Judging a Book by Its Cover

The saying tells us, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Is this really sound advice?

Sherlock Holmes would tell you that you can learn much from appearances.  For example, little details like style of clothing and marks on the hands may provide clues to a person’s occupation and natural habitat.  Maybe we can similarly deduce some information about the content and quality of a book just from its cover.

A poor cover may be quite suggestive.  The reader may naturally wonder, “If the publisher didn’t put any effort into the cover, perhaps the content is also lacking in quality.”

An eye-catching cover tends to draw interest.  This is true whether you’re browsing for books in a store or on the internet.  You can’t help it; your mind simply notices images that stand out visually.

Do you have any books lying around the house that you haven’t read?  How about ebooks that you’ve downloaded, but never opened?  Why did you buy those books if you haven’t read them yet?  Could it be that they looked interesting?  If a cover impresses us and the text on the cover fascinates us, we become magnetized to the book.

Let’s face it.  We’re all fashionable – even if our style is plain, we all have some sense of style that we feel comfortable with.  We buy shirts and sunglasses that we feel comfortable wearing.  Don’t we also consider how a cover and title fit in with our sense of style before we dare to read it on an airplane or a subway?

You can’t truly judge the quality of a book until you’ve read the content, but the cover does plays a pivotal role in whether or not you may ever read the book in the first place.

The book industry is evolving.  We purchase books online, and read ebooks on cell phones and tablets.  An increasing number of books are self-published.  There are more and more books to choose from, and we strive to find the few books that are the best fit for us.  Occasionally, we purchase a book where the formatting or editing is poor.  We even find formatting issues with ebooks from major publishing houses.

So when we search for books, we try to filter out those that appear most professional.  This begins with the cover.  We look for a professional cover.  Not just its visual appearance; any formatting or editing issues with the text on the cover quickly place the book in the unprofessional category.

If the cover passes our initial inspection, we may read the description, check the reviews, learn more about the author, and read the sample.  But our judgment begins with the cover.

Hence, for the publisher, designing a professional-looking, eye-catching cover that the intended audience will feel comfortable holding is all-so important.

Please don’t judge this blog by its cover. 🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

One comment on “Judging a Book by Its Cover

  1. Excellent advice. I hate to say it, but I do judge a book by its cover. Like you say, “If the publisher didn’t put any effort into the cover, perhaps the content is also lacking in quality.” I have had too many experiences where this was the case.

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