print books in the U.S. and over 50% worldwide. You need to know what your book looks like on Amazon at the first visual take.

Shrink your cover samples down before finalizing your OK. Why? Because millions of books are sold online—your cover needs to pop when viewed small.

The wise author-to-be immediately reduces the size of the cover to a minimum of 25 percent of original size. Have your designer send you a jpg and start reducing. You will be competing with plenty of titles in your category—does yours shine? Does it have POP? Or, does it become invisible in the sea of others?

Book Title Truthiness Time
Create a provocative cover and title. Both can help sell books and get people to pick yours up. Test it with your potential book buyers—not your family and close friends. Those who have the “pain” that your book with ease and solve.

Yes, it’s what’s in between the covers and on the sheets that count the most. But, and it’s a huge but, buyers judge a book by its cover as a first step. There are wonderful designers that don’t charge an arm and a leg to create a stellar cover that becomes the beacon … come to me reader/buyer … effect you want to create. Here are editors that will make your words shine and can help you engage your reader at a level that you may not be able to.

Yes, books are judged by their covers. Readers are grumbling about all the errors they are seeing in books today. It’s the Book Truthiness of book marketing and selling. Book covers speak, are you listening? Your book readability speaks. Are you listening?

Is your book cover soaring … or does it suck? Just asking …


Ashography Event Photography

Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and is the Founder of AuthorYOU, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 37 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (ForeWord IndieFab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences. Book #37, When God says NO-Revealing the YES When Adversity and Loss Are Present. Get your copy.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Book Publishing Unplugged, a three day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2020, the dates are June 26-27.  Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at .

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