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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Book, and its Cover



“You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Everyone says that, but does anyone actually believe it? Yeah, sure, there may be a few edge cases out there who ignore the cover art and withhold judgment until they’ve actually read a good portion of the content—and of course, there’s the National Library Service braille and audio book library, which I wholeheartedly support—but most prospective readers judge books...

a.) first, by the recommendations of their friends—
b.) then by prior experience with the author, if any—
c.) then by recommendations from famous media personalities—
d.) then by published reviews and online ratings—
e.) then by the reputation of the author, if they have no prior direct experience—
f.) then by a quick glance at the cover art—
g.) and then, God willing, by actually reading a significant portion of what’s behind that cover.

Hence the problem for the indie publisher, and especially an indie publisher like Rampant Loon Press, which likes to focus on new and upcoming writers who are just beginning to build their reputations. If the author doesn’t already have an established rep (scratch b and e), and we don’t have the budget for the kind of publicity and advertising campaigns needed to get major traction with c and d, that leaves us with a, f, and if we’re very lucky, a little d, mostly in the form of online reader reviews, as tools to use to coax prospective readers along to point g, which is the entire objective of this exercise.

As for going bigger on d: no, seriously, we don’t have the budget for that, and thanks for offering to help, but it isn’t just a matter of coming up with another $50 or $100 or so. It costs a minimum of $425 to get into Kirkus Reviews, and the costs of a serious advertising campaign just go up from there. Online advertising is nominally cheaper, but not very effective: for all the money we’ve spent on Facebook and Amazon ad campaigns, we’d be better off if we’d just heaped dollar bills in a big pile and set fire to them. At least then we’d be warm. 

As regards a, that’s something you can’t buy or force to happen, no matter how much money you throw at it. You can only try to build a community of people who might eventually become friends, and that in a sense is what we’ve been trying to do, with greater or lesser degrees of success, ever since the launch of The Ranting Room back in February 2005. (Hmm. There’s still some good stuff out on that site. I should loot it and recycle it here.)

But—building a community of writers, and people who like to read? To build a community of people who are by nature quiet, reclusive, introverted, and averse to communal activities?

Well, it’s certainly a challenge. And for my next I trick, I shall enter the Iditarod with a sled pulled by a team—of cats!

I suppose I could go the c route, or rather the pseudo-c route, and pretend to be a famous media personality. That could work. If you make your pond small enough, it’s easy to look like a big fish. If I claimed to be leading a literary movement—or better yet, a revolution!

Nah. No. That’s not me. I’ve been resisting that siren’s call for 35 years, and it’s been the source of much tension around here. Stupefying Stories: it’s not about me. It’s about the writers whose stories I want lots of other people to read, because they’re writing great stories.

Which brings us, in a rather longer and more roundabout way than I’d planned, to item f, and to Stupefying Stories #22: how we planned it, how we picked the stories we wanted to include in it, how we decided on the cover story, and how we wound up choosing between two potentially terrific pieces of cover art:


...to be continued...

1 comment:

Phil said...

I like the gray cover (more literary) but I think the other cover may draw more eyes on the magazine rack.