Judging a book by its cover

BOOK NERD THAT I AM, I often overlooked the dusty old covers of the titles stuffing up our attic.

Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Dickens… classic authors whose books deserved better than a surface level skim or cursory glance. Timeless tomes that had survived not only the passage of time, but the mould and decay of our small attic space.

As readers, we’re often very quick to pass judgement on a book based purely on the cover. I’ve been guilty of it. We walk through book stores looking for something to leap out at us.

The massive online store that is Amazon makes standing out, especially for those who aren’t established authors without the platform or required marketing budget, virtually impossible.

All signs stress the importance of a book cover that practically rip the eyes from your head.

With changing trends and styles, publishers often change the covers of some of their bestsellers – adding a ‘freshness’ to an older book that could hook a new wave of readers.

The struggle is very real for indie authors. I forked out a lot of money for an ebook and paperback cover with a company which you can read more about here. At the time I was very pleased, but over the last eight months I’ve received feedback which has been quite critical about my cover choice.

Pathfinders was a story which took years to write, but it fell at the opening hurdle for many people because the cover wasn’t strong enough to hook.

My suspicions about the strength of the cover were confirmed when I asked others over at the Amazon Kindle Boards (thin-skinned need not apply), and I received the same, albeit more constructive feedback from thebookdesigner.com.

N.B. I actually really like the latter’s website and received an award for my cover edition of ‘Spectrum‘ which, coincidentally, cost $200 less than the image I used for Pathfinders.

Crystal Clear Aidan J. Reid
Gorgeous! Just Gotta Write It Now!

I’ve run a couple of promotions for Pathfinders through a third-party marketing site, and the feedback for its lack of success in hitting the ‘guaranteed’ downloads was because it may have been categorised incorrectly or that the cover wasn’t strong enough.

I still have that receipt somewhere, right?

In any case, it just goes to show that you can, and people often do, judge a book by its cover. I think I’ll stick to the excellent, inexpensive covers over at goonwrite.com in the future – the place where I bought the cover for Spectrum.

Not only are they incredibly well executed and diverse, but just skimming through some of the categories has inspired some short story ideas – one of which – Crystal Clear – I’ll publish in the coming weeks.

I quite like this cover, but then again, I might be biased.

22 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover

  • I find it absurd that people judge a book by its cover. There has been many a book with horrible covers that i thoroughly enjoyed reading..and some with wonderful covers that I found pedantic and stale. While I am not enamoured by the pathfinders cover, I am so very glad I did purchase it. It may have been done in the madness of a feeling of solidarity with a struggling writer on a wierd and wonderful blog site, but it has been passed back and forth a few times and started some absolutely wonderful conversations…and arguments!

    Liked by 1 person

  • I judge a book by its smell. I bought a paperback copy of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” in the mid 1970s. Still have it and I’m reading it to my seven-year-old grandson. He loves it. I told him to smell the book. Nothing like the odor of slowly decaying book paper.

    Sorry, a bit off topic but it’s what I thought of when I read this wee blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I couldn’t agree more James. Thumbing through the books in second hand book stores is one of my favourite things to do. Something that our digital generation will lose with their Kindle and electronic devices unfortunately.


  • Some covers are so dull and boring that I don’t even read what the book is about. I read constantly and when buying books (I just got back from the bookstore), I often buy books because of their covers. Sometimes I’m disappointed and sometimes I’m not. That can happen for whatever reason you purchase a book. Covers are no different than blurbs that lie and say a book is about something, when it’s not. That’s something I dislike with a passion. It’s as if the reviewer hasn’t read the book, which happens quit often, I imagine. I do like the reviews on Amazon and have been saved from buying books because a person said there was cruelty to animals in it, or something else I would never read about. I’ve also purchased books because someone said some small thing that drew my interest.

    Covers are works of art that speak to us. For some it may even be subconscious but covers matter.


    • Well said hitandrun. A good cover is essential, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love the covers that are thought provoking instead of the ‘safe’ -Jack Reacher’ type, man walking away from the camera, staring into the distance type cover. But that still seems to be really popular. Couldn’t agree more with the review. I ALWAYS check, and if a Top 1000 reviewer has left a glowing statement, then that’s usually a no-brainer for me to make the purchase. Saying that though, it didn’t really help much that I got a 4 and 5 star from two such reviewers for Pathfinders because it didn’t really influence people to buy the book (yet). It’s a fine art I guess.


  • I can understand the book cover having an impact on purchases at a book store, but never thought that would be the case online too. I find my online buys more influenced by reviews (on amazon) or recommendations (on goodreads), and excerpts of the book. Although, when you put your three covers together, I do agree – Spectrum > Pathfinders. 🙂


  • Click below on Judging a book by its cover, and the post will open up. AT the bottom, it has two posts mentioned that might be very helpful. All you have to do is go below the “like” line and click on each picture. One is quick and dirty tips on self publishing and the other is on the costs of self publishing.

    I did not know how to send the individual (2) posts to you.


    Liked by 1 person

  • The covers do typically draw me in to read what the book is actually about. I’ve never bought a book based solely on its cover though. A LOT of the books I end up buying/reading are based on reviews I’ve read, recommendations of friends, or because I know I like the author. So I’ve usually decided to read something before I’ve even seen the cover. I do like the cover you’ve chosen for Crystal Clear 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • You can’t beat James at Goonwrite.com Love him! And he’s spot on about the need to brand, too, so everyone knows it’s you no matter the genre.

    So sorry to hear about your marketing and cover woes. It’s terrible but it’s true – people do judge the book by its cover. I’ve seen it firsthand with my latest release. After I did the cover reveal (third cover purchased), I finally asked FB romance authors the question: If you were to choose a contemporary romance book to read from an unknown author, what cover would get your attention more? A man or a woman? Hands down, they said a man, shirtless preferred. Some said that their books with a shirtless male sold without any advertising help. So at the 12th hour, I change my cover and this time, I picked a popular book cover model. With this being my 4th book, it was go big or go home LOL and thank goodness, I’m not going home.

    Hang in there, Aidan and let’s email! I need to know about this marketing company!


  • Covers are important, and generally the first point of contact for readers. But, they should enhance the story – even set a tone. However, a great cover can all too often mask a mediocre story.

    Covers can generate interest, but how can purchase decisions be based on it? How many of us have purchased books with covers that seem to have nothing to do with the story inside? And, don’t even get me started on books where authors have done an amazing job of physically describing their lead character(s), then use cover photos that look totally opposite? 😄

    I’ll always try to provide an appealing cover, but not at the expense of the story.

    Great post! (And many thanks for the follow!)


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