The Reality of Judging a Book by Its Cover


by Katie McCoach

I think it’s time we talk about book covers.

We all know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but let’s be honest, this usually applies to people, and not actually a book. If we are really keeping it honest here, then readers and authors alike understand that books really are judged by the cover. A book cover is the very first thing a reader sees whether that is on a shelf at the bookstore or library, or online.


First Impressions

A book cover is the first impression, and like every first impression, you want to put your best foot forward. It’s true that within the pages of the book itself the writing may be amazing, but if the book cover is made of poor illustrations or the text doesn’t stand out and it looks cheap, then a reader may assume the same goes for the rest of the book as well. You have only seconds to pull a reader in as they come across your book, so don’t you want to take advantage of everything you’ve got?


Self-publishing is a Business

Just like with any business you want to show your consumers that you have the best product out there, and you can match the competition. With a poor book cover, it’s hard to imagine the effort of putting the “best product” forward is true in this case. If you are a self-published author (looking to gain readership and credibility) then you are creating a business and thus every decision you make on publishing your book is a business decision. Show your consumers you can make good business decisions by hiring a great cover designer (and editors and proofreaders as well).

There are times that I am pitched books for review, or come across a book description first (though not often) and I read the description and think yes, this sounds interesting, maybe I’ll give this a try. (But realistically how often does a book come by you without the cover being the first thing you see?) Then I go to the book purchase page itself, or flip the book over and I see a cover that looks like a PowerPoint presentation. It is terribly disappointing. I do not want to be let down as a reader, especially before I even begin reading!

If you are an author with a so-so cover right now, and you realize it’s really not up to par, it’s not too late! Create a new edition! Change the cover on Amazon!  This doesn’t have to be the end point, things can always be updated and changed in self-publishing, that is the beauty of making all the choices yourself and creating your own business as an author.

In case you still are unsure about how important a good book cover is, there is a website dedicated to showcasing the worst book covers out there. Do not end up on this site: .




Guest post contributed by Katie McCoach. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing, visit her blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter.

17 thoughts on “The Reality of Judging a Book by Its Cover

  1. An obviously amateur cover does often indicate a book that hasn’t been well edited. It might still be a decent book, but the odds of glaring typos and inconsistencies increase dramatically.

    It’s also rather irritating when the cover shows or hints at something that doesn’t happen in the book, or is of entirely the wrong genre.


  2. Preach, sister. My first cover was all I had in my wallet, $50, for a friend to draw. Wiser and better off for book #2, I used the folks at CreateSpace and was pleased with the results.

    For Cursed Hearts, I’m trying 99designs, and hoping for something wonderful. We shall see.

    Photorealistic faces seem to dominate the shelves, so that’s what I’ve been going for.


  3. Good advice and very true. I am re-launching the first two books in the Sir Choc series with new covers soon. I am also changing the sizing as per discussions with a number of book retailers – you live and learn!


  4. Reblogged this on Sharon E. Cathcart and commented:
    I was lucky enough to sit down with a publisher and my cover artist, and talk about what we’d done right and where we had some horrible misses. Some of it was hard to hear, because I did indeed have a pro working on the books … but the redesigns were *great,* not just good. We got a lot out of hearing some hard truths. The blogger here is right; it’s never too late to fix your covers if they weren’t all they could be.


  5. Good post! Authors should always put as much thought into the cover as they do their WIP. But it can be a double-edged sword when an insanely gorgeous cover and first-rate synopsis masks a mediocre read.


    1. This is completely true. But at least by that point you’ve gotten the reader into the book to read it—which is tough on its own in this market. That’s where editors and proofreaders come into play (and I could write posts on that until the end of time).

      Liked by 1 person

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