Hunting for Good Books: Judging Books by their Covers

Humans are a judgmental species. In far too many circumstances, we determine the value of a person, place, or a thing by its appearance alone. Niagara Falls is awe-inspiring due to its vast size and almost ethereal beauty, yet it suffers from judgment like anything else. The Canadian side simply has the better view.

Books are no different. Many book lovers will ignore covers in the search to find the next greatest read, but in actuality, covers sell books. People are drawn to things with a visual appeal. In so many cases, the author has very little to do with the selection of their cover, although that is changing more and more each day.

We judge books by their covers… and with so many new titles releasing every day, the cover has become a key factor in the sale and consumption of novels. It’s an unwanted fact. Book lovers love books, and a bad cover can hide an amazing novel. Book lovers don’t want to judge books by their covers.

The sheer number of books sold each and every day, in a way, necessitates this tendency. You have enough money to buy one book. How do you pick the perfect book? There are so many factors in this, but for many, covers make a huge difference.

first impressions matter

When shopping on amazon or in a brick-and-mortar store, I grab books in a certain fashion. I don’t really even think about it much, either–I have been reading for so long I automatically go through a mental checklist when hunting for my next read.

  1. Catchy Title or Known Author
  2. Cover
  3. Description
  4. Sample Read

While the title and author are at the top of the list, it doesn’t hold much weight–not compared to the next three parts of my list. Title and author get the book into my hand, but the cover can return it to the shelf in a heartbeat. Why?

I judge whether or not a book will interest me based on the cover. If the cover is intriguing or has an element of something I like, the book remains in my hand. If it doesn’t, it goes back onto the shelf without me ever reading the description. That begs the question of ‘What do I look for?’

covers as a shopping tool

I sound harsh, but in reality, it doesn’t take much for me to decide to check out the description. Here’s a quick list of things that will get me to flip the book over and read the blurb.

  1. Obvious Fantasy / Sci Fi elements. I like my genre fiction!
  2. Nice, professional colors/art/layout. If it looks like Picasso vomited on the cover, I’m not going to be interested in the book.
  3. Tasteful. I don’t want gratuitous nudity on covers–unless I’m buying a porn on purpose. I don’t want gross, either.
  4. Horses, daggers, sharp or pointy objects, shinies. What can I say? These things interest me.
  5. Pretty art. I’ll buy a book to display the cover if it’s that pretty–even if I never read the book.

Obviously, this is a subjective list… but every reader has their own tastes, and that’s a great thing.

In short, a cover needs to have an element of interest to me as a reader. Judging books by their covers lets me hunt down the type of book I want to read–it is a gateway to a whole new world. Covers are a great shopping tool… and some of my absolute favorite books I found by judging them by their covers.

I love books, but covers do influence me, and first impressions matter. Covers are my very first introduction to a book. Yet, no matter how much I love books, their covers still influence me. Do covers influence you? What makes you decide to walk away from a novel before you read the sample? Is it the cover, the description, or both?

Snake-headFor what it’s worth, I judge books far harder on their description than I do on their covers. Ironically, I’m far more forgiving once I open a book and begin reading. If they hold me through the first ten minutes, I’ll usually finish unless the author trips one of my triggers. And yes, I am that girl who stands in the fantasy aisle in the book store flipping through the beginning of a novel. And yes, I am that girl who subconsciously will move out of your way so you can check out the books I’m blocking. I’m probably the reason the stores here have learned to put chairs around to keep book browsers like me out of the way…

Happy reading, book lovers!

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