The (Cover’s) the Thing . . .

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

It’s an expression so common, so overused, many of us may turn a deaf ear to it.  Perhaps we even roll our eyes and think, Can they spew out more cliches while they’re at it?


But for authors who have worked countless hours on a novel, experiencing the high, soaring peaks and muddy, shallow bottomlands of the creative journey, and who stuck through the process, even on those dark days when all seemed lost and the literary well seemed as dry and barren as the surface of a dead world floating endlessly in orbit, the notion that the story, their story, which they have finally completed, needs the window-dressing of a sensational cover may at first blush seem rather insulting.  After all, isn’t it the story that counts?  The prose?  The characters that populate the pages?  Shouldn’t the novel stand alone, on its own merit?


Of course it should, and, to a large degree, it does.  But readers can only enjoy your story if they know it exists.  They can’t become entranced by the literary world you’ve created unless they first choose to purchase the book.  And, apart from family, friends, friends of friends, what can an author who is anything but a household name do to attract a broader readership?  Social media, paid advertising, marketing, and of course joining the wonderful WordPress community are all potential ways of discovering a wider audience.


But creating a can’t-miss, spectacular cover for your book is essential, and its something comic book publishers have known, and practiced, since the first issues hit the newsstands nearly a century ago.

As a lifelong comic book collector, I am not ashamed to admit–there are some vintage issues I have acquired over the years simply on the basis of the cover alone.  I can well imagine the comics buyer from decades ago, the ten-year-old with the freckles, the teenager in pigtails, spinning the squeaky rack, deciding which issues they should plunk their dimes and nickels and pennies on.  In an era before cable television, before VHS cassettes and DVDs, and long before the Internet and smartphones, comic books were wildly popular.  Hundreds of issues graced the stands every month.


A great cover was not just an option.  It was a necessity.

Classic comic book covers came in all genres, all styles, all moods . . .

From the bombastic . . .


to the fun . . .



to the spooky . . .



to the startling . . .




to the adventurous . . .



to the ironic . . .


to the larger-than-life . . .




When it came to The Eye-Dancers, I knew from the outset who I wanted to design the cover.  One of the earliest posts on this website covered (pun intended!) this topic.  Matt Gaston, artist, graphic designer, and all-around talented and creative guy, is a lifelong friend of mine.  I was very fortunate that he agreed to do the cover for the novel when I asked him.

Like me, Matt is a longtime comic book collector, and we agreed that the look and feel of The Eye-Dancers cover should pay homage to our hobby.  So whenever anyone tells me, as some have, that the cover of The Eye-Dancers reminds them of a graphic novel or a vintage comic from yesteryear, I smile.  I’m sure Matt does, too.  We wouldn’t want it any other way.


When we were kids, Matt and I used to talk about the future.  Maybe we’d team up and do a comic book strip.  I’d be the writer, he the artist.  We never quite made it to collaborating on a comic strip.  But I like to think that The Eye-Dancers represents a little slice, a miniature helping of that long-ago dream.


When that last sentence is written, when you shed a tear at “The End,” thinking of the long journey, the obstacles overcome, when you hope that your characters will move readers, that your words, your similes and metaphors, your twists and turns, your story will carry them away to another world, far, far away, beyond some distant, star-speckled horizon, consider those classic old comic books that wowed the young, and young at heart, of bygone eras . . .

No book should be judged by its cover.  But it just might be purchased because of it.

Thanks so much for reading!


34 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. G.L. Jackson
    Feb 14, 2015 @ 23:08:15

    Love your cover, and also the history behind it.


  2. Rosaliene Bacchus
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 02:05:55

    Your friend and artist, Matt Gaston, did a great job with your book cover. It jumps out at you.


  3. melouisef
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 06:31:49

    I ALWAYS judge a book by its cover. Firstly that is. Then I have a look at the author and then I read about 10% to see if I can get into the book. Now you know


  4. Bruce Thiesen
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 16:17:50

    Everyone likes a good book cover.


  5. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 18:48:38

    I too am first drawn in by the cover (pun not intended, but I didn’t think of ‘attracted by’ until now) and yours certainly has an irresistible pull that welcomes the reader to jump in and join the adventure. Great job…and maybe it’s time for you to collaborate on a graphic novel at this point. Childhood dreams fulfilled are always inspiring, don’t you think?


  6. jjspina
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 19:33:51

    I agree, Michael, about not judging a book by its cover, however, most people do. If a cover is exceptional more people will be attracted to it. On the other hand, if the book does not live up to its exceptional cover the author won’t get many good reviews. The readers may not even finish reading the book. I guess the cover has to be equal to its interior.

    Great post as always! Thank you for sharing and giving your readers something to think about.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 16, 2015 @ 20:33:17

      Hi Janice! That is a great point–the cover and the interior need to complement each other. If one is great but the other just so-so, then that doesn’t work. The story needs to live up to the cover!


  7. teagan geneviene
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 19:34:38

    Agreed, Mike.
    > I enjoyed all the comic book covers you showed. And it’s so great that you got to work with a good friend for the cover of your book.
    Once in a while i have the daydream of Michael Whelan doing the covers of my novels… (Unfortunately he is not a good friend of mine. 😀 )
    Huge hugs.


  8. jjspina
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 19:34:55

    Another thing, Michael – I think you should go for your dream about the comic book!! You can do anything you put your mind to!!


  9. Jilanne Hoffmann
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 19:58:18

    Most kids I know buy books partly based on the cover. Adults, too. I think your cover is very well done. If I were asked to design a cover, it would look terrible, for while I know what I like, I could never articulate it. Thank goodness for those who are visual geniuses! Comic books are their own special brand of genius. Some of the ones you’ve chosen are classic!


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Feb 16, 2015 @ 20:37:39

      Thanks so much, Jilanne! And I agree about comic books. The classics are true gems! There is nothing like a classic comic book with a spectacular cover and a fun story . . .


  10. stockdalewolfe
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 20:03:11

    Great post and, yes, a great cover!


  11. joeyfullystated
    Feb 15, 2015 @ 20:46:32

    I’m guilty of picking books up because of their covers, less now than when I was a child, but I still revel in good cover art!
    Just because I picked it up doesn’t mean I’ll find it a worthy read, but you’re right, getting noticed and picked up DOES help!


  12. Julia Manuel
    Feb 16, 2015 @ 20:44:47

    Fantastic cover – “eye” catching! Lol


  13. fashionassist
    Feb 18, 2015 @ 15:26:43

    I must confess, I too love a good cover but in saying that I know one can’t always judge a book by its cover.

    But for me, a good cover does create intriguing “curb appeal”…
    and as I cruise down the avenues of book shelves, it will inevitably slow me down, and often call me to park and take a tour 😉

    Great post!


  14. Carol Louise Wilde (Carol Wuenschell)
    Feb 25, 2015 @ 01:14:25

    It is very true. Any author is foolish to disregard the need for a good cover. It’s the book’s first impression!


  15. Aquileana
    Feb 25, 2015 @ 02:12:48

    The cover is so important indeed…. It is like the first approach and or like love at first sight… this statement does’t exclude the possibility that the book is not a good one… But at the end that would be a second step, thus it comes later
    Best wishes, Aquileana 😀


  16. 24/7 in France
    Mar 02, 2015 @ 20:19:43

    Book covers are indeed the key ingredient – all the best in 2015!


  17. Sheryl Wright Stinchcum
    Mar 03, 2015 @ 05:54:23

    Hi Michael. Reading your blog is a delight.. You have really mastered the craft. You could call your next book “The Making of the Eye-Dancers.” 🙂


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