Judging a Book by it’s Cover

This is from CBS news:

One interesting thing that I think they left out of the video is that eBooks need covers too. For instance, most eBook publishers have specifics regarding a book cover before you can publish with them, or get added to their premium distributions.  Those covers still help sell the books the same as the covers do on a paper back. Personally, I have no fear that book covers will go away.

What about you? Are you guilty of “judging a book by it’s cover”? How often to you check out  a book (read a sample, click to know more, pick the book up in the store, etc) because the cover appealed to you?



20 thoughts on “Judging a Book by it’s Cover

  1. Ruth Ann Nordin January 27, 2011 / 1:13 pm

    Agg! Someone who loves paperbacks had to say, ‘I can open a book, smell a book…’ lol That is most ridiculous argument I’ve ever heard for people to deny themselves the opportunity to expand their horizons with ebooks. I mean, fine. Enjoy a good paperback tactile experience, but don’t limit your reading opporunities because of it.

    Excellent post, Jo! It’s true. Most people do judge a book by its cover. I am guilty of this too. The first time I see a book is all it takes for me to judge whether or not I want to look at the book summary. An attractive cover aimed at the genre it’s written for screams, ‘Check me out.’ For some reason, the cover will either enhance the reading experience or it’ll take away from it. I think it’s because the image gets stuck in our minds as we read it.

    And this works for us or against us as authors as well. I’ve experimented with book covers and template type covers don’t sell as well as full picture covers that are geared directly for the genre. Since I write romance, I’ll use that. A couple embracing is a good one. I also think brides with flowers on my covers sell better as well overall. A single woman doesn’t sell so much. A single man might sell for a historical. My friend and I were talking yesterday about a cover she might suggest to her small publisher, and she originally wanted to use an old photo of her grandparents, but I don’t think old photos of people sell historical romances. When I see those, I think, ‘Literary fiction,’ and since it looks ‘old’, I think ‘boring’. So I won’t touch it, no matter how much others praise the work. A lot of people praise books that I have found very boring.

    And I agree about ebook covers. Those need the same care and attention as paperbacks. This fad were people slap up a picture to represent their book but don’t put a title and author on it is tacky to me. It says the author didn’t care enough to give it a decent cover, so why would I, as a reader, give it the time to read it? My reading time is very limited, so I am picky about what I’ll spend my time reading.

    That reminds me. I am going to go back to some of my books and evaluate the book covers. I’m thinking of two that I’ll change. Whenever I’ve changed my covers that weren’t as attractive or said ‘romance’ as much as it should, I do see a boost in sales on that particular book. So readers judge a book by the cover as well.

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:28 am

      I agree. I know that when I flip through Smashwords or Amazon, I usually ignore those books that either have no cover or else just have a picture with no title because you’re exactly right, it’s like the author didn’t care enough. A bad cover is better than no cover, and it takes five minutes to open an image in paintbrush and write your title and author name on it.

  2. Lauralynn Elliott January 27, 2011 / 6:47 pm

    I think book covers have to catch your eye because when you are searching for ebooks, you are scrolling. However, the title usually catches my eye first. I love a good title.

    By the way, I’m currently reading Shades of Gray and loving it.

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:29 am

      I love a good title too – pity I can never think of one! 😉

      Yay! Glad you’re enjoying it! 😀

  3. Mari Miniatt January 28, 2011 / 9:46 am

    I was just talking to a woman about this. She understands why so much time is taken to design the front cover, but what about the spine and the back. In a bookstore it is not the front of the book you see, but the spine most of the time. She made a good point.
    Her argument was, and I think valid, is now everyone in concentrating on the front cover, because that is what you see in most online sales sites. But you buy the softcover and get it home. The spine is unreadable or worse, nothing on the back. She feels ripped off.
    As for the cover designs, she wants these items banned. Apples, the color scheme of red, white, and black, close up of half a person’s face, a child with his or hers back to the camera, and a woman looking forlornly at the reader over her shoulder. Because right now, every cover is starting to look like every other cover.
    I am working on the cover scheme of my fantasy novel. What I want, might not look too good small on the screen, but full size should be a treat.

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:34 am

      Yes, the spine and back of the book are just as important in a paperback! That’s one down side with POD is that they’re very finicky about what they’ll let you have on a spine – and they’ve gotten worse. For instance when I resubmitted my Shades of Gray for the maintenance copy – aka listing the new books by etc. They rejected it, saying that writing on the spine was too large and would wrap to the front and back, despite the fact that I didn’t change the cover and had a printed copy sitting right in front of me with no wrapping issues at all! Grrrr. The cover creators are also very limiting on the spine, too.

      Ha ha! I’ll agree with your friend on all points except the black/white/red combo. I’ve always been a fan of that, long before Twilight took it over and madeit popular 😉

  4. RMY January 28, 2011 / 6:48 pm

    I for one just about took offense at that CBS news coverage. I do not think the lady did her homework. There are a lot of great ebook covers out there. To me it is an art. I do my own book covers from scratch and spend days on them. I can not count how many covers that I did for my so far whopping two ebooks. LOL! There is a world of difference between them but each of them I tried my best to incorporate the feeling of the ebook, what was inside the ebook, and my target audience. Everything from the color play, images, and even text fonts and colors was tweaked hundreds of times. So yes, I guess I did take offense when the lady was saying that cover art was going to go away as ebooks got more popular. I see in the future a color ereader that is easy on the eyes and is backlit if the reader chooses. So IMHO she is wrong and cover art for ebooks is just as important as printed books. Well, spine work and back work will go away. 🙂 I use Photoshop and my camera. Rashnar will be a challenge though. (sigh)

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:39 am

      Exactly! I don’t think covers are going to go anywhere. I mean what do they think we’ll have? Just little colored icons? Just a list of book titles? Any time a new text only device comes out, the first thing people do is try to put images on it (computers, cellphones, you name it). They start with ascii and move up. I think that says we’re an image driven species, so to expect the images to just go away…..

      Yes! I go through several versions of covers. I just don’t know what i like until I *see* it!

  5. Ellen O'Connell January 28, 2011 / 8:42 pm

    I’ve really thought about this because of previous cover discussions in forums, and a cover is most important to me in that it can turn me off and keep me from investigating the book further. Some covers do attract, but the most important thing a cover has to do is not repel.

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:40 am

      Thanks, Ellen! Yep, even a bad cover is worse than no cover at all, in my opinion.

  6. Maureen Gill January 28, 2011 / 8:50 pm

    Covers are important to me; they’re the first thing that catches my eye and draws me whether it’s a print or ebook. And it is certainly all about genre. Absolutely! If it even remotely looks cutesy or sweet, I pass. If I see the head of an Amish woman next to her pickle jars and pigs or anything that looks too ghoulish (think vampires), I pass — so I’m not into either of those extremes. But what do I like? I tend to like Grisham, Patterson, Pearson, that kind of writing. So I like covers that reflect that; the scales of justice, something suggestive of spies, etc. I like historical fiction though; I always look at those books. I think a professional appearing cover is very important, most especially on a self-pubbed book because it speaks to the author’s level of sophistication. This said, I’m the first to say you can’t tell a book by it’s cover. If it’s a print book I always read some of it before I buy it. If it’s an ebook, I want a generous sample (and I mean generous; not 10 pages). So, the cover makes me want to open the book but the contents determine if I want to buy it.

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:41 am

      Yep! Same here, Maureen! After all, something has to draw you to the book and make you open it/the sample in the first place! Unless it’s got one heck of a good title, there better be some kind of eye catching cover involved.

  7. Lauralynn Elliott January 28, 2011 / 8:59 pm

    One little oddity that I do want to mention concerning book covers. The Sookie Stackhouse series books by Charlaine Harris (the ones True Blood was taken from) are wildly popular. And I think they have horrible covers. I know it’s done on purpose like that, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. And yet…she’s selling like crazy.

    • Lauralynn Elliott January 28, 2011 / 9:02 pm

      I should probably add that I don’t dislike ALL her covers, because there have been 2 or 3 that were kind of nice.

    • Lauralynn Elliott January 28, 2011 / 9:03 pm

      should probably add that I don’t dislike ALL her covers, because there have been 2 or 3 that were kind of nice.

      • Lauralynn Elliott January 28, 2011 / 9:04 pm

        Grrrrr! Sorry about the duplicate posting. I really don’t have multiple personality disorder.

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:42 am

      Glad to know I’m not the only one! I’m “down with” the drawing idea, but they lose me on the kindergarten style art.

  8. RMY January 28, 2011 / 10:40 pm

    I thought that you may have just gotten a bad case of the hiccups. 🙂

    • Joleene Naylor January 29, 2011 / 1:43 am

      quick! drink from the far side of a glass! 😉

  9. K. A. Jordan January 29, 2011 / 6:50 pm

    I like at lot of color if the cover is going to be used as an Icon. Not all book covers translate well into a tiny thumbnail.

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