Judging a book by its cover

I need to make a confession.

I judge books by their covers.

A good writer wouldn’t do that; a good writer would give every book a fair shake, knowing how much sweat goes into each word. Just yesterday, for example, I wrote 300 words.  But it took me an hour. They weren’t even 300 good words. The good ones take longer.  Multiply that by ten million times if you’re a full-time author.

I look at each cover and remind myself of the immense labor that stands behind it, and pass on it if the font is serif. I am not alone.

I just can’t do it any other way. There are too many books, and there is not enough time to read them, and I am looking for the best book, the one that will take me away somewhere quickly and teach me something. I can tell by the cover and the title if it’ll do it.  I weigh them both equally like a magnanimous judge.  I give it an extra second if the cover’s ugly, and then I pass it right by.  Fun people wouldn’t have boring covers.

I obsess about titles and the covers.  Why can’t I have a clever title like that, that encompasses everything I want to say in a neat JPEG file? That is displayed in stores, on Amazon’s Featured Page?  Why can’t I have

Byliner has the best consistently good-looking group of covers, with Serious Thoughts inside.

Why can’t I be published by them? Why can’t I be published at all and get a graphic artist to design my book cover?  Why can’t I get a publishing deal? Why can’t I finish writing this novel, why am I only a third of the way through? When will I get to the stage where I can fantasize about my own book cover, that tells passers-by everything about me in five seconds?

These are all book covers that I love lately.


But I haven’t read any of these books yet.  Because the plot description didn’t interest me at all.  Or if they did, even the cover PLUS the author name PLUS the plot, all of that wasn’t even enough to push me over the edge.

So maybe in a world full of vain and intellectually hideous people like me, there is hope for the ugly duckling covers  with clumsy titles but sexy plots, anyway. At least that’s what I hope for when I’m done with my book, anyway.




5 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover

  1. My actually-published-novelist friend called me weeping when they sent her the cover for her first book. It was not only awful, it was completely unrepresentative of the main character and plot/pov. Oh, and the publishers also pick the title. Authors sometimes get to approve the title, but you have to fight pretty damn hard to change a cover, since it’s already been paid for. She did fight, and it sold well, and now she’s on book three.

    1. This is what I’ve heard as well so I’m happy to have a legit novelist confirm it. The cover is all about marketing and they do whatever they think will get it to sell, even if it has nothing to do with the book. Is there an uglybookcovers.tumblr.com yet?

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