Judging A Book By Its Cover

I’ve been researching book cover design to learn more about what sells and what doesn’t. In that all-important first moment when potential buyers see your book either online or on a brick-and-mortar store shelf, does the cover grab them and shout “Buy me!” or does it say “Meh” and let them get away?Book_I_WhiteCover

I read that analyzing covers of recently published books is a great way to get ideas that will make your book an eye-catcher. Sometimes I found it difficult, though, to figure out why some covers worked better than others. For example, on The Book Designer Web site, Joel Friedlander critiques book covers submitted by writers/designers, awarding gold stars to the best ones and useful comments to others. I went through and studied the covers, then read his comments to see if we had similar thoughts. Sometimes we agreed and sometimes not. The crux of the matter is that it’s all subjective. One person’s beauty is another’s bleh.

The site did have some good basic design tips which I found helpful.
• Decide what your principal focus will be and work around that. Use only a few images and don’t clutter.
• Don’t use a white background. Use texture, color, or illustration instead.
• Make sure the text stands out and is easy to read.
• The title needs to be large enough to be read when shrunk to Amazon thumbnail size.
• Use images, colors, and fonts that convey the tone/mood of the book.

A few seconds’ glance is all you get when someone picks up your book. In those few moments, your cover should communicate the genre, the theme or basic subject of the book, and the tone. It should lead the person into your story and make them not want to leave. I know that sounds like common sense, but it’s a lot harder than it seems.

I had some general ideas of what I thought should be on the cover of my book, one of which was to focus on my main character, a swordswoman with silver-blonde hair. Both the book I’m currently reading and the one I’m going to read next have swordswomen prominently on the covers. But then I read where one person didn’t like putting characters on book covers because she preferred to leave the characters’ faces to the readers’ imaginations.

What do you think? Does it bother you to have an image of the main character on the book cover? I’d love to hear your opinions!

8 thoughts on “Judging A Book By Its Cover

  1. Hi Lori, it doesn’t bother me at all to have the main character on the cover, as long as the figure is done well. I don’t like seeing a swordswoman who has skinny arms and skimpy clothes. 🙂 I recently saw a cover for a new book by a fellow blogger that I thought was awesome, here’s the link to her debut with the image: http://disregardtheprologue.com/2014/06/15/party-time/

    I love full-cover illustrations for my fantasy books, because then you can include some of the world setting as well as the characters. Best of luck with the design process!


  2. Thanks, Sue! And thanks for the link. That cover is beautiful! Love the colors. I have to agree with you about the skimpy clothes. So many women in fantasy artwork are drawn that way, it’s ridiculous. My swordswoman will definitely be fully dressed!


  3. It depends 🙂 It IS subjective, as you say. Sometimes the image of the character on the cover is far too “promising” for the quality of the writing or plot, and that is frustrating because it means I was sucked into a mediocre book by a misleading cover (again, completely subjective). I do take the cover into consideration when browsing for books – not just the images, but the printing, the write-ups, and the feel of the cover’s paper. When I end up loving the cover AND the book itself, I’ve hit the jackpot!


  4. I can see where the plot not being as good as the cover would be frustrating and disappointing. I’ve had that happen before with books I’ve read. I’m hoping with my book that others will find both worthwhile. Thanks for commenting!


  5. Like it or not, we do judge a book by the cover. It’s probably one of the most significant ways to get a book noticed. If it’s poorly designed, that fabulous story inside may never be discovered. If it’s well done, then it sends the message that the writing is well done too (although that’s not always the case). I read a blog post where an indie author skimped on the cover and suffered lackluster sales. Then she had the cover redesigned and her sales skyrocketed. Pretty telling, huh? Best of luck with your cover design, Lori!


  6. Thanks, Melissa! There’s an obvious moral to that story, isn’t there? The problem is that there are soooo many possibilities, I’m nervous about what to choose. Sounds silly, I know, but it’s such an important decision.


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