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: .

Has a bad book cover turned you away from a book? 




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.

30 thoughts on “The Reality of Judging a Book by its Cover

  1. An attractive book cover is everything. If you write an amazing novel, and you are absolutely certain that you did, why would you want a dull cover? Indie authors should definitely give this post a read. Great writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A bad book cover has never turned me away but I’ve learned my lesson about all those great covers. Sometimes they mask a mediocre read. Now, the cover may get my attention, but if the blurb doesn’t grab my interest and hold it, it’s a ‘no-sale.’

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Perfect timing. I was just playing around with ideas for a cover. I used to think a cover didn’t matter that much, but after seeing some self-published covers I have changed my mind.
    The problem is, it’s like asking a woman to criticize her child. We are blind to faults that are obvious to others. There are places like Kboards that will critique your cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It could be the best book ever but If the cover does not draw my attention, or is unimpressive, I just keep moving. The cover is what gets me to read the description before I decide if it is the book for me or not.


  5. Using a poorly illustrated cover to package your creative writing is like slapping ugly frosting on a fabulous layer cake you’ve spent much time and effort baking. Sure, some may risk buying a slice but think of the countless others who would’ve bought it if only the outside was as beautifully put together as the inside.


  6. I think as self-publishing continues to grow the book cover will become a more significant component of the process. I think in traditional publishing it’s difficult to rely on book covers, since they are often created by someone who read the first few chapters, skimmed an outline, and then cranked out a somewhat generic image that loosely fit the narrative. I frequently find book covers to be so generically vague (the rough side of a cliff, waves sweeping a shore) that I can’t make any inferences about the story.
    At the same time, with so many stories being published every year, we do have to narrow down the candidates somehow.
    I like to rely on other readers; not the statistics of reviews but the personal opinions of specific readers, some of whom are friends of mine, others are authors and reviewers who’ve impressed me with their sharp eye for good storytelling. Often authors and bloggers create a chain of recommendations, which I like to follow.


  7. com/2017/08/28/the-reality-of-judging-a-book-by-its-cover/” rel=”nofollow”>Plaisted Publishing and commented:
    Food for throught on Book Covers […] author: The realism of Judging a Book by its Cover […]


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