Sunday, February 21

Judging a Book By Its Cover

The saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" is an old snore when you hear it. It's a metaphor for how we should treat other people, but when it comes to the actual judging of books, it's pretty redundant.

Most people do judge books by their covers. Unless you are one of few who walk into a bookstore and work their way from A to Z, you are one of them. We simply don't have all that time to open up every book and see what's inside, so we look to a book's exterior before we decide to check out its contents.

I was wandering around Borders today and started my own eye-only analysis of the books around me.

Things I found that factor in are:


If a book is attractive to the eye, I am more likely to pick it up. That means, colour scheme, images, font, etc.

Different people are drawn to different things, but if a cover is eye catching then the book is likely to have more hands grabbing it off the shelf.


I've noticed that if I see a book that has a title that seems cliché, dull, or sounds like something I've heard before, I am less likely to want to pick it up.

A lot of the time when people think 'cover' they think 'image.' Yet if a book has an intriguing, snappy, or clever title then it is more likely to draw the browser's attention.

Plus, writers have more control over the title of their book than they do the cover design.


When I am browsing bookshelves in a store, the author of the book may impact my choice.

It could be a well-known name that I have never read but don't feel inclined to because of the hype surrounding them. It may be one that I have read and didn't enjoy, so I'm hesitant to pick up any others by that author.

I saw a title by an author of a book that was, in my opinion, a five star read. Although I wouldn't have been drawn to the title - it was a little cliché - I picked it up and read the blurb (which I will come to next) and sat down to read the beginning.

After an excess of mundane "telling" instead of "showing" - he did this, he did that - and too many sentences that started with 'and' I'd had enough and put it back on the shelf

The name of a lesser known author on a book isn't going to be a turnoff next to established best sellers, and brand name authors won't always have the advantage if their writing doesn't stack up. Every time is a fresh start.


Once you have grabbed a book from where it is sitting, you might then flip it over (having already scoped out the front with naught but your eyes) and read the blurb...or at least skim it.

I often get turned off by things like "so and so is a typical teenage girl" and "when everything changes" and other clichéd things written in blurbs. I won't even flip open the cover and read the first sentence, I just put it back and carry on. Seconds alone might pass with this book in my hands.

Yes, I am harsh. Just as harsh as many others, only open and willing to admit it.

You might be thinking, "Well what can I do about it?"

After all, we only have so much control over these things, particularly when we are just trying to hash out the story inside the pages.

Who knows, perhaps I am mistaken and it is all just a façade. After all, the book is the same whatever the cover is, but I think it has a definite effect. A great cover makes the reader feel that a book is special, that it is a promise of the wonders they will find inside.

What is your opinion? Do you think book covers really matter?

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