Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

In Fay’s blog on 13th February she asked, how important is a book cover? We had been questioning whether or not book covers are as important in the digital age or not. Do we choose books on the internet through recommendations or do we browse, looking first at the covers? Is the image we see as important there as the physical cover we see when browsing in a bookshop or library? From Fay’s blog and the comments made, we think it worth writing another blog on covers as they are such an important part of the overall book.
Would you be interested in a book which was plain white with just the title and author? In an article in ‘Psychology Today’ the author writes that ‘The wrappers in which things come not only powerfully affect what interests us but also how we react to the contents we find inside.’
The cover of a book might attract us and generate hope that the contents will be of interest and that the writing will be of a certain standard. Once we open the book and start reading or simply perusing the contents, we can make a judgement about whether the visual expectations from the cover are correct. Just how much does a cover tell you about the contents of the book? According to Wikipedia our title phrase is a ‘metaphorical phrase which means you shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone’.
There is a blog where the blogger writes fake book reviews based entirely on the covers of books. A recent homework assignment for our writing group was to create a story built around the cover of a book we hadn’t read. It produced some interesting results.
As Fay wrote in her excellent piece, the cover doesn’t always match the contents of the book. She used the example of: Our redhead turns into a brunette on the cover and our tall, dark hero, who is well into his thirties, looks like a blond teenager. And we are sure each of us could come up with several examples of where the cover doesn’t match the contents.

We had great fun finding a suitable photograph for the cover of our Astraea Press ebook, ‘Poppy Pops the Question’. After much searching and elimination we decided on a photo of a young woman standing next to her motorbike with her long blonde hair blowing across her face. The illustrator then placed her in front of a hotel where most of the story takes place and added the title etc. We are very happy with the result.

Osborne and Little have produced wallpaper featuring the classic Penguin book covers. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a room papered with one’s own book covers?  



  1. Interesting and how amusing ... I somehow thought it was my turn to post this week and prepared a blog on ... yes, the choice of covers! You've done so much more than mine! Nice to see your choices of covers too.
    I think I need to pull myself together and realise what day it is!
    Love Chrissie

  2. We'd still like to read your blog when it's your turn, Chrissie, as covers are often the first point of interest for a reader, and the writer definitely likes to check out the art work on the finished product.

  3. Loved the pastiche of covers - very clever. Covers say so much about a book I agree.


  4. Thank you, Margaret, glad you like them!

  5. This is a very timely post for me as I’m planning to update all my ebooks with new covers. Most successful writers seem to agree that a great, professional cover will help increase sales.
    With this in mind I’ve been trawling the Net. Who would have thought there was so much to consider when sourcing the perfect image? The Internet is awash with sites to choose from.
    You can purchase pre-made covers, or commission your own designer. You can also buy software, and teach yourself how to design your own covers. I’ve seen so many book covers recently that they are all starting to look remarkably similar.
    Chic Lits are pink, with lipstick or high heels, Blokey ones feature guns / mountains / ‘babe magnate’ type cars. Erotic novels have well developed, partially clad women draping themselves across muscular, semi naked male torsos.
    And then, of course, there are the lovely covers for the gentle romance of the DC Thomson pocket novels.
    Oh, dear. Decisions! Decisions!

    1. A lot of decisions, but you'll probably have a lot of fun working on your new covers. It will be interesting to see how it affects your sales.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Oddly enough, I'd say covers have become even more important for me when choosing ebooks (or even print books bought online) than they ever used to be when the only method of buying books was to get myself to a physical bookshop. After a short muse on why this might be, I think it's because I can't hold the book in my hand and feel it, or (which was my favourite way of judging an unknown author) reading the opening to the story then turning to a page chosen at random and reading a section from there...

  8. Yes, Sandra, it's a different process when choosing e-books, isn't it? Totally agree about holding the physical book and exploring it at random.

  9. Fascinating and thought provoking post. Wouldn't it be a grey old world if all books had the same blank cover without evocative pictures? It's no coincidence that there has been a move to package cigarettes in plain wrappers to make them less attractive. Long live the inventive book cover! Apart from anything the thing I find them so useful for is in finding a long lost book and reading it again. I often cannot remember the title but recognising the cover means I can pick it out and enjoy it once more. Cara