The Reality of Judging a Book by its Cover

The Reality of Judging a Book by its Cover

two young woman choosing a bookI think it’s time we talk about book covers.

We all know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but let’s be honest, this usually applies to people, and not actually a book. If we are really keeping it honest here, then readers and authors alike understand that books really are judged by the cover. A book cover is the very first thing a reader sees whether that is on a shelf at the bookstore or library, or online.

First Impressions

A book cover is the first impression, and like every first impression, you want to put your best foot forward. It’s true that within the pages of the book itself the writing may be amazing, but if the book cover is made of poor illustrations or the text doesn’t stand out and it looks cheap, then a reader may assume the same goes for the rest of the book as well. You have only seconds to pull a reader in as they come across your book, so don’t you want to take advantage of everything you’ve got?

Self-publishing is a Business

Just like with any business you want to show your consumers that you have the best product out there, and you can match the competition. With a poor book cover, it’s hard to imagine the effort of putting the “best product” forward is true in this case. If you are a self-published author (looking to gain readership and credibility) then you are creating a business and thus every decision you make on publishing your book is a business decision. Show your consumers you can make good business decisions by hiring a great cover designer (and editors and proofreaders as well).

There are times that I am pitched books for review, or come across a book description first (though not often) and I read the description and think yes, this sounds interesting, maybe I’ll give this a try. (But realistically how often does a book come by you without the cover being the first thing you see?) Then I go to the book purchase page itself, or flip the book over and I see a cover that looks like a PowerPoint presentation. It is terribly disappointing. I do not want to be let down as a reader, especially before I even begin reading!

If you are an author with a so-so cover right now, and you realize it’s really not up to par, it’s not too late! Create a new edition! Change the cover on Amazon!  This doesn’t have to be the end point, things can always be updated and changed in self-publishing, that is the beauty of making all the choices yourself and creating your own business as an author.

In case you still are unsure about how important a good book cover is, there is a website dedicated to showcasing the worst book covers out there. Do not end up on this site:

Has a bad book cover turned you away from a book? 

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About Katie McCoach

KATIE McCOACH is a developmental book editor at KM Editorial, LLC working with authors to help them create their best story! Be sure to follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

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7 Responses to The Reality of Judging a Book by its Cover

  1. Ryan Lanz July 23, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    Hi Katie! Per your earlier permission, I scheduled this article to be featured as a guest post on on August 17th. As usual, it has your credit/bio/link. Thanks!

  2. Ryan Lanz June 24, 2017 at 7:46 am #

    Hi Katie! Per your earlier permission, I scheduled this article to be featured as a guest post on tomorrow afternoon. As usual, it has your credi/bio/link. Thanks!

  3. Michael R.Stern May 11, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    The cover of a book may hide what’s in it, but buyers are going to look further if a cover catches their eye. A good reminder to a writer looking for attention.

    • katiemccoach May 15, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

      Great way to put it, Michael! A writer may have the best writing EVER inside the book, but exactly – the consumer needs a reason to look that far. There are so many books available to readers these days that they have to make these quick decisions. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Linda Howell Betz October 10, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Great post, and so true. I wanted a cover for Freefall that would get a second look, that would make a person want to read the back cover copy. I wanted to see the very soul of my protagonist when I looked at the cover. Hopefully, I’m not fooling myself, but I think we accomplished just that!

    I absolutely would not settle until I had the cover I had envisioned!

    We authors work so hard on what we write; We need to make sure that writing is represented on the cover of the book!

    Again, this post gives extremely important advice.

    • katiemccoach October 11, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      It really does make a difference, and I agree, you did a great job at selecting a cover that really fits your book!


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    […] McCoach presents The Reality of Judging a Book by its Cover posted at KM Editorial, saying, “A book cover is the first thing a reader sees when selecting […]

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