What It's Like to Participate in Author Shout Cover Wars
What Is Author Shout?
Author Shout is a commercial website (found at http://authorshout.com/) that claims to connect "authors and readers around the world". It offers a number of paid services. For a not too unreasonable price, an author can maintain a profile on the site. This may place the author on the "book shelf" and among their "recommended reads".
Various Promotions the Site Offers
Authors may also purchase social media promotions for their books and the privilege of being "featured" for a specified period of time. They may also pay to have an interview placed on the website.
If an e-book is being offered at 99 cents or free, there are other promotions that the author may purchase. In addition to this, an author may purchase editing, website management (which sounds like a good deal after the initial outlay), formatting and cover images.
What Is a Cover War?
The most exciting thing on the Author Shout page is absolutely free, however. This is the opportunity to participate in "cover wars". These are weeklong competitions based solely on the appearance of the book's cover.
What Do You Get If You Win a Cover War?
According to the Author Shout webpage, the winning book cover will become the "Cover Wars Book of the Week." This means that the book's cover—and a link to its selling page on Amazon—will be featured in a coveted square position on the left-hand side of the Author Shout website.
This position is part of the structure of the website and remains featured even if the reader browses different sections of the site. An advertising position of this size on many websites could cost $100 USD.
The book of the week will also be promoted in Author Shout's "shout outs" and its online newsletter. I'm not sure how this compares to their "social media blitz", but that costs $25 USD to purchase for 30 days.
So, even without allowing for the kudos of being able to cite oneself as a "Cover Wars" winner, the prize is worth around $130 USD!
There Is Only One Winner, So What's in It for Runners-up?
Well, that is a question I ask myself before I get involved in any competition, group or promotion. The best things, of course, have a benefit for every entrant and not just the "winner". Sometimes, however, the benefits are what you make of an opportunity for yourself. My involvement with Cover Wars is new, but at this stage I perceive the following benefits:
- One week visibility on the Cover Wars' page, among a group of other hopeful authors.
- The excitement and buzz of participation.
- An excuse to distribute publicity regarding your book on all your social media and webpages.
- The chance to maybe connect with other writers or readers. (Writing can be an isolating process, so communal activities are welcome.)
- "Thank you" offers. After entering your book into a Cover War, you may receive a discounted offer to purchase a social media book blitz. This means a $25 service may be accessible for $15.
Isn't Judging the Book by the Cover Demeaning?
- A book may have 50,000 to 120,000 words, and the front cover is only one page!
- The cover consists of a well-designed arrangement of graphics and typesetting including the title and author name.
- Statistically, it represents less than 0.00002% of the work. Yet, it is highly visible and influential.
- If the cover has appeal, the book will be opened more frequently. The discerning reader likely browses the interior as well . . . but the cover does influence the sale.
Surprisingly, a Cover Illustration May Count as Serious Art!
On the other hand, an author cannot use an image for their cover unless they own the rights. This means a lot of effort may go into producing original cover art. The author may force themselves to learn to draw or use computer-aided design to create a cover.
Alternately, an author may beg friends and family for the loan of their skills in art or original photography. There is some push in the writing community to use purchased covers, especially for fantasy covers or historical romance covers. These covers are generally considered to be of a high quality, and may be considered to be works of art in their own right.
I recently participated in an art exhibition and was flattered when one of the organizers crossed the floor to invite me into their regular art group on the strength of one of my hand-drawn covers! (I said: "I can't really draw" and they snorted!)
Are There Any Catches?
Of course, Cover Wars has its terms and conditions. These include:
1. A Two-Month Waiting Period
I entered my book in April 2018, and it is participating in a cover war in June 2018. I did not receive any updates during the waiting period, so it took patience and trust waiting for my turn. I was notified of a "date" a couple of weeks ago, so I could prepare.
2. Limit of One Vote Per 24-Hour Period
The site says one vote per day and "no cheating". If you accidentally vote twice in one day your vote will be disqualified. This seems fair enough, however, now I have a campaign running I sense a downside.
What if friends and/or fans don't count the 24 hours correctly? It is an US site, so it could be in a different time zone than international voters and cause some confusion. What if two members of a household (both fans) use the same computer or Internet provider - will this confuse the system? I find I am counting the 24 hours carefully and hoping I can trust the system!
3. Social Media Share Requirements
Voters have to do a social media share of the Cover Wars page before voting. One share or like isn't too bad. Some competitions border on scams because they require you to do so many shares, you are spamming friends and also working to create free publicity for the company. In this case, if you believe in helping promote independent authors, this should not be a moral problem.
4. Recent Books and/or Fresh Covers
The site does not say - but I assume the book needs to have been published in recent times or else have a fresh cover. My current entry Silver Springtime was published mid 2017 and it has been accepted in a 2018 competition. However, if the book had been around about three years, with the current cover (even if very artistic) I would wonder whether there was any point.
5. Judging Is Based on Popularity, Not Artistic Merit
After convincing myself and others that cover art is legitimate art, and proudly showcasing my cover - I have to admit this is more of a social media popularity competition than anything else. So the writer with the most followers is likely to win. There may be a few independent voters hovering around the site however - I will be watching votes and trying to guess about this.
6. The Illustrator's Name Is Not Acknowledged
When my cover is not hand drawn by me - I have an acknowledgement on the imprint page naming the photographer. This competition features the author's name primarily (unless illustrator name is on the cover too).
This is one of the tricky issues involved in combining two art form into one product. As I pointed out - the cover represents a small amount of the intellectual property of a whole book. Yet, if we acknowledge it as a work of art in itself - the painter or photographer is owed due credit.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Cecelia