One of the perennial pieces of advice given to the self-publishing author is: spend some money on your cover. Don’t have a go with some Photoshop knock-off and FFS don’t do a drawing, scan it in and add the title and your pseudonym in Comic Fucking Sans. There is an entire Tumblr dedicated to people who did just that (though, to be fair, a lot of it now seems to be honkingly stupid vintage pulp covers, as well.)
To be fair, there are some people who perhaps think that a really, really awful cover might be the only hope they have of garnering some attention in the immensely overcrowded world of new authors no one has ever heard of. The king of this method is probably Dr Chuck Tingle, whose legendarily batshit covers are a major part of his legendarily batshit branding, along with his legendarily batshit concepts, character names and Twitter behaviour. (Yes, I did spend quite a long time deciding between that, Pounded In the Butt By My Handsome Laundry Pod, the ones about space raptors and… just google the good Doctor for yourself, okay?)
A lot of people’s self-published covers, though, tend to be just… meh. There are certain stock images that show up time after time, particularly if you write genre fiction and even more so if you write erotica, Well, there are a few sites dedicated to suitable cover images for romance and romantic erotica which are nearly as uninentionally hilarious as some of the classic Kindle Cover disasters – the tone-deaf cultural appropriation, constipated facial expressions and magnificently anachronistic costumes, especially for sub-genres like ‘Regency’ or ‘Highlander’ romances could entertain the easily amused for hours. Mostly, though, erotica writers end up with something that looks a bit like the image on the left. This is true whether you publish yourself or whether you are with a traditional publisher, though things have got a bit better since the days of Erotica Cover Watch, a blog run by a couple of women who were rather tired of the way all sexy literature, even that ostensibly aimed at female readers, tended to feature tits and bums of models who were always slender, young and white. Nowadays, if it’s M/F you will quite often have a picture of a couple, or even a man on his own, perhaps even imagery of a man not wearing very much.
In the 90s, erotica covers were extremely formulaic and almost invariably consisted of a woman in lingerie, the title and the author’s name, with perhaps the publisher’s logo hovering around. My first published book followed this forumula, but I have always had a bit of a soft spot for it even though it is pink, and the model is more blonde than I envisaged either of my red-headed heroines to be. However, she has some quality of dirty-minded petulance about her expression, which struck me, at the time, as appropriate for one of the main characters, a thoroughgoing brat sub by the name of Poppy. Some subsequent books, especially with traditional publishers, have annoyed me far more: inappropriate images, horrible typography or, in one memorable case, spelling my fucking name wrong…
Overall, though, I don’t think my decision to buy a book or chuck it back into the sea of words has ever been very strongly influenced by what its cover actually looks like. The blurb, though, is a very different matter.