This metaphor has no place in an author's head. Ditch it. Every book is judged by its cover. Honing your craft and writing an excellent book that you've had edited and proofread are but the first steps in moving your baby out into the world.
You have to dress them. And by this I mean dress them properly. Covers are a marketing tool. They are the 'smile on the phone' that your customer sees. They are the reason book catalogue browsers stop and click. A catchy title doesn't hurt either, so don't name your child strange things no one can pronounce. I don't care how much sense it makes in the book.
Indie Cover mistake #1 - Justifying a bad cover or title using the phrase "It makes sense because these elements are in the story."
Reality - Guess what? The only person who knows that is you. The person looking at your cover as they make a purchase decision is wondering why there's unicorn on the front of a murder mystery. This is confusing, not intriguing, and they move on.
And just because I haven't been humiliated or flogged lately, let's take a look at the cover journey for my first book, Girl Found.
Isn't it special? I did it myself, as in, it's a watercolor. Yeah. It should be on my refrigerator under a pineapple. Let's make a game out of all the elements from the book that you find here.
1) Blackbird. Originally Ellen's talent was seeing her dead ancestors, who were always in black, and were sometimes birds, which leads us to...
2) Gravestone with the main character's real name on it. In the first several drafts of Girl Found, Ellen didn't know who she was. But the reader did, without even reading.
3) The floating pages - of a contract that would seal her fate.
4) The title font. It had something to do with being processed formally through government channels...?
See what I mean?
It told a story. That's not the purpose of your cover. Your book does that. Your cover is supposed to catch the eye, exemplify the genre, and look professional doing it. I'd give myself a six or a seven out of ten for genre, it does convey paranormal, but the other two I can't be that nice about.
This cover was professionally done by graphic artist Amalia Chitulescu.
Major difference. The entire expectation of what you will find inside the cover changes dramatically.
The futuristic backdrop of the story is represented. The heroine with attitude is present. And the elements all form one synergistic picture that catches the eye.
The paranormal angle in this cover is light, and it's all centered on the trident 'U' in Found. The blurb or the pitch conveys the majority of the paranormal element. The tag line is "She can see the past with a touch of her hand." Technically, that is not part of the cover.
So, if I were rating this one, I'd say eight or nine for visual interest that results in a click. Five or six for Genre, based on the Paranormal tag, but there is a strong space opera thread running through the story as well. Eight or nine when considering that. Ten for professional appearance.
Much better. I'd send the other one to my mother, but she quite hanging kids art up around the house.
Thank you, to all the people who beat into me that covers are nothing to compromise on.