A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words by Matt Cost

A picture is worth a thousand words, or is it? That is the question.

When selling a book, most experts will agree that there are three important components to getting a stranger in the wild to decide that they want to open their wallet or purse to take your cherished work home with them.

  1. The Title
  2. The Book Cover
  3. The Description

For my historical novels, I’ve tried to give a clear and concise indicator as to the content of the book in the title. I wanted to make sure that the reader clearly understood what they were getting into. (Even if many critics commented that I didn’t mention that Fidel Castro became a hated despot after the conclusion of my Cuban Revolution book.) These books allowed my cover illustrator at Encircle Publications, Deirdre Wait, a high level of creativity to convey to the potential reader what the novel is about.


The beginning of my Mainely Mystery series added a needed dimension to the title and the cover art. Mainely has worked out well for me. You can throw Mainely in front of just about anything and it will be immediately found on search engines without being diluted by a multitude of other titles. Power. Fear. Money. Angst. Wicked.

Because the Mainely Mysteries are a series, Deirdre Wait determined it was important to brand the cover art. Having a familiar imagery to the cover that links all of the books together, in this case, a shadowy silhouette Langdon and his canine companion. Then subtle addition to give each title uniqueness. Frozen Maine scene. Downtown Brunswick. A full moon. A bonfire on an island.

The Clay Wolfe Trap series has been more difficult in the title. It seems that many titles end in Trap and it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Cosmic Trap was originally going to be Honey Trap, but it seems there are tons of books with that name, and most of the covers include half-clothed people. In this series, I have needed unique first words. Wolfe. Mind. Mouse. Cosmic. Pirate. Even if searching Amazon for Mouse Trap still initially goes to… mouse traps.

Deirdre Wait has used a similar branding mechanism for this series. In this case, it is Clay Wolfe and his partner, Baylee Baker, in silhouette, pointing guns in a James Bond sort of look. The backgrounds have been more design oriented to fit the bill of traps.

I look forward to seeing what will happen with my Brooklyn 8 Ballo series. The first one is Velma Gone Awry. Coming next April will be City Gone Askew. It will be interesting to see after that if I am able to continue to brand the titles in similar ways. And of course, I am fascinated to see what the cover artist, Deirdre Wait, for the publisher, Encircle Publications, comes up with to brand and make unique the faces of these books.

Do I think that a picture is worth a thousand words? Not at all. As a writer, I fully believe in the power and impact that can be packed into a thousand words, much less eighty-five thousand words. But to each their own, and a cover is going to grasp the attention of a potential reader much quicker than my thousand words ever would. Thank you to Deirdre Wait for so many fantastic covers to give face to my books.

What is it that you all find important in a title, a cover, and back cover copy?

Write on.

About the Author

Matt Cost was a history major at Trinity College. He owned a mystery bookstore, a video store, and a gym, before serving a ten-year sentence as a junior high school teacher. In 2014 he was released and began writing. And that’s what he does. He writes histories and mysteries.

Cost has published four books in the Mainely Mystery series, with the fifth, Mainely Wicked, due out in August of 2023. He has also published four books in the Clay Wolfe Trap series, with the fifth, Pirate Trap, due out in December of 2023.

For historical novels, Cost has published At Every Hazard and its sequel, Love in a Time of Hate, as well as I am Cuba. In April of 2023, Cost combined his love of histories and mysteries into a historical PI mystery set in 1923 Brooklyn, Velma Gone Awry.

Cost now lives in Brunswick, Maine, with his wife, Harper. There are four grown children: Brittany, Pearson, Miranda, and Ryan. A chocolate Lab and a basset hound round out the mix. He now spends his days at the computer, writing.

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6 Responses to A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words by Matt Cost

  1. Judy says:

    Interesting. This is something I do when selecting a book, but have given little thought. You are right. Key words in the title and the illustrations do often catch our attention, first. Also, the similar cover draws our attention to a series that we enjoy.

    There is so much more in getting a book published. It is a full time job.

  2. Julianne Spreng says:

    I always read the story capsule on the fly leaf or back cover. Then open to random pages for a quick glance. I’ll know immediately if it’s for me. I was absolutely taken by the infinite period detail in your 8 Ballo. Look forward to the next. I learned quite a few interesting bits of trivia of a time my father actually lived. Thank you for that.

  3. jselbo says:

    Great things to think about. I so appreciate it when I am browsing in a bookstore – or online.

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