1) Does it have an intriguing title? Minor considerations such as author and genre have an effect, but it has always been the title that gets me to pull a book off the shelf.
2) How cool is the cover? The title can be nothing short of interdimensionally mind blowing, but if the cover is blah, or worse, looks unprofessional, back the book goes to the shelf.
3) Does the blurb on the back make me want to start reading right then and there? Items one and two are what catch my eye, item three makes me pull out my wallet. In the blurb I expect to be told what is at stake for whom, where, and who doesn’t want the protagonist to succeed. Hardcovers without dust jackets don’t even get picked up.
I realize that most people choose books the same way I do. Some even dispense with step one and move right to the cover shot. I don’t understand how that works really because most books are displayed on shelves with only the spine showing and no one without x-ray vision can get a good look at the cover from that angle. Still, enough people insist say that’s how they do it that it must be so.
But what happens when the outside looks like a five star roller coaster and the inside reads like a twenty year old twin bed with a threadbare blanket and scratchy sheets? I’ve had this infuriating experience several times recently and it has moved me to write the following:
Don’t do it. Don’t promise something on the cover that you don’t deliver on the inside. There are a couple of authors that I will never read again because they lied to me. Worse yet, they sold me that lie under the guise of awesome entertainment.
This warning is especially apt for indie authors. Traditionally published authors usually have the reputation and backing to overcome one or two scratchy sheet books but an indie author has only her reputation. Ruin that and you are done. Word of mouth will pull out its samurai sword and hack you to bits before you can say, “get an editor.” Which brings me to my last point.
Use whatever means necessary to hone and polish your work to white dwarf brilliance BEFORE you publish. Putting your name on a book equals putting your reputation on the line, and when it comes right down to it, as authors our reputation is the only thing standing between us and the bargain bin.
So, what’s your favorite white dwarf polishing cloth?