Judging a book by its cover? You better believe it!

A while ago, I agreed to review a book. Even though my immediate judgement, based upon the cover, was that it would probably not be good, I agreed to review it because I had only just started my blog and was excited that an author had contacted me directly. From the cover, I thought that the subject matter might be of interest, but that it would be poorly written and tough to read. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised and quite enjoyed my experience. Despite this surprisingly positive experience, I’m not going to stop judging books by their covers because, to me, it’s one of the most important parts of the book-reading process. But why should we judge books by their covers? Allow me to explain…

  1. A picture is worth a thousand words

If this saying carries any weight, then we would be crazy not to use a book’s cover as a means of judgement.  What a cover presents can be like an amuse-bouche for what awaits you inside, a brief burst of imagery that entices us in so many ways. In my (heavily biased) opinion, no series better illustrates this point than the Corgi UK covers of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, illustrated by Josh Kirby. Let’s look at his artwork for Small Gods as an example.

There is so much to take in. A screeching eagle clutching a turtle!?! Bizarre, robed figures conducting a human sacrifice? A giant that can shoot lightning from his hands?!? Not only that, but the style of the artwork, with everything having a surreal-like quality, and the people have slightly grotesque and exaggerated features, excites me about what I can expect to read inside. I’d pick up a book with a cover like that in a heartbeat!

2. ‘Seven seconds to make a first impression’

People love to make snap judgements. We just can’t help ourselves. Research has shown that we make an initial judgement of people within just 7 seconds of meeting them. 7 SECONDS!! If we can judge people that quickly, books don’t stand much of a chance. With millions of books for us to choose from, there’s almost no chance I’m going to show extended interest in a book that doesn’t make an immediate positive impression. A book needs to grab my attention before I’m going to read the blurb, and I’m not going to read a book if the blurb doesn’t pique my interest. Which leads me to my third and final point…

3. That’s what covers are for

Good packaging is essential for products to sell. Look at the tobacco industry, where cigarettes are all now sold in plain brown boxes to make them less appealing to potential customers. Well, books are no different. Publishers and authors have (or at least should have) a target audience in mind for each book. Covers are designed to appeal to those people and, for the most part, they’re VERY successful at it.

So, if you find yourself drawn to a book because of its cover, that’s by design and you’ll likely be rewarded rather than disappointed. Conversely, you know what you like. If a book cover makes a poor impression on you, then the chances are that the book just isn’t for you.

Now, I’m not saying that a book’s cover should be the most important factor in deciding whether or not to read a book (I might be willing to break that rule for a graphic novel or comic, perhaps) but ignoring a book cover completely really just isn’t in my best interests. After all, time that can be spent reading (particularly as an adult) is at a premium, so you can be damn sure I’m not going to waste it on a book with a terrible cover (for a second time).

As a little extra, I’ve put some of my favourite book covers throughout this article (The Quiet American, Small Gods, Radiance – both covers, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe). I’d be curious to know if anyone feels particularly strongly about any of them and why. Can be good or bad. Let me know what you think. Thanks

24 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover? You better believe it!

Add yours

  1. Love the Kirby illustrations!
    I admit I do judge a book by the cover. I definitely won’t pick up anything with a man’s chest on the cover! Covers can be a shorthand to suggest whether it’s a book you might like, if it follows the conventions of what kind of covers are used for particular genres.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree that looking professional can be very important for book covers, particularly nowadays. However, I do think that it is an element of a book cover that I can look past if the content of such a cover is appealing enough


  2. I agree– I definitely judge books by their cover as covers are the first thing you see and will attract me to it. And it reflects the story– you can get a feel of what it’s about like you said. I obviously read the synopsis as well to make sure I like the idea but covers are important and can impact the sales of a book I think. Great post !!😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If bookstores weren’t divided into sections, we’d be able to orient ourselves towards book we might like solely based on cover designs. Visuals are important because of how we make choices, as you said, and I won’t believe anyone saying me that they have *never* looked inside a book just because of the cover.
    Btw I had never seen that cover design for Adams’s book before, love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great points! I’m honestly guilty of judging books by their covers ALL THE TIME because you’re right! Covers are there to be judged by readers and it’s our first impression of the book! I feel like I may have been missing so many good books because of too much judging tho 😅


  5. Well even the blurb sometimes has its own issues… I’d pick a book I’m drawn to and it’s mostly by its cover…I’ve been surprised in the past by picking books because of their covers but I still do though and now I have added the titles…
    So cover, title before blurb 😁


  6. Totally agree. Working in a library I see some really odd covers and I know they won’t be taken out and I’m usually right. It’s sad to see but the cover is so important


  7. Great post! Totally agree with these points and if anyone denies not judging a book by its cover, they will still be doing it in their subconscious. After all that is the first thing you see..


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