I hate book covers.
I’m not a wealthy man, so I’ve been hesitant to spend money on my writing. My original philosophy was that, as I make a little bit of money from my sales, I’ll have a little bit that I can pour back into the process. I’ve never paid for an editor (for which I have occasionally suffered) and all four of my books have featured covers created by yours truly. Until now.
Because I have as much talent for graphic design as I do for lion taming, I finally admitted to myself that a sucky cover can drive away prospective readers, even when that cover is in no way intended to be a beautiful work of art. So I decided that, while I’m definitely not going to pay three hundred dollars for a mindblowingly gorgeous illustration, maybe it was time to start dipping my toes in the water and seeing what I could get for a more reasonable sum of money. I think it was worth it. For one thing, I’m noticeably less embarrassed to market my work. The new cover isn’t going to turn heads or anything, but I think it’s a fantastic bang for my buck. Here’s the before and after:
But I’m still wary of paying for self-publishing. As I’m marketing Tiem Mechine, now that it has a new lease on life, I keep coming across various “author services” on book advertising sites. Forty dollars for a weekend of tweets to three hundred thousand followers. Ten dollars to be included in a book site’s newsletter. Two hundred dollars for a deluxe social media promotional package. That all just makes me squirm.
Some of that stuff probably works for some books. But unless you’ve got an insanely attractive and appropriately short tagline, I’m dubious of the chances that a Twitter campaign will do much good. And who knows how many people actually read the email newsletters from all those book review sites. And if I’m going to pay two hundred dollars for a marketing campaign (outside of Roller Coaster Tycoon), it had better work miracles. I think these kinds of deals start to look very alluring to struggling, unknown writers who hunger for a wider audience. But just because we want something to work doesn’t mean we should throw our money at it. I don’t want to be so desperate for success that I’ll try anything without a second thought.
I think it’s safer (at least for now) to stick with the practical expenses. Paying for covers, editing, formatting and book trailers all make sense to me because there’s a more reliable and more tangible return on the investment. Despite old adages like “you have to spend money to make money” and “without risk there’s no reward,” for an author on a budget, it’s probably best to play it safe for a while.