Ebooks aren’t books, don’t have covers

I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to design an ebook cover for my new novel.

Who would have thought that over ten years of writing have done nothing – nothing – to improve my graphic design and drawing skills?

But I really want to get this book out there. So while I submit my manuscript to the few traditional publishers in Australia who actually welcome submissions, I’ve continued to research and experiment with cover designs that might not destroy all hope and curiosity in the would-be reader.

After investigating a number of options from crowdsourcing to having no cover at all, I finally succumbed to despair.

Fortunately, despair is where I do my best work.

I concluded it was hard to decide on a cover because I actually don’t care much about it, despite everyone saying a good cover is one of the key determinants of success.

But what does a book cover mean to me? I admit that a good cover is a wonderful thing…but I never before considered how these covers were made or where they came from. Now I know that publishers employ artists and graphic designers to create covers, but that’s part of the publisher’s trade along with printing and book binding.

Despite the prospect of “self-publishing” on Amazon, uploading an ebook doesn’t really make me a publisher anymore than playing a guitar on youtube would make me a recording company.

What I’ve actually done – and all I really wanted to do – is to write a story. It’s the publisher’s job to print books, and despite the neologism, an ebook is not a book.

To be precise, what I’ll finally be distributing on Amazon is a .mobi file containing my story. There is no cover, because there is no book. What we anachronistically refer to as ebook covers are simply advertisements.

Looking at it this way helps demystify the ebook cover a little. Plenty of people have already explained that an ebook cover is different from a physical book cover, and how the latter often fails to transfer successfully into a digital form. But it’s so different, perhaps it’s better not to think of it as a cover at all.

If nothing else, this helps me lower my expectations. At this stage, I don’t want to hire an artist to create something for my book.  Nor do I want to leave it blank or text-only. That leaves plenty of room for compromise.

At the very least, it only needs to not scare people away. If it draws some people in, better still. But we’re a long way from the ideal of having an amazing artist read your book and create something that captures the very essence of your story.

Maybe one day.

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