How I Choose the Books / A Post for Authors #2

All – there are a lot of independent authors who read this blog.  While this post is primarily geared toward them, I’m sure some of you will find it a little bit interesting!


OK, by popular request here is a continuation of the “How I Choose the Books?” thread I started last week.  I received a lot of emails about the subject which was great, but (there is always a but) rather than express your thoughts in an email why not post it here at the bottom of this post?  I’m sure your friends, neighbors, and critics here would like to see more viewpoints.

If you missed the first thread regarding a sloppy book description, you can read it and comment on that thread if you click here or type in into your web browser.

As background, about two dozen or more independent authors send me notifications each day of their books going free on Amazon wanting me to publish it on my largest blog. I’m more than happy to do it, as I have been called lazy at times in the past and having someone else tell me about a free offer decreases the amount of time I have to run my manual methods of seeing what is free for a particular day. I reject about 75% of the book submissions for about half a dozen reasons – if I’m rejecting them from a promotion standpoint, you can certainly bet potential readers would do the same if they saw most of the books being submitted to me.

Continuing my “Top Something” list of to avoid promoting because either (a) similar promotions tell me it won’t be that successful because few people click on it – despite a book being free, (b) my blog readers tell me what they didn’t like about a certain thing or feature, or the somewhat reliable gauge of (c) my gut tells me not to do it.

#2 on this unofficial “Top Something” is a bad book cover.  I will be the absolute first to raise my hand and say any book cover I have done myself looks pathetic.  As an example, as well as an opportunity for you to engage in a hearty round of group ridicule at my expense, look at the cover for one of my blogs by clicking here or typing in your web browser.

It is absolutely horrible, and all of my book covers used to look like this, too: PowerPoint page converted to a JPG file and uploaded to the Amazon server.  That’s about the best you can expect in 47 seconds of effort.  I need to pay or barter with someone to design a better button / cover for just about everything!

On the other hand, I disagree with the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” when it comes to marketing the unknown author. Stephen King can get away with a plain black cover with a not-so-professional font if he wanted to just because he’s Stephen King.  As an independent author trying to slug it out and rise above the noise in the various eBook stores, you need to take every step possible to get an eBookstore browser to (a) click on your book title, (b) press the “get a free sample” button, and, (c) take a chance on your book and buy it as it will put a little bit of jingle in your pocket.  Face it, people really aren’t going to click on your book because you have a snappy title – they are going to click on the book with an interesting cover that fits the genre and gets attention and makes them want to learn a little more.

For me, during my super-quick evaluation of what I am going to promote each day on the Free Kindle Books and Tips blog boils down to a couple of factors – sure, I read the book description first followed by a couple of other things, but I will also freely admit if the cover looks amateurish or just really looks bad, nine times out of ten I will pass it up and move on to something else before I even bother with the book’s description.  If it doesn’t grab my attention, it probably won’t grab a potential reader’s attention. 

It’s a lot like my day job when I am reviewing the 75 resumes we received that day alone for an individual job posting: if you don’t grab my attention quick to let me know I should hire you right now, chance are I’m going to discard your resume, never to be thought of again, as I move on to the next resume.

You could have a great-looking cover but it doesn’t fit the genre.  As an extreme example, but actual things that are submitted to me for possible inclusion on the blog: I really can’t see a science fiction book compelling me to look further if it has a lot of flowers on a random field in Kansas – I want to see a space ship and possibly a planet in the background (I could do without the goofy-looking aliens).  Mystery, thriller, and action books need something to draw me in vs. a picture of a car on a lonely highway with clouds in the distance.  If you’re going to sell a romance or a book that has a hint of suggestiveness in it, give me a tease of a picture such as some long legs vs. a close-up crotch shot (leave a lot to my overly-active imagination vs. giving me an up close and personal visual that will probably make me say “gross” out loud).

All that may be fine and dandy and you say “my pictures and graphics look great!”  Maybe they do, but you may have gone and ruined it by using a weak or “cute” font (see my own personal example above with the cover).  Be bold, striking, whatever with your font – but I also need to read at least the title on that button view in the Amazon Kindle store.  We’ve all seen examples – the font is thin and weak (or worse, it’s Kid Print or Comic Sans), or the colors of the font don’t agree with the book cover’s backgrounds or one of 100 other reasons that I can’t quantify right now but, like Tipper Gore, I’ll know it when I see it.

To make a long story short – if you can’t beat out a good looking cover quickly, hire someone to do it!  I just started doing the same, and for those I did I have seen an uptick in sales for not only the books I’ve written but the blogs I write, also.  I can’t point to a direct correlation and say a new cover increased my sales by XX units or XX percent, but it sure looks a lot better to me and their individual ranks have maintained a higher ranking.

All that being said, I am investing in new cover art because I just can’t do it nor do I have the time to sit down and learn how to do it right – that’s not my area of expertise and I am willing to bet it’s not too many of yours, either.

We all need to find a way to get prospective browsers to turn into habitual purchasers: people will look for any excuse to not buy your offering and will move on to something else in their quest to find a new good book or favorite author.

Thoughts? Comments? Complaints (you certainly won’t hurt my feelings)? Fire away in the comment field below – if you are reading this on your e-Ink Kindle, you can type in into a web browser and enter your thoughts!

Thanks for listening, and I’ll have #3 on my list in a future post if you’re still interested.


Have a great night-

Michael Gallagher


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Eight FREE Kindle Books This Morning
4 FREE Kindle Books This Afternoon


  1. E Ann Black says

    You didn't mention book cover color. My first book by Harlan Cohen was purchased by color. it was solid orange and caught my eye against those hundreds of books strain at me. He became my favorite author with that book. I found all his previous books and all new ones after that. course his name led me after that first purchase but the color was step one.

  2. says

    I have to agree I am a person who 1st looks at the cover berfore looking inside the book. It has to make me stop to take a second look inside. Thank you by the way for doing all the hard work. I really enjoy looking through you list of books everyday!

  3. Sharon Bishop Smith says

    I have been very pleased with most of the books I have selected. There were a couple that I started but did not care for and quit reading them. But hey they were free! Several authors that I am new to I am anxiously awaiting their next novel. Thanks for introducing me to some new authors! Love the blot!!!

  4. Elizabeth Antkowiak says

    I am so grateful for your app- before it– I spent lots of time trying to find books I'd like to read– and found some— but your app makes it ' a piece of cake' Thx!

  5. Audrey Dorofy says

    You make some good points. I have read book descriptions, thought I was interested, but then took a look at the cover and decided to pass.

  6. says

    Oh, oh! I'm concerned about the cover part. I already submitted to you my next free book. The cover is somewhat unusual. Yes I paid a professional and yes it was my choice. The day I posted the new cover on Facebook, I came out of yoga to find a raging controversy over the cover. I still get comments. You either love or hate. Hope you love it.

  7. Barbara Schwartz Freitag says

    As a person who couldn't care less about art, I care about content. Do you post books that are fictional but not horror or romance _– just a good book about a family situations such as "We are the Mulvanys"?

  8. says

    Book Cover for me too then the type of book.I'm a busy mom so I only take a few quick minutes to scan through them. Love your blog and thanks for the free book option. Great way to explore new authors.

  9. Alison DuFlon-DeLeo says

    I must admit that I am a person that judges a book by its cover, although I have gotten some great books for free online that have bad ones. I can afford to do that if they are free. I read so many books that it is sometimes annoying when they change a cover on a book because even though it is familiar I sometimes re buy it. :-}

  10. Shelli L. MacElderry says

    I love that you take the time to weed out and then post. What you do is truly appreciated. Please keep it up!

  11. Elizabeth Antkowiak says

    If a HOT guy is on it— right away that let's me know that I'm going to pass on that one — not into graphic sexual stuff for reading.

  12. Donna Dubert says

    I agree about the cover art but I also look at the title. Some of them are so very ridiculous that I won't even read what it is about or if I do it is to see more ridiculous stuff to laugh. I favor Mystery, Sci Fi and YA so anything flowery or anything that says "religious" anything I don't even look at, or anything that looks like it might be that flavor. Yes, I can tell by the cover, the font, don't even need to read the description. The ones I am interested in I then read the description and then look at the reviews and ratings, especially the low rated reviews, to see why they didn't like it. If it says it was very poorly edited and the author makes the same spelling and/or grammar mistakes throughout I probably won't read it. If you are going to put a book out there for people to read and enjoy, it has to flow and nothing makes a clunky book stumble more than poor editing. Sometimes it looks like if the author just had a friend read it most of the errors would have been caught. So for me it is good cover and font to bring me in, then please please please get an editor!

  13. Elaine Dauber Thornton says

    As a Kindle author, I wanted my cover to be perfect. Almost as important to me, though, is the back cover. That reveals professionalism and content.

  14. says

    I read light mysteries…at this point in my life I want entertainment. I am attracted to covers with bright colors and whimsical artwork…means I won't be terrified by the gore or give me bad dreams. So I have definite criteria in book covers and in the stories.

  15. Margaret Skea says

    Sorry to display my ignorance, Michael, but by ‘button view’ in the Amazon store do you mean the teeny c 1cm high image below the usual book cover image which has the ‘look inside’ feature attached?

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