I judge books by their covers, and I’m not ashamed!

… well, not exactly.

When I’m at the bookshop looking for my next read, the two things I rely on the most are the title and the cover… and  the latter more than the former. When the books are laid out in front of me, I depend on their covers to guide me. If a cover is bland and uninteresting, I’m less likely to pick it up; but if a book has good artwork and a cool design, my hand will automatically be drawn to it.

I’m not completely superficial though. Once I pick up the book and momentarily soak up its front, I will turn to the back and read the blurb. If that catches my interest, I then flip through the pages and read a few passages to see if I like the style of the author. Then I hold on to it and continue browsing the shelves to see if there’s anything I may like better (I do this when I’m on a budget, otherwise I do buy several books at a time).

For example, look at the covers provided by the Good Show Sir and tell me honestly, would you buy any of the books listed there? I can’t in good conscience say that I would pick any of these books of their shelves. They’re really unattractive and some of them are downright repulsive. They simply do not call me to read them. A cover needs to say, “Come hither, Zen, and look through my pages. You know you want to,” or else it’s most probably not getting a second look.

I’m sorry, Mr. Bradbury, you’re a good writer, but that’s a terrible cover!
(Photo Credit: Good Show Sir)

When an author puts a lot of effort into writing their book, they need to exert equal effort in getting their book the best cover possible, especially now with the increase in publication and e-books. There are so many books to wade through these days, and one can’t just stop at each one to read the blurb and see if they like it, whether they are at a bookshop running their fingers along the spines, or at an online store scrolling through a bunch of titles. It’s sad when the author writes a fantastic book, and then doesn’t get any attention because their cover is unprofessional or plain.

I don’t even want to know.
(Photo Credit: Goodreads)

To be fair, I think many people are becoming more conscious about the importance of covers, and you don’t see ones this terrible these days. But every once in a while I’ll come across a book and think, “What on earth was the author thinking?

What about you? Do you care about the cover or do you focus more on the story? Do you know any books with terrible covers?


72 thoughts on “I judge books by their covers, and I’m not ashamed!

  1. I often scan a shelf for something to read “right now” while I wait for the release of the next thing I really wanted to read. Covers that catch my eye are a huge influence in my impulse book buying.

    • I do that too. Unless I know what I’m looking for something specific, I scan the shelves until something interesting catches me eye. =]

  2. Max Reynolds says:

    I pick books the same way except that I don’t look inside it at all. The cover, title and synopsis is what gets me excited about a book. I enjoyed your post. -Max-

    • I usually look inside when I have more time, but if I’m in a hurry I’ll just stick to the synopsis. xD Thank you for your comment!

  3. theyoungplum says:

    Sign me up for a copy of ass goblins!

    I did fall for sedaris based soley on a cover. I think it was, dress your family in corduroy and denim. I’m a fashion merchandiser and illustrator so you get a few extra points for a good visually concise cover.

    • Ahaha. I’m warning you, the synopsis of the book is even WEIRDER than the cover! And I can see why you’d like Sedaris’ books; they are pretty concise but at the same time catchy. The minimalist look works for it!

  4. Artemis says:

    ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is nice as a type of moral of sorts, but when it comes to actual books, covers are important. Covers are /supposed/ to look nice and convince people to read them instead of other books. A cover is a first impression, and those are extremely important. Cover art is subjective, so what some may love others may find disgusting, but it’s still important.

    With that in mind, I do judge by the cover a lot of times. Some covers are just really well done, they tell a story or show me who’s in the book, and when I’ve got a ton of book in front of me and I only intend to buy one or a few, those first impressions are really important. It’s not the only factor, but… it’s a big one.

    • Yep, exactly! This mentality works when applied to people, but with covers… not so much. It really does play a big role in what books I buy and which ones I completely ignore. First impressions are indeed very important. =]

  5. Good heavens, that’s the very copy of “I sing the body electric” that I have. I always thought it was peculiar.

    I tend to get more annoyed with book covers that don’t depict a written character as described: for example, if the protagonist is an overweight woman with black hair and the cover depicts a slinky blonde siren.

    And I bought one of my favourite books “The Wood Wife” based purely on the cover. Sometimes it works out for the good.

    • Peculiar is one way to describe it! I really don’t understand what possessed the designer to pull together such a cover.
      And I understand what you mean about the covers not depicting what books contain; I’ve come across a few like that!
      It does, doesn’t it? Sure it’s not foolproof, but sometimes you get great results! =]

  6. I definately judge a book by its cover too! So many books I have picked up, looked at for about 5 seconds tops and put them back down because of the cover! Especially those ‘Penguin series’ books, where they take classics and popular books, name them a favourite, and then stick an ugly plain orange cover on the front, yuck! I sometimes think I am far too fussy with my books though, the cover has to be intriguing, the blurb as to draw me in, and the book has to be IN ABSOLUTELY perfect nick before I even consider buying it eg. no bent or bumped corners, no bent spine, no dents, and I die a little inside if I accidentally do any of these things to a book and end up looking at the fault and mourning over it more than reading the book itself! 😛 I think I’m a bit of a book perfectionist XD

    • Oh I’ve seen those Penguin books! I really don’t understand why they do it, and orange is not a very flattering colour either!
      And I’m like you actually, haha. I make sure that my book is in perfect condition before I buy it. If a cover is faulty in any way, I would only consider buying the books if I was really desperate for it, otherwise I’ll look for something else. And I too feel sad when I do my books any harm too. That’s why I tend to avoid lending them, because I can’t trust people to be as careful as I am!

      • Haha I do that too! There are only two people I lend my books I see, and they are as freakish with their books as I am, so they know the deal 😛

        • Unfortunately most people I know aren’t like that. Some of them actually… *cringe* fold back the cover.

  7. I heartily agree. While the cover is not what determines a read for me – the blurb will get my attention – it can definitely be a turn off unless I already know the author.

    • Same here! I mean… if I saw a bad cover for a book written by an author I know and like, I’ll consider it, otherwise I won’t even look at the blurb.

  8. Yep. Covers make a difference and I, too, choose books based on title and cover. If they’ve been laid out flat, it’s more the cover, if standing in shelves, it’s obviously more the title, though even there, the font does make a difference to the likelihood of me taking it out or not.
    Also, I’ve never yet been wrong when picking a book mainly because of the cover. I’ve always loved them.
    Question though: how much input do (non-self-publishing) authors have on the cover art?

    • Ah yes, I do look at the titles when the books are standing on shelves, and the font definitely plays a part for me too!
      As for your question… hmm, in one book I once read the author didn’t have much of a choice and was stuck with a horrible cover. I suppose it depends on the contract they made with the publishing company, no?

      • I guess so. But it’s such an important part, it’s a wonder they let anyone else make a final decision on it. Something to keep in mind for the future… 🙂

        • Definitely. I would like my cover to be eye-pleasing, and there’s no way I’m letting a publisher stick an ugly picture on a book I worked so hard on. =]

  9. Well, well, Zen, I just got the website for your fascination with book covers though you might know about this website: http://awfullibrarybooks.net/

    Feel the wrath of outdated, super awkward book covers!

    As for my two cents, the cover does play an influence me, but I am more drawn to the little one-liner (aka subtitle?) on the cover, like when I came across this book called The Closing of the Western Mind, there’s the line that reads “The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason.” I’m intrigued!

    • Actually I’ve never seen that site before! Thank you! Though it appears to focus more on the content of the books than the actual cover.
      Ah, yes, the subtitles do play a part for me too! And so do the glowing reviews sometimes found on the back/front. I know I shouldn’t pay attention to them, but when I see “Astounding! Amazing!” on the book, I always fall for it, haha.

  10. I’m very guilty of this as well! I suppose it comes from my background though where copywriting and graphic design need to come together for one cohesive design.

    Pick me up a copy of Ass Goblins of Auschwitz please?

    • I suppose that plays a huge part when it comes to selecting books! Aesthetically-pleasing books are more likely to be picked up.
      Haha. That book does pique one’s interest, doesn’t it? I wonder how the author even thought of it. xD

  11. I would totally buy both of these specimens for their covers. Especially the Ass Goblins. But I think I have a skewed sense of what is “good.” Hah:)

  12. A lot of people judge books by cover alone. Once they get past the cover they will read the blurb. So it’s important, especially with e-books, to have a cover that will pique their interest and a dynamic blurb.

  13. I don’t want to attempt it, but I also look at a book if the cover attracts me. However, I love a plain book that you fall in love with unfortunately those are sometimes difficult to find. Good post.

    • Yes, they are indeed difficult to find. Books are relying more and more on their covers. We live in a time where appearances matter quite a bit.
      Thank you for your comment!

  14. Best way to get me to pick up the book of an untried author is to have something on the front cover for me to read and grab my attention. Title to get the initial glance, cover to get me to look closer, then a one liner to give me some kind of clue what it’s about.

    Good Show Sir?! Thank you so much for linking to that. I can’t stop laughing. Although, to be fair, some of those covers aren’t horrible. They are just typical 80’s Sci-fi/Fan covers. I think my favorite, so far, has to be on the first page, the cover of “Chrome” by George Nader.

    • That’s what I do. I like to experiment with new writers, and the covers need to be fabulous if they want to draw my attention.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the site! True, some are outdated, but others are definitely appalling. “Chrome” is definitely… uh, interesting, haha.

  15. I absolutley agree. There may or may not have been many good reads I passed up because the cover work was terrible… I know I shouldn’t judge, but I have it my mind if it is terrible on the outside chances are it is terrible on the indside. And I know this sounds awful…Ha!

    • Haha, don’t worry; it’s not awful! The cover plays an important role, and a terrible cover won’t be attracting any new readers!

  16. I read the back cover blurb first. If it’s really good I can ignore the cover. BTW, stopped by your website… loved the set up on it. And thanks for stopping by my site and commenting on The 7 Ps of plotting.

    • Well the blurb does play an important part, but I was just saying that the cover plays the biggest role in attracting the attention of a potential customer.
      Thank you for your comment! And I’m glad you like my site’s layout! =]

  17. Hi Zen, Thanks for stopping by my Blog.
    When looking to read one of my favorite authors, I often find that I have already read one of their books – they changed the dust cover! Cheeky monkeys?

  18. Hello-

    A wonderful post this is! I completely agree, on most points, at least. To go even further, I’ll say that, at first, a book is meant to be judged by its cover (well, maybe not “judged”, but “justly represented” to be judged?)
    Before going to a bookshop, I already know what I am going to buy and so the function of the book cover is lessened for me, but I do care that the cover is visually appealing to me.
    Books with terrible covers? Not exactly, but I tend to dislike book covers that have a photograph for a cover. It is preferable that the book cover is designed otherwise or (for classics) has some painting on the cover.
    Again, that’s a great post! Oh, and thank you for liking my first post!


    • Thank you for your comment! And yes, I agree – books need to represent their books properly. I don’t understand all these new covers that feature beautiful girls and handsome guys on the cover… it’s so overused and you’d think by now designers would learn to do something else. =/

  19. Covers really count, but I think that newer editions of Bradbury (for one) have covers that appeal to our modern sense of good design. Covers count a lot — I researched the cover image for my second novel and the publisher was very happy with it. My own choice of books often has to do with either subject-matter or an author I like, but for impulse buying, the cover comes first.

    • Oh definitely. I bought a new edition of Fahrenheit 451, and the cover’s not bad at all. I just looked at your covers, and I think they look great! And I follow more or less the same method when buying books; if I know the author, the cover doesn’t really matter as much.

  20. Yes! I always do that. If a cover looks interesting then I pick up the book and read the blurb. Otherwise I just ignore the book. 🙂
    And thanks for dropping by on my blog and leaving a comment!

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