“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover.”

Monday musings about designing the right cover for a book

By Roger Eschbacher

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This time-worn adage is usually meant as a warning not to judge people, places or things by their surface characteristics. A person who does so should properly be judged as shallow because they can’t be bothered to look beneath a less-than-perfect surface to find a diamond in the rough—in other words, the good stuff.

Unfortunately, when it applies to actual books, potential readers do judge a book by its cover and often do so with extreme prejudice—meaning they don’t buy the book. How many times have you been scrolling through an online list or browsing through your favorite section of the local bookstore or library and come across a title only to pass it by because of the less-than-perfect cover. I know I’ve done it.

For whatever reason, the cover doesn’t meet your expectations for genre, or, even worse, just flat out looks crappy.

All the above is my way of explaining why I (and potential readers) take my book covers seriously.

Some thoughts on my current covers:

I’ve been working with my current cover designer, Keith Robinson, for years. I’ve worked with other designers since I began self-publishing (some talented, others not so much) and was grateful to have found him. As a fellow sci-fi/fantasy author he gets what I want and what is expected for each genre and always comes up with great covers that can be finalized with minimal “tweakage.”

He designed the cover for my recently published space opera, Wraith World (Ghost Star Adventures Book 2), using a different image of the same spacecraft that’s on the cover of Ghost Star (Ghost Star Adventures Book 1). It all started when I desperately reached out to Keith after the original (and talented) designer of the Ghost Star cover flaked and ghosted me (pun intended?) when I requested the paperback cover for that title. Keith saved the day and delivered an awesome wraparound cover for Ghost Star.

Next he did a redesign on two of the three covers of my YA Arthurian fantasy Dragon Friend series, which includes Dragon Friend, Giant Killer, and Elven King (this last one was a Keith original). The first covers were done by a talented friend and I was happy with them for many years, but it eventually dawned on me that what I had asked for in the cover design for DF and GK didn’t really match up with what readers expect for the “YA Arthurian fantasy” sub category. Keith’s redesign brought the covers more in line with those expectations and sales on all three books have increased.

PRO TIP: If you want to know what the expected covers are for a particular subgenre, go to Amazon and type something like “Top 100 young adult space operas” in the Kindle Store search bar. You’ll notice some commonality between these bestseller covers. For example, books in the above search tend to feature spaceships and/or futuristic-looking characters on their covers. In other words, books with covers like that meet reader expectations.

From there, Keith went on to design the Wraith World cover which, by the way, is my favorite cover to date. My vague prompt to him was “the Ghost Star spacecraft is orbiting a dead planet.”

Finally, the cover design for the upcoming Dragon Friend (The Complete 3 Book Arthurian Fantasy Adventure Series)—to be published on Monday, September 4, 2023, and obviously an omnibus or single book compilation of the Dragon Friend series—was my designer’s latest triumph. I’ve never been a fan of the Kindle “box set” 3D image as that’s obviously physically impossible and would just look weird on the paperback. (Amazon doesn’t even offer box sets for actual, self-published physical books. So, when Keith pitched the idea of splicing the three original covers onto the series cover, I took less than a second to say “yes!” While a 3D image might be better for marketing purposes, I like the idea of the same cover for both the Kindle and paperback editions.

What do you think? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, and if you want to check out my books, please visit my Amazon author page at https://amzn.to/3EdIGB3 (affiliate link).

Roger Eschbacher

lives in Los Angeles with his awesome family, a hilarious Border Terrier, and a sweet little Russian tortoise. In addition to writing fantasy and sci-fi adventure novels, he writes TV animation for Warner Bros., Netflix, Cartoon Network, Hasbro Studios and more. Roger’s YA space opera Ghost Star is a winner of the Kindle Scout competition and received a publishing contract from Amazon’s Kindle Press imprint.

Ways to learn more about Roger and his writing include:

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