Judging Books By Their Covers

I have a confession to make: I totally judge books by their covers. Not in a bad way. I’ve never not read a book because of its cover. But every once in a while, a really stunning cover will intrigue me so much that it’ll sway me to give the book a chance.

Now, I know authors have very little control over cover art, but it still impresses me when artists manage to capture the voice and spirit of an author’s work.

Here are some covers that convinced me to go on and read the books:

coversBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – That shattered lollipop. What’s not to love?! I’d read The Husband’s Secret and enjoyed Moriarty’s writing, but this cover pushed it over the top. I’m now a Liane Moriarty fangirl.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel – This cover is so beautiful and mysterious, especially given the novel is an adult dystopian about the end of civilization. BTW, this book is a must. It’s all about the importance of art in society, even when there isn’t really a society left.

Front Page Fatality by LynDee Walker – I discovered this series a few years ago and, while I was hooked on the premise, it was the fashionable footwear on the cover that sold me. Turns out, the story is just as solid. (Seriously, I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys edgier cozies).

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée-Ahdieh – This cover kept drawing me in until I finally plucked it off the shelf, skimmed the blurb, and then proceeded to read the whole thing. A retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, this was a fascinating and original YA fantasy.

In the Woods by Tana French – I’d heard good things about Tana French but wasn’t completely sold on her Dublin Murder Squad Series until I saw the cover. It’s just so cool and eerie and, as it turns out, captures French’s noir voice perfectly.

Do you judge books by their covers? Have you discovered a truly phenomenal book because the cover intrigued you?

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Author: Kate Lansing

I write mysteries, YA novels, and short fiction. I also read A LOT, travel as much as possible, and take way too many pictures of my cat.

17 thoughts on “Judging Books By Their Covers”

  1. I’m like you. A meh cover will not keep me from reading, but a great cover that makes me keep picking up a book can get me to read something. I love Henery Presses covers. And Hank Phillippi Ryan’s for Jane Ryland and the re-issue of the Charlie McNally books. I’m less thrilled with some of the remakes I’ve seen for the Harry Potter books. The original covers for those were just fine.

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  2. Oh, absolutely! I’ve bought books just because the cover made me buy them. But what appeals to me is different for others. And more often, the story didn’t live up to the promise of its cover. But the books you’ve described… Gee, thanks! Now my TBR pile has grown again.

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  3. I’m super judgy about covers. And as an indie author, I know a cover is incredibly important — it should indistinguish us from trade books. Also, it reflects the quality inside.

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  4. I too am a cover snob. If it screams indie author—and I am one—I take a pass unless the book has been recommended.

    I’m also impressed by your artwork for this post, Kate. Very cool.

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  5. Who doesn’t! It’s impossible not to. Love all the covers you picked. I bet most people don’t realize how little control authors have over covers.

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  6. I love the artwork on Catriona McPherson’s books. And yes, I’ll buy a book for it’s cover. Thanks for your tips. A couple of the books you mentioned on in my TBR. They shall move to the top.

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  7. I am a reader, so for me, the title and the cover are usually my first interactions with a book. When I go to my favorite bookstore, I am drawn to shelves like a dropped pin to magnet. My eyes glance at the spines of books, a line of title after title, one after another standing, waiting, enticing, calling me to slide out the book. Some books are even turned so I can get that glimpse of the cover tempting me, seductively inviting me to reach out and fetch it from the shelf, to hold it in my hand, to buy, to read. The title and the cover are very important to readers.

    Yes, I purchase books because I have met the author at an event, read a previous book by the same author, or had the book recommended by a friend, but somewhere along the line, that book was judged by the cover.

    If I meet you at an event I will always ask about the cover. Be ready to comment on what the cover says about your book’s content, good or bad. I have had authors say great things about the covers, but I have also had them say that they hated the cover, felt the cover did not reflect the tone of the book, or that parts of the book had to be rewritten to include elements on the cover so the book would match.

    I know that many writers do not have much control over covers, but please at least pay attention to the cover because readers do. I don’t judge a book solely by its cover, but the cover draws me in first. The cover catches my eye; the content catches my mind. A good book has both.

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  8. As I’m currently working with my publisher on a cover, this post caught my attention. I do believe that covers are extremely important. If they don’t represent what’s inside, the reader may end up feeling cheated and not come back for the next book. I had this experience on one of my covers when I was with a major publishing house who did not feel my input as the author was important. As a result, they produced a cover that looked like a cozy mystery, when my books are psychological suspense. People who like cozies might pick up the book because of the cover, then hate the dark story, and those who like psychological suspense would not be attracted to it.
    Thanks for bringing this up! All the covers you displayed are intriguing.

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  9. Thank you for all the thoughtful comments! Glad to know I’m not alone in this 😉

    Mary, I agree, all of Henery Press’ covers are fantastic! I haven’t seen the new Harry Potter covers, but will definitely check them out (not sure how I missed them as a self-proclaimed Potterhead!)!

    Becky, LOL!!!

    Sue, I hope you enjoy them! I understand well the curse of the ever-expanding TBR pile 😉

    Peg and Kimberly, I love hearing your perspective as indie authors, and I can see how picking the cover becomes even more important. And yes, Kimberly, definitely reflects the quality inside. Peg, you can thank PowerPoint and some copying and pasting for the artwork in this post 🙂

    Thanks, Sam! I never knew authors had so little input on their covers until I started delving into the world of publishing. Definitely interesting.

    Ooh, I’ve never seen her covers, Keenan, but will definitely check them out (and then I’ll likely end up buying the book! Ha!). Hope you enjoy the books!

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  10. 3 no 7, I love hearing your perspective as a reader (and, can I just say, you’re a very eloquent writer as well). That’s really interesting that you ask authors about their covers and how it reflects their story, a question every author should be able to answer whether or not they had much control over it. Ultimately, the cover does say something about the work; in fact, I usually reexamine a cover after I’ve finished a book because I usually catch little nuggets that I missed before 🙂

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  11. Welcome, Sheila, and thanks for your comment! You bring up a fantastic point. The cover of a book has to reflect the genre and the content. Readers rely on covers initially to help give them a sense of the story. Best of luck with your new cover design!

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  12. Agree, Kate, that a cover can compel me to look at a book more closely! And sometimes I love a cover so much I wish I could hang it on the wall. Speaking of which, isn’t it weird that we can buy movie posters but not book cover posters? That has always seemed odd to me.

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  13. Well, Cynthia, covers as separate artwork is very interesting. If you, as an author, want covers as “promotional” pieces, perhaps publishers would give you some. You could give them away at book signings. After all, the cover art is used on bookmarks, tote bags, and other promotional items. Just pop a few into nice frames and hand them on your wall in a nice group. There might even be extra dust jackets sitting around in the printing house that you could “requisition.” As far as the covers of other books, well that might be more difficult. This might be a growth business opportunity.

    I do know that it is possible to purchase really cool t-shirts with artwork made from the text of public domain novels. I bought an Alice in Wonderland t-shirt for my daughter, and it is really interesting to see all that little text forming the outline of Alice.

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  14. Kait, I hear ya. I read A LOT on my Kindle, but those thumbnails–that cover art–still make a big difference!

    Cynthia, I completely agree! I would *love* book cover posters, and would hang them all around my writing desk. So interesting that isn’t a thing…Yet!

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