Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Okay, confession time. As much as I love my Kindle and the opportunity to carry an entire library in my purse, I often miss making visits to a brick and mortar bookstore. There is something to be said about perusing the aisles filled with dozens of books.

And way back before the days of Internet shopping, online reviews, and social media, readers often had to rely on word of mouth when selecting books. Reading the back cover or the first page of a book was a factor for me before deciding if I wanted to check out a book from the library or make a purchase. Especially if the author was unfamiliar. But before I opened the book, before I turned it over to read the back, I first looked at the front. If I found the cover to be appealing, then I would move to the next step.

I’m a big fan of mystery and suspense novels. I still recall the first time I saw a book by the now famous author, Mary Higgins Clark. I was at a bookstore (in the fiction section, no less) when I saw the spine of Where Are The Children. The title got my interest, so I pulled a copy from the shelf and looked at the cover. I saw a house located beside a body of water. Tall brown grass indicated to me the story likely took place in the autumn.  But the thing that intrigued me most was the single red mitten in the foreground.

After reading the back cover, which further piqued my interest, I walked to the register, bought the book, took it home and began to read. Years later, I’ve read dozens of Mary’s books and have to say she is probably the author who most inspired me to write mystery and suspense stories.

And it all began with a book cover.

A few years ago, a friend of mine loaned me a book that was written (and self-published) by someone she knew. I kept it around the house for a few weeks, but I never opened it to look inside. Why? The cover looked amateurish. The back was plain white. No author information. No blurb. Nothing. I can’t even remember the title of the book or what was on the front, but I do know it was no more appealing that the back side. The content may have been high-quality writing and an interesting topic, but the writer lost me by not having a good cover.

To be honest, I have read (or attempted to read) some books in which I liked the covers but not the story itself. No matter how pleasing a cover looks, if your content isn’t good, readers won’t continue to purchase your books. But having a professionally designed cover is a must. It’s worth spending a few dollars to hire someone who is an expert at what they are doing. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.





  1. Pingback: Curated Content for the Writing Industry

  2. I love a good cover, and agree completely. That’s generally what gets me interested in the first place. They are hit and miss though. Some will love a cover that others dislike.

    • That’s true. Not long ago, a friend and fellow author was having one of his non-fiction book covers redesigned. I hated the new cover. It looked amateurish and IMO, like a cartoon. However, it was done by a professional and went on to sell a lot of copies. Had I not known the author, I would have never bought it due to the cover. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. Thanks for visiting, Craig.

  3. I absolutely agree that we DO judge books by their covers, Joan. You are so right! And yes, sometimes the content disappoints, but a good story with an equally good cover will certainly sell more copies than a good one behind artwork that doesn’t even catch a shopper’s eye, whether they are in a bookstore, or browsing on Amazon. Beautiful, intriguing, dramatic covers attract the eye, and that’s the first step toward selling the book. I agree, it’s definitely worth the investment. Great post!

  4. I’m a cover person. If it doesn’t grap me or piwue my interest, I keep looking. Great post, Joan.

  5. Confession time. I do judge books by their covers. It’s the first element that attracts me to them when I’m browsing.

    If I already know the author, covers don’t matter so much, but I’ve found many authors the first time by being attracted to the cover art of their book. The original cover for Still Life for Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is what got me reading their Aloysious Pendergast series. Thanks to that series, they became my favorite authors, and it all started with a book cover….much like Mary Higgins Clark (who always tells a good tale).

    I know good content can often be hidden behind a poor cover, but many don’t look past that first impression.

    • Mae, I agree. If it’s an author I know, I don’t pay as much attention to the cover. But when trying new ones, it can make a world of difference. Thanks for stopping by today.

  6. Covers are usually what spark my interest – that or the author’s name. And I remember reading Where Are The Children years ago!

  7. Covers are tricky. Not only are there expectations in each genre, the trends change. And what used to be a good cover could now look dated and unappealing. I wish our work could stand on its own, but I realize the cover (and then the blurb) are the advertising that lures a reader in. If you don’t have good packaging, no one will know about the treasures inside.

  8. I totally agree with what you tell us, Joan. Funny thing, Mary Higgins Clark is also one of my favorite authors. I read many of her books and I understand she also wrote several together with her daughter. How nice.
    Yes, sometimes the cover of a book can be misleading. It happened to one of my books that had a man, naked torso, which made many think it was an erotica book. But the book was not. Some readers wrote in the reviews that it was on the conservative side regarding love scenes. It depends, many times, on the skill of the cover artist. I am grateful I found publishers who hired good artists.

    • We have something else in common, Carmen, with Mary Higgins Clark. Reviewers are a funny breed of people. Can’t believe anyone wold automatically think erotica with only a naked torso.

      Romance is tricky. Some people love steamy scenes, others will turn away. Can’t please everyone, so we have to write the kind of books we want to read and trust we’ll find the right audience.

  9. Pingback: Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover? – AIW Press, LLC – Joan Hall

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