I listen to Joanna Penn’s podcast regularly. She’s a certifiable success and role model when it comes to indie publishing and attracts high-level talent for her interviews. I’ve broadened my network and likely improved my craft just in the short time since I discovered her.
In one of her recent episodes, she interviewed the designer of her fiction book covers, Derek Murphy. By all accounts, Derek seems like a very nice guy and is indisputably talented. He’s designed hundreds (thousands?) of covers in the past few years and has no doubt enhanced the appeal of books that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
And now to my point: should all books be noticed? It was bad enough when the “indie movement” first took off and suddenly, everyone was an author! Then there was NaNoWriMo, which practically mandated that everyone write a novel! As someone who’s been a writer for his entire career, and writing novels for more than ten years, I take umbrage with the notion that possessing a computer and an internet connection endows upon you the skills of structure, plotting, character development, dialogue.
Derek is about to start providing Microsoft Word templates so indie authors can design their own covers–halfway decent covers at that. It’s hard enough for the good books to rise above the mediocre books, and now we won’t have their covers to help us distinguish between them.
The process used to be self-qualifying: if you wrote a lousy book, chances are you’d put a lousy cover on it, and we really could judge a book by its cover. I’m generalizing, of course, but I would think that really good writers, those with discriminating taste who bother to proofread and format their content correctly, wouldn’t settle for a cover they designed themselves.
I’m fortunate enough to have a best friend who’s not only a brilliant designer, but who listens and collaborates, too. If I didn’t have him, I’d surely pay someone to design my covers, because I know how important they are, and I want the cover to be indicative of the quality inside.
I’d be willing to bet that many of the books that end up using Derek’s templates will be camouflaging mediocre content with pretty pictures.
Must we lower all the barriers to entry?
Author’s note: To give this post some context, the author is a 20-year advertising veteran who has seen his profession devalued beyond recognition with the advent of digital technology that makes everyone not only a writer, but also a website designer, a photographer and a videographer. Some chafing is to be expected.