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Judging a Book by its Cover

We are all told that we must not judge a book by its cover, yet I firmly believe we all do it, whether we are using the phrase metaphoically or literally, the outward appearance of an item, is important. I am particularly thinking of book covers when I say this, but it applies just as easily to clothes, cake and cats.



However, let me return to books, and their covers. When I was first published one of my editors told me that the job of the cover art is to get the customer to pick up the book. The job of the back cover blurb is to get them to open it. Your job, as the author, is to write a first page that makes them turn to the next one. If that happens, you've sold a book.



I mentioned this in a recent conversation at Dundeed University Student's Association about cover art, and the delegates agreed that they had never bought a book with a cover they considered to be ugly.



One publisher even told me that they found in their research that covers do even more heavy lifting than that. They have a major impact on whether a reader who read and finished the book will recommend it to someone else. This is critical to an author because a word of mouth recommendation is the best they can possibly get.



Some readers even admitted to being ashamed of recommending books with ugly covers. That last bit of info is definitely something to note, as more and more authors work independently and with small presses. Make sure, whatever you do, that your book will be favourably judged when potential readers look at the covers.


Val Penny

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5 Comments


Lesley Field
Lesley Field
Jul 07, 2022

Thank you for showing one of my book covers on your blog, Val. You are right though an ugly cover can put a reader off. I've often been put off by the cover on a book, and that shouldn't happen but it's the first thing a reader sees. If the cover doesn't appeal they'll put the book back on the shelf. Sad but true. As a now indie author I try really hard to make my covers appealing to the reader. I'm hoping that I'm succeeding. Time will tell.

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Lesley Field
Lesley Field
Jul 07, 2022
Replying to

Thanks again. I'm actually in Jasper, Canada at present. Heading back to Banff on Saturday which is where the cover photo shown was taken.

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Great blog, Val. I agree about the book cover, blurb and first page, Val. And to be honest I think self publishers who've chosen to go down this route make their covers just as good as any traditional. However, if I read a really good book with an ugly cover I'd have no problem recommending it to my friends.

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Val Penny
Val Penny
Jul 07, 2022
Replying to

Your covers are stunning Tricia.

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