Don’t judge me

So you’ve written your epic novel. You’ve painstakingly edited it, got your beta readers onto it and hired a pro to polish it and make it shiny.

But guess what? All that is going to mean precisely jack if you front cover looks like this;

book cover

But wait! Aren’t we all taught as toddlers that most famous phrase “Do not judge a book by its cover?” So why do we? Why do we walk into a bookstore and stride past the nondescript brown cover with stencilled writing and go to the flashy, colourfest with swooping dragons, a dashing hero and the author’s name big, bold and front centre?

Because of a psychological fact called attribution. Attribution is where we take what little stimuli is offered and try to make meaning of it.

How many times have you watched the news and seen a story of someone who’s been shot at 2am while out on the street? The news report flashes to a shot of his girlfriend who says in broken English, “He was a real awesome dude. Always up for a drink and a laugh.” She has yellow (or missing) teeth, unkempt hair, bags under her eyes and is wearing a tight Marilyn Manson T-shirt.

From this limited stimuli, most of us would jump to the conclusion that the dead man was mixed up in drugs and that’s why he was shot. It might be a correct assumption. It might be he went out at 2am because they were out of diapers, and the nights of lost sleep and grief are the cause of his girlfriend’s appearance.

The point is, it’s human nature to attribute meaning to everything.

How does this relate to books? I’m getting to that.

When you see a book on the shelf standing beside all his fellow books, the only stimuli you have to help you create an attribution is the front cover. Will this book be good? Is it your type of book? Is it by that author you hate so chances are it’ll be rubbish? You need these things in order to make assumptions about the book and decide whether to purchase it, and if your only clue on first sight is cover art… then unfortunately, yes. We must all judge a book by its cover.

I know I do.

Take a look at the image below.


Would you try one of these books? If yes, would you pay for one of these books? Yes, no, why, why not? Leave some comments and your thoughts below!

48 thoughts on “Don’t judge me

  1. I hate the judge-a-book-by-its-cover concept (I’m guilty sometimes, but usually it’s the blurb I care most about). If you happen to like print books, though, it’s even worse. Most authors aren’t lucky enough to get the front cover display, so we’re judging books by their spines. Talk about pressure to make an impression!

    And what about the indie authors who have excellent content but can’t afford a professional cover? They’re doomed before they even hit the upload button.

    I know I’ll never change anyone’s criterion (people will judge books by their covers), but I really wish it wasn’t the case. It doesn’t seem fair.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said Staci. It’s akin to judging a person on their looks first rather than who they are underneath. I met hubby (of 18 years) online without ever seeing a photo. We fell in love with each other’s personalities. Then we saw each other!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a great story, Jess.

        My hubby and I knew each other since elementary school. We had no idea what we (or each other) would look like as adults, but we each had a crush on the other from that first sighting. We started dating in high school (dated for eight years). This September will be 22 years. I do think he’s very handsome, but that’s way down on the list of why we’re together.


  2. I’m super guilty. What’s worse is I know that oftentimes (at least in the case of traditional publishing) authors don’t have a say in what their covers looks like. However, I do make exceptions if the book is highly rated or if a friend recommends it. Sidenote: your picture made me laugh lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the idea of this, but at the same time I don’t think it would be for me. I don’t believe in judging a book by its cover, but I do believe there are more bad books than good ones (bad in the sense that they are a bad match for my taste).

    My preferred way to choose a book is to read the back cover blurb and then consider the opinions of others. Not the aggregate of all reviews, but the specific reviews of those individuals who have also reviewed books I already read, giving me a gauge of how their ratings compare to my own.

    I also like to sample the most popular/helpful reviews from each rating level, specifically watching for 150-300 word reviews, which often get into the whys behind their ratings.

    If I’m in a bookstore or library, I’m either already looking for a specific title that I’ve decided to read, or I’m wandering for titles that I will then look up online, perusing reviews before potentially returning to claim something that’s managed to pique my curiosity.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Mmm. That’s why the “whys” behind a review are so important in my mind, along with getting a fair sampling of reviews from a variety of ratings.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aww. Thank you. That’s so kind of you to say. 🙂

        I think it’s also nice to follow the reviews of specific people, get a sense of what they like. There have been times where someone recommended Sandman, or Dark City, and for me the biggest element was that the person recommending the title normally hated graphic novels and comic books, or hated anything scary. To know that “this” was the exception to their preferences really made me take stock, even without the whys.
        Of course I also like to discuss stories in general. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. well this one is a great topic to start a debate. Well what I think is that Yeah book should not be judged by its cover but yes cover is important Cause it should be able to wrap the content of book in it. What i mean is That true significance of cover is to provide reader a brief of book cause at the first sight that what we see. But other way around this could be opposite to like cover is great and content is crapy. but what i conclude is the cover should be able to justify your book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haha, that book cover is funny! 😆

    Sometimes I get drawn to a book by its cover, but sometimes the title too! I’m more swayed by the mini summary at the back of the book than those though; if you can hook me with the summary and the first few pages, I’m in. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a cover judger, and try to embrace the facts. My cover’s job is to make someone read the blurb. It’s my job to write a decent blurb, and I don’t claim mastery of that. I suppose we’re all a work in progress in that regard. We improve with experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Fun post! I honestly think I would try that once just to see what happens, but I do judge books by their covers. I feel like a beautiful, well thought out cover tells me that someone loved the inside of the book so much that they wanted to make the outside match.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an interesting way to look at it and certainly true of indie publishers, however I hear a lot of small press publishers and possibly the big five don’t give authors much say on covers. That’s a bit of a drag for authors who get lumped with something less than desirable!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That does suck for authors who have no say in their covers. I honestly hate seeing those mass market paperback covers too, especially the ones that come out after a book is made in to a tv show or a movie.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I can personally attest to this. My first book, Rock And Roll Children, had an awesome cover while I was told by someone whose partner is a graphic designer, that the cover on my second book, He Was Weird, was amateurish. However, the literary content inside, my second one was far superior to my first.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m guilty. When I search for a new book in a bookstore, I immediately go to the section of my favorite genre. From there I look for my favorite authors (they can have crappy covers and I’d still buy their books). After that I start looking at covers and titles, which will lead me to the blurb. I likely wouldn’t get that far if not for the cover and/or title.

    I am a devoted fan of the writing team of Pendergast and Child but I initially discovered them because of a cover that caught my eye. I’m a visual person so I see beautiful covers as art and can’t help honing in on them. Also, a good cover designer can capture the mood of a book and with a single glance I can tell whether or not the story may appeal to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    Everyone loved the cover of my first and only novel. Then they’d open it and see the tiny 9-font. They very quickly set the book back down, saying “I can’t read that!” and walked away. Too bad they didn’t buy my book for the cover, I might have sold some.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Blind date with a book? What a great idea! I’m guilty of judging a book by it’s cover, but it has led me to some great discoveries. Where is this picture from? I’d like to recommend it to my library.

    Liked by 1 person

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