Saturday, October 15, 2011

Judging Books By Their Covers

There's no doubt about it; a flashy outside can really change how even an ordinary product is sold.  Advertisers have known this for decades.  And book covers and/or dust jackets have been playing this ad game for the last century or so, too.
But sometimes we get fooled.  Sometimes the cover is far, far better than the book.
I was totally blown away by this cover, for example:

Isn't that gorgeous?  It's stunning.
But I wasn't at all drawn into the book.  After a few chapters, I tossed it aside, grateful I'd only gotten it from the library and hadn't spent money on it.
Also, the book labels itself as YA, but it isn't; it merely has a youngish protagonist.  The first few pages alone have so many sexual references in them that it ruins the book for school bookshelves.  Really, it's more appropriate for college-age beach reading.

In contrast, there's this book:

The cover's not really great.  It's not bad, but it's not fantastic.
But the book is totally and completely wonderful.  It's not labeled YA, but it's completely appropriate for young teens -- if you can get them past the cover.

As an indie author, I had to go through designing a book cover that I hoped worked well with the book, knowing very well that a lame cover would turn kids off, no matter what the book was like inside -- because kids especially DO judge a book by its cover.
What about you?  Have you ever mis-judged a book by its cover, either for good or for ill?


  1. All of the books that I can think of I have read because of a friends suggestion or since it is by an author I already know I like. So, if we're talking the literal 'book by it's cover', then I can honestly say I never have. As for the more figurative use of the phrase, uh, wish I could say I never have, but we'd all know that was a lie. What immediately comes to mind are the snap judgements about customers that walk into the Chevron. I'll think one looks like their in a really bad mood, just to find them incredibly pleasant. And the people coming in to buy beer and cigarettes, it's surprising how many people I I.D., swearing they are going to be underage, just to see they were born in the early 80's (a couple times it was the 70's, and a double check their make sure it really is them.)

  2. I hope you at least tell the women you'd never have guessed they were old enough -- you'll make their day!

  3. Shhhh! That's a secret, nobody is supposed to know that we do that sometimes just to make their day.

  4. Dad doesn't buy beer or cigarettes, but he LOVES it when people ask to see his ID to prove he's old enough for the senior citizens' discount. :)

  5. I think the easiest place to be fooled by a cover is in picture books for pre-readers. Sometimes the art is really incredible, but the story makes you just want to rip up the thing, gorgeous graphics and all.