We all know the old adage about how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right? Riiiiight. And we also shouldn’t eat an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting, or stay up until 2am on a weeknight watching I ROBOT on TV for the hundredth time. But we still totally do. It can’t just be me, can it? So to that end, why live in denial? Why don’t we just embrace the fact? After all, there’s another saying: a picture’s worth a thousand words. I am just FULL of these today.
See, reading is all about imagination. A good book gives you just enough detail to get you started on imagining the world in which it takes place. The rest is up to the reader. That’s part of the pleasure. And also part of the reason why it’s so very hard to read when you’re tired. Because reading engages your brain. You combine the author’s words with your own visuals to create a beautiful collaboration born of your combined imaginations. Or, I dunno. Maybe you’re not good at imagining and it looks more like a crappy stick-figure land. I don’t know your life. But I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
What I’m saying is, to get to that point in a book it takes some time. And most human beings are famously, annoyingly short on time. We’ve got chips to eat, Will Smith movies to watch. We ain’t got time to bleed...er, to waste on imaginary lands we’re not interested in. Therefore, we‘re always looking for shortcuts. We want some quick indication of whether a book is worth investing our time in or not.
And that is where book covers come in.
Book covers aren’t always an accurate representation of the story within. BUT WHAT IF THEY WERE? How great would that be? If I could pick up a book and immediately see dinosaurs with laser guns and exploding volcanos and hot-but-sensitive time traveler heroes riding said dinosaurs (any dude worth his salt would befriend dinosaurs instead of fighting them) and fighting robots, and I could know that’s actually what I’d find inside, I’d be all “sign me up!” That sale would be completed before it even started. (Somebody please write that book.)
However, if I found that book in a store today, I’d have to be cautious about my excitement. I’ve been burned too many times before, see. There are so many exciting covers out there that mask boring stories. And the reverse is true too. Anyone read Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series? I got into it because I loved ENDER’S GAME and a friend suggested it to me. Also, the cover of the first book isn’t too awful. But by the time you get to HEARTFIRE, all bets are off. It looks like a cheesy dime store romance novel. Not an awesome alternate history fantasy adventure novel. I mean, yeah. The title doesn’t help much. But it’s the picture that makes it especially embarrassing.
Expectation is important in novels. You have to set up your reader with certain expectations…and then deliver on them. That’s how you keep readers happy. And the cover art for your book is the beginning of that. It needs to reflect what’s inside. It needs to capture the essence of your story. It needs to represent those thousand words, and hopefully more. Because if it doesn’t, you’re going to have at least one sad, disappointed reader with a new laser dino covered door prop.
Max McKay gets a second chance at life when, after a bizarre accident on his sixteenth birthday, he is reanimated as a new breed of thinking, feeling zombie. To secure a spot for his eternal soul, Max must use his video game prowess as well as the guidance of Steve the Death God to make friends and grow up. As if all that weren’t hard enough, Max discovers that he’s not the only zombie in town. As he enlists the help of his new friends, Adam and Penny, to solve the mystery of their un-dead classmate, Max discovers that he must level up his life experience in order to survive the trials and terrors of the upcoming zombie apocalypse. And, even worse, high school.
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Genre – YA
Rating – PG
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