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If I Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover…



So we have all heard the famous quote “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but seriously how else are you suppose to pick a new book? Now I know what you’re thinking: the blurb, a recommendation or even how many stars it has on goodreads..but let’s be honest here, what do you see first? What do we all add at the top of the post for that eye catching extra like? THE COVER! But unlike the awesome cover I’ve snatched to catch your attention (yes I know you might be thinking, that’s the movie poster. That’s how great the cover was, they used it as the movie poster as well. Score one for that cover artist) not all covers were created equal. So what is the biggest problems we run into with covers? Here are my cover grips. These are all very subjective so please take them that way:

  1. It doesn’t match. If you’re a book nerd like me then you’ve done it, you know bought that book at 2am that has the most amazing cover, and didn’t read the blurb. But that cover, ugh it’s everything you’ve dreamed about! You don’t even need a summary of the story, it is the summary people. And then you start reading..ummm wait what? Maybe I accidentally bought the wrong book??? It’s like a bait and switch, you have a story on the cover that you never see in the book. Some covers have gone so far for me as the have aliens, robots that are minor characters or even one showed a main character of a really cool Tim Burton fantasy kinda guy on it, the main character was a girl..I never found him in the book!
  2. The oversell. Now this is the cover that does have something to do with the story, it just ends up being way bigger than the book. You know the cover that makes you think, this book is going to be 5 stars, guaranteed..and it’s just not living up to its cover potential. There are some breathtaking covers out there, truly gorgeous, but I fear them the most because I want the books to be just as breathtaking. You never know until you read.
  3. The undersell. This one is the easiest and yet the worst at the same time. It’s the ones where the cover is just plain old bad, and yet the book is amazing. Think of all the books you’ve passed on that are gold, or that later someone has convinced you to read and then you loved it. Now here is the cringe moment, think of all the books you passed on that no one convinced you to read that might have been gold..I know I’m not sleeping tonight either. I’d love to say I never would be so shallow as to just make a decision based solely on looks but I’m going to fess up here, I have an author I have read for 8 years that I passed on the first time because of the cover. They are notorious for their bad covers now but back then they were newbies and it made a difference. Fortunately for me someone talked me into trying them (very fortunately for me, I absolutely love them) but I actually put their book down the first time. A lot of people say that covers don’t make as much of a difference now that most people have gone digital and download their books, but I say to them, how do you pick which books your going to read a blurb on? I still look at covers on Amazon or Goodreads. I just don’t buy that argument.

Okay let’s flip this coin. I hate bad covers, you guys got that point but I’m sure authors don’t like them either. So what makes covers so tricky? Well this is what I’ve learned over the years, but indies if there is something I’m missing, comment! Back to cover art, Why oh why is it so hard to match? Here’s what my forage and gathering skills have gleaned:

  1. If you are a published author you don’t get to decide. That’s right, if you get a publishing house, they ultimately pick the cover they think will make the most, and here is the shocking part…MONEY. I know, I know, sometimes you see those covers and think how is a half naked man going to sell more urban fantasy novels? Or, really another really hot goth looking chick/dude? That’s not what the main character even looks like. Well apparently here is the stitch, they don’t care. They are hoping you buy the book cause you’re a UF freak like me (I mean fan, yeah that was a typo) and they hope someone else buys it cause their is a chick on the cover with a flaming sword. As long as they sell books.
  2. For indie’s sometimes $$$ makes a difference. Okay so you have this vision, and it’s awesome, I mean you want what’s in your brain to become print on your cover. And it’s going to be epic. But let’s be honest here, you have to foot the bill for the book, and you don’t have big brother who, though they would basically be making your cover decisions for you, they would also be helping pay upfront fees. You just can’t afford the Lexus, so you have to buy the Kia, don’t get me wrong it’s great, just not exactly what you were picturing in your head.
  3. You get the picture. Sometimes you can get an amazing cover but the story just doesn’t connect. Hey this is why everything is so subjective, maybe it’s my problem. I recently read an authors blog that said, sometimes a bad review is just the reviewers problem. HEY! As a reviewer I didn’t love that but I’m glad the author posted it, because if I’m the only one complaining than it’s on me. Now if everyone is complaining…


My favorite cover is PB

the sad thing is that this is no longer the cover for this book but I have always loved it. What is your favorite cover? Let me know!

55 thoughts on “If I Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover…”

  1. Spot on! I am a huge fan of the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but then again I am an author and it is the words that speak to me. That being said, I agree completely regarding matching and the $$$ problem. I have a great example of where they did it right, though, every single one of the Dresden Files:

    When I look at a Dresden Files cover, I see Harry Dresden, no doubt about it. They are superbly done. Good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hate the tred toward generic model stock photo that’s been super-imposed on some generic background. I love the covers of SF & Fantasy books from the 60s and 70s with gorgeous paintings (more or less) tailored to the stories. You really don’t see that a lot these days, as stock art covers are much cheaper.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel kind of bad for one of my favorite contemporary fantasy writers – his stuff is totally like Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories, but the covers of his books make them look like bad horrorotica romances. I’m just glad I have the version of the first book from before the chesty vampire lady got shopped in.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. BTW, i been meaning to ask; would you be interested in getting review copies of Cirsova? Shoot me an email if you are. I got swamped with the 2016 slush-pile after the first issue came out, so I’ve been bad about getting these out to the book bloggers I follow.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like elegant covers and often prefer landscapes and objects to people. I hate it when they don’t match because then it gets confusing to imagine my own details and facing the people on the cover all the time too.

    Covers with too much photo shop (whether by financial or artistic or licensing reasons) never appeal to me…
    All About Romance even has a contest about covers where people can vote! Every year we have really bad covers which just show how difficult it must be to have a good one…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What do you mean that is no longer the cover for Bone Crossed? I love those covers and I love when an author makes a deal with another artist for book covers in a series. Dos Santos is an excellent example. Patricia Briggs has both her book series covers done by him and they look amazing. I like seeing collaborations like that.
    Another book series with good covers for me is Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

    From YA book series new covers for Mortal Instruments are beautiful as well πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, Patty you broke my heart! And I think it’s the only book she changed, I don’t know why? Why Patty why!

      The Mortal Instruments do have gorgeous covers, I will agree with that!


  5. Great post – this is the place I can (perhaps?) impose to ask a question. (If not – sorry – just skip this.) I created my own cover for a scifi “1st colony on Mars” book. There’s a cat in the story – a minor character and a totally “real” cat. His behavior offers a clue that helps the colonists survive. I put him on the cover because I fell in love with his eyes: (how do you guys get images in here?)
    So my question is: did I make a good decision or a bad decision?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So many books, so little time! But if you (and your followers and visitors) would like – feel free to DL a digital copy and let me know what you think! Your opinions make me a better writer! Free DL here: (they will ask for an email address) or if you can deal with coupons, scroll down and pull the code from here:
        Now I’m going to cruise around this neat site!


  6. Your article about covers is spot on, Karen! There have been several wonderful books over the past few years that I would have missed if I didn’t live by the mantra “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. I remember a blog by one of my favorite authors who stated that they did not have control over their covers. Their publisher allows them some input, but the decision rests with the publisher. I think that is just crazy because who knows their books better than the authors (except for us readers, of course!)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What an awesome post and you surely hit the nail in the head. I judge a book by it’s cover all the time. Just like you I am a sucker for a beautiful cover. Although all the covers I have judged have had a great story to go along with the cover. These are some of my favorite covers…it’s only a few, but I appreciate the artistry in them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think if your on a computer you can copy and paste a pic like you would for a blog but I thought everyone would just give me a link πŸ™‚ I’m totally okay with you just telling us!


      1. Sorry for the long wait to reply but here are my favorite covers:

        1. Matilda: Roald Dahl
        His book has such a big significance to me. It’s basically me in a nutshell, besides the cover is one of my tattoos.
        2. Of Posideon: Anna Banks
        The cover is just so simple, beautiful, and serene. I absolutely love mermaids( The Little Mermaid being my fave; I also have a tattoo of Ariel).
        3. Heroin Diaries: Nikki Sixx
        Nikki Sixx was a former member of Motley crue. Like amost rock Stars he went through a really bad time with drugs and his life was just basically dark and all over the place. The cover for this beauty is a mix of splatter, grunge, and scratchy fonts. Absolute art.
        4. Undertaker:
        One of the biggest legends in WWE today. He’s one of my absolute faves and the cover is just detailed and simply amazing.
        5.Eleanor&Park:Rainbow Rowell
        Simple,cute, colorful and overall one of my faves.
        6. Legacy: Danielle Steel
        One of my fave authors. Her covers are simple yet elegant.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a dyslexic friend who doesn’t read but who knows I like to. We walked into a bookshop once and he picked out a book entirely based on the cover.

    Which happened to be this-

    Ten years later and I’m a die hard Scott Lynch fan boy. So much so that after four months at sea my ex partner had the third book waiting for me when I got home.

    The third thing I did was read it.

    So yeah, cover art matters.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The series is called Gentleman Bastard?!? Now I’m following this conversation..I’m still calling my friends that I just stole it from Scott Lynch.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that from this post you are either me as a guy, or we could be best friends. Of course cover art matters. And the fact that after so long at sea, you read your book third actually makes you nicer than me. Lol I love this!!!! You are awesome!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha Les see we both got the Gentleman’s Bastard part..It’s the name of the series, which I will now have to read because it looks interesting.

        Liked by 1 person

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  10. This is one of my favorite covers:

    I am such a sucker for a nice cover. Here is another one:

    I chose both of these books based on the cover and LOVED them!! Nice post, it is good to see that others can be truly honest in stating that they too judge a book by its cover–we should make a club and get jackets, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah the …brilliant…scifi…work..when really they say this was not a brilliant book. I don’t even know if it was scifi, who’s work was this anyway?

      That makes me crazy!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Before I started reviewing books and before I started this blog, I didn’t really go much out of my comfort zone, I would just re-read the books I had or if a new book came out in the series, I would read that but now that I am reviewing, I’ve noticed that if I really love the cover and think it’s gorgeous, I’ll most likely just go ahead and download it, hoping the book is good. If the cover isn’t that pretty, I’ll read the blurb and maybe download it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Like The Kingdom series by Marie Hall. I downloaded Her Mad Hatter in 2012 because I loved that cover but didn’t read it until last year and found, I am so in love with that book and the series, even though I’ve only read the first three books.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. A cover of a book definitely can spark my interest, and I’ll be more likely to pick it up. However, I do try not to judge. πŸ˜‰ If the cover doesn’t look that great but the book title sounds interesting, I’ll still pick it up to read the blurb or look it up on Goodreads!

    I actually prefer books that don’t have the characters on the cover…though the spines of the new TMI covers alone have me wanting them! At the moment, I am really liking the covers of Six of Crows and And I Darken. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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