Writer’s Rant: Judging A Book By Its Cover

So does anyone remember that old sci-fi movie “Ice Pirates”? One of those ‘so bad it’s good’ space comedies?

I’m kinda toying with a ‘pulp’ idea along those lines. Maybe a series of short novellas written in the pulp style but with modern science fiction ideas. Heck, maybe even some horror stuff too. Street gangs.

I can call it “Dollar Fiction” and then give it a subtitle like “Dollar Fiction: Ice Pirates #1” or something. “Dollar Fiction: Some Other Crap Here #3”. Better yet, I’ll deliberately make them all have plain covers that cost me nothing, and in the blurb, it will say something like “Dollar Fiction’s goal is to give you modern pulp at affordable prices. Our secondary goal is to prove that a book should never be judged by its cover.”

Because I’m never going to stop being annoyed that people still judge the contents of a book by what’s on the cover. It’s ridiculous. How the hell did anyone read some boring shit like “A Tale of Two Cities” when the covers were made of stretched leather or whatever DIDN’T have 4-color, hand-drawn, original artwork (or stock photos pasted together with some lettering on them)?

Have you ever seen what a book looked like before some dude (probably a dude in NYC) decided that paperbacks were easy to make and easy to put all kinds of crazy drawings on the cover? Yeah. Books covers were as artistic as a painted wall.

Not only that, what about all that pulp back in the good ol’ days that had awesome, bloody-fanged aliens tearing human bodies apart on the cover but the story inside was totally lame? Kind of the opposite of today, right? Now you get all these great covers since everyone with Photoshop can make one, only to find out the book makes you want to tear your own body apart to not have to read it anymore.

Again, I will never be okay with judging books by their covers. We’ve been preached at from our first days of reading to never judge a book by its cover. It is a meaningless phrase these days, and that’s a shame.

It’s good advice that covers more than just books, but if it means what it is supposed to for everything else, why not books?

Why is the VERY subject of the phrase exempt from the wisdom contained within?


Because I love books, and I don’t care what the cover is. I don’t give a damn if a potential reader of one of my books says if I don’t have a good cover, I must be a lazy, stupid author who can’t be bothered to put my best effort into enticing them to read.

I say “and?” or “your point being…?”

How about “I’m an author, and my skill/talent is to WRITE books.” That works for me. Sure, I like good covers, but they shouldn’t be important unless the author wants them to be important. What’s important to me is the words that make up the book. I fail to understand how the cover, an object that can ONLY be the basis of a subjective opinion, and we all know about opinions, reflects the quality of story inside said cover.

“But you should CARE about your readers!” someone said. I heard it back there.

I do care, but I also care that readers have been force-fed the saying of “don’t just a book by its cover” only to be duped by whatever has happened in the last few decades that completely contradicts the saying so completely. Oh, marketing. Sure. I get it.

“If you won’t spend the money on a good cover, you probably didn’t spend the money on a good editor either!”

This is possibly true. But a nice lady named Martha would disagree. So would I. Notice I said ‘possibly’ true. It isn’t true. Because the story is the important part of the book, and the story is made up of words, then it can be deduced that I would care enough about the meat of the book to have it properly edited. I mean, a blank cover with a plain title isn’t a clue as to whether I spent $10000 on four editors, or $10000 on two editors to completely ruin the book by opening the file and just typing random shit into before saving and sending it off to be published.

The words inside, you’ll see quickly whether or not it has been edited.

When I want a hamburger, I want good meat with lots of trimmings and fixings. I could care less what kind of bun that will house it. To be honest, the plainer the better, as I buy hamburgers for the burger and toppings, not the bread. Same as a book. I buy a book for the words inside it, not the cover that has the words between it.

Yay. Late night writer’s rant!

PS Fuck ACX / Audible. They’ve completely changed their royalty structures in a very bad way, and the reason we have to eat it is because they practically have a monopoly on the audio book market (practically, not completely, but close enough at this point).

So, tech nerds, here’s a hot tip for you:

Go look at how ACX does things, how they help set up authors with audio producers, then come up with an audio book distribution platform that actually pays the talent (both writer and producer) a proper royalty. You’d have to challenge Amazon, who owns ACX, but you’d see a lot of authors and producers show up to see what your terms were. Audio Books are pretty hot these days.

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