Windows into the Imagination

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The 30-Foot Test

At a sci-fi convention, I attended a panel about book covers. It was very educational. One of the things that I took away with me was the 30-foot test. If your cover can attract attention from 30 feet away, then it's a good cover.

In terms of ebooks, does this rule of thumb apply any more? I wasn't thinking about this when I waded into the morass of books on Amazon to find a specific one, but my resounding answer is YES! I think this rule applies even more now than ever before.

Just do a general search on any category of book and you get pages and pages and pages of books. How the h**** do you chose unless you already have something specific in mind? Amazon making it easier on readers? Amazon making the browsing experience fun and exciting? My personal answer is BULL. I find no enjoyment in wading through mountains of crap, submitting my eyes to amateur covers that I can't even read the titles of in the voluminous lists, wasting my time clicking only to be faced with summaries and descriptions my two-year old nephew can probably write better.

Why should we let publishers tell us what to read? Why the hell not? Face it, having people wade through mountains of crap to pick out the better ones so that the general public doesn't have to waste its valuable time and money on it, is the reality of the industry. It is necessary.

There is a reason why the publishing industry has evolved to what it is today. It was to meet the needs of the readers and writers. There is value in what they do. Of course, there's a lot of it that is out of date. I recognize that very clearly. But instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, we should rescue the valuable things of this industry instead of having a company that only looks at the bottom line--who will publish books merely because they are paid to and not because they believe in the author enough to take the risk--call the shots for an industry that is not simply a business, it is a valuable part of our culture.

I still find great enjoyment going into a bookstore and poring lovingly through book shelves because I know that I've had great experiences in the past. I've been able to walk away with books from known and unknown authors and enjoy them for days, if not treasure them forever. Why? Because most of the books in a bookstore are by reliable imprints. They went through the hands of those supposedly dastardly, mean and arrogant publishers who have the gall to chose the best of all the crap that passes through their inboxes and publish them for the rest of us to enjoy. Oh yes, I know they miss a few. They are only human after all, which most people tend to forget. But I have yet to find the need to throw a book by any reliable imprint into the trash because it is so badly written I can barely get through the first chapter.

I'm not a snob. I love many books and am always on the lookout for great new authors. That's why I've been scouring through Amazon's lists of free/cheap books by obvious newbies, looking for those gems. I also plunk down money I can barely afford to find those books because I'm not just looking for cheap, I'm looking for enjoyment and quality.

And what have I found? Never in my life have I had to read so much Crap, Crap, Crap. Or put up with such juvenile book descriptions from people who claim they can write but can't even put together an interesting or cohesive blurb to describe their books. Never in all my years of reading, have I had to put a book down because I can't even get past the first page without asking how the hell did this person ever get printed. Oh, it's because they paid to get it printed. Because this person is so clueless that he/she actually thinks he/she is a great writer and deserves to get printed. I'm sorry but these people make me ashamed to call myself a writer. How can we achieve any respectability in this industry when there are no standards to speak of, not even imperfect human standards?


  1. 30ft huh. Hell, with my eyesight I'd be lucky to see the shelf, let alone the cover of a book beyond 2ft Elizabeth. As for the current quagmire on offer, I agree wholeheartedly with you. It would be really nice if there was a garbage detector installed on sites like Amazon to filter out the rubbish. Sadly I can't see it happening any time soon. :)

    1. I hope readers will get to a saturation point with garbage and realize most of these self-publishers are just clueless about what it is to be a good writer and the constant time and effort it takes to be a good one.

  2. I've been thinking a lot about the cheap anybody can publish model or whatever it is called. I have been debating with myself if it makes new writers lazy. I know I have read some stuff I found to be lacking that maybe could have been made into something pretty good with some work. I'm a strong believer in the cream rising to the crop. I just hope too many people don't forget writing a good story is hard work.

    1. Same here Chris. I agree with you. Because it's so easy to publish yourself (via self-publishing) these days, many think that writing itself is easy and it's not. Or most people don't have a clue what good writing is, or have the delusion that they are good writers and should be published. But my beef is that why should the rest of us be dragged down with the rest of them because it is not a great reflection on those who are truly serious to be lumped in together with those who don't have a clue and think that just because you can publish it yourself, makes you a great writer.