Judging a book

DebE —  May 2, 2012 — 7 Comments

Tonight, I feel like talking about covers. And I’m going to begin the discussion by telling you a short story.

Kura Carpenter Design

I admit it. The purpose of this post is to advertise a friend of mine. It just takes me a while to get to it, so I'm going to stick this at the top, anyway.

Two months ago, when New Zealand Book Month was running, I decided to take advantage of some $5 book vouchers I had and buy myself some new books. It had been a while, and it felt wonderful to be scanning shelves looking for something to jump out at me. Yes, perhaps I should have scanned my Goodreads “To Read” list first, but, what can I say, I like living dangerously. Although, it has backfired in the past (granted, I am tempted to give that book one more chance, given my recent reading experience … I’ll explain further down).

Warning: I’m about to go fan-girl on you.

So, there I was scanning the shelves in the Fantasy section of a bookstore … Yeah, I was being lazy and couldn’t be bothered looking wider than that. And, I know there is a lot of crap Fantasy out there, but I still love the genre because my greatest reading experiences have been in that genre.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, I was scanning the shelves and a set of books jumped out at me:

Book one, being:

The Way of Shadows - Brent Weeks

"The Way of Shadows (Book one of The Night Angel Trilogy)" by Brent Weeks

Why did it stand out? Because, on a shelf full of dark covers, white does. And then the second thing stood out to me. The author’s name.

Remember the backfire above? Yeah, well, that book had an endorsement from Brent Weeks. So, I very nearly dismissed him. Especially because, heck, just look at that cover. Doesn’t it just scream teenage boy’s dream? Yeah. Well, I’m not a teenage boy.

But, then I saw this:

The Prism - Brent Weeks

"The Prism (Book One of the Lightbringer Series)" by Brent Weeks

And then I picked it up …

The blurb enticed me because I could see parallels with one of my own characters (now, having read it it’s a different scenario … but it might not have been).

I nearly didn’t take it … that endorsement …

But … I mean, look at that jaw-line. Just look at it. And that’s a pretty knife. But, I admit, it was the woman in me that was drawn to this. And, it didn’t disappoint.

Okay. So, yes, I read blurbs before I decide to buy/borrow a book. But, I don’t have the time to read every single blurb in a store or library, so what comes first (well, ideally a recommendation from a friend … but, I do also love to discover things for myself – which is when I get all fan-girl-ish)? The cover image, of course!

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover? Fair point. There are some average covers on some pretty fun reads out there. But we do.

It’s like beauty only being skin deep. But, there are billions of people out there. In the hunt for the perfect mate, you’re going to start by looking. And, barring disfiguring accidents and plastic surgery, our looks are generally a good indication of our genetic fitness … people study these things.

It’s probably why publishers have a go at releasing different edition with new cover art. If nothing else, it’ll gain a few extra sales to those who are avid collectors.

My point is that while writing the story is the number one priority for us writers, if we want people to consider reading it, we need a good cover. Now, I like to draw, but that doesn’t mean I’m all that good at it, and design is a whole other skill set. I will likely need to consider getting a designer to do a cover for me. And where will my first stop be? Kura Carpenter Design, of course (o:

Right, now to tie up some loose ends:

loved “The Black Prism”. It was the most fun I’ve had while reading for a long time. I’ll admit (before someone says “I’m never reading anything you’ve written, ’cause you endorsed that book”) it wasn’t perfectly written. But, it was pretty darn good. And the colour-magic? Stunning mental imagery. If they ever make a movie, I hope they do it justice. Now I’m gutted because the next book in the series doesn’t come out till September, and Mr Weeks is still working on the one after that! Argh!

So, to tie myself over, I read “The Way of Shadows” … the cover was right. It is a great story for a teenage boy. The librarian who checked it out for me said she’d considered borrowing it for her son, but flicking through it she thought it was too grown up. Personally, I’d be happy to fling it my fifteen year old’s way (but, that’s thirteen and a half years away, yet). An awesome ninja-type assassin man who’s a virgin into his twenties? Wouldn’t mind letting kids know it’s okay to be too busy to get into that stuff (not that I’m a prude, I just wish it didn’t feel like a competition for who can get there first). I really enjoyed about the first third of the book. And then the characters got a bit bogged down with all the twists and turns and it all got a bit less fun. Still quite a good tale, and I now have the Omnibus winging its way to me, so I’ll be able to let you know how the trilogy goes …

And the backfire? “An unalloyed pleasure”? I didn’t think so. But, maybe I missed something in my reading of it … I’ll try again another day before I pass final judgement. Perhaps it just needed a slightly less awesomely worded endorsement. Perhaps, if the endorsement had been more like the stock standard “A fast-paced adventure of swashbuckling proportions” … Okay, I made that up. But, no one’s asking my opinion.

Go visit Kura! She makes pretty pictures.




Deb E was born in New Zealand’s North Island, but her parents corrected that within months, moving south to Dunedin and staying there. Childhood nights were spent falling asleep to cover versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows and other Rock ’n Roll classics played by her father’s band, and days were spent dancing to 45 LPs. Many of her first writing experiences were copying down song lyrics. She graduated to scientific reports when she studied a nematophagus fungus in the Zoology department of the University of Otago, trading all traces of popularity for usefulness… then traded both for fiction. Mum of one human & four fur-babies.

7 responses to Judging a book


    Ooo, good points here. I’m so nervous about getting our cover right. I think I’ve found the perfect artist, but getting it to stand out will be difficult with the plan I have. Hmmm…


      Yes, I think cover design is a very tricky one. That’s especially why I’m put off doing my own. I’m not a fast draw-er (to differentiate myself from an item of furniture), so if I wanted to see a few options, it’d take me AGES. Much easier to go to a professional. Apparently it took a huge number of different poses to get the right one for The Black Prism. I think they did well. It totally appealed to my most base instinct …


        It is a really fabulous cover. I like the one for the other book too (the white cover really does stand out). The smirk is perfect.


          Totally agree. It wasn’t totally the “teenage boy fantasy”-look that put me off (if anything that very nearly got me buying it – as a writer, it’s a demographic I also hope to appeal to on some level) … I actually must admit, it was simply the fact that my first impression of the author was his endorsement of a book I ended up being disappointed in. Gosh … Making endorsements are risky!


    I like buying the illegal books, the ones with the covers torn off. It’s like sticking a finger in the eye of the publishing companies.


      And that’s probably all most struggling authors can afford to buy. I feel like I’ve been splurging a bit this year. In future, I think I will be migrating to digital copies, though … not sure how one tears a cover off those …
      (For the record, I use open source ebook manager “Calibre” on my PC, and free ebook reader “Moon Reader” on my Android mobile).

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. About That Cover . . . Another Indie vs Publisher discussion | Deb E - June 20, 2012

    […] several weeks ago, I talked about cover art. Today, I read this rather interesting article about going indie. It’s not the first time […]

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