Do you judge a book by its cover?

I’ve been thinking about this because we’ve been working on the cover for What is Left Over, After this week.  I’m normally a fairly decisive person but when my publisher first sent me through the proposed cover artwork I didn’t know what to say; instead, for one whole day, I printed it out, propped it on the kitchen bench and stared at it every time I walked past.  I knew that I liked the photograph, the mood evoked by the pictures and colours and, of course, seeing my name in print!  But I wasn’t sure about a couple of the other elements.  I also wasn’t sure how to judge it; did it matter what I thought?  I’m not the person who is going to be buying it.

I began to wonder – have I ever bought a book based solely on its cover?  I don’t think I have.  Even if I go into a book shop with no particular idea what I’m looking for, there are always lots of books in my mind that I would like to read because I’ve heard about them or read about them  So those books are going to be the ones I consider, rather than something I know nothing about.  But maybe I choose one of the books in my mind over another because I see it first – which could be a function of where it’s been placed in the shop and also whether the cover catches my eye. 

But would I not choose to buy a book because I didn’t like the cover?  I suppose, if I’m making a choice between a couple of books, I’m going to choose one that looks like it suits my mood, not one that seems too hard, too sad, too pretentious, too something else.  And again, a lot of that is to do with the cover.  I had a look at some of my favourite books on my shelf and Iwas quite surprised, none of them had a cover that I thought was particularly appealing; perhaps it doesn’t mater when your name is Margaret Atwood!

I suppose that’s the crux of it.  I’m a new, unknown author; I’m asking people to spend their $30 buying my words instead of those of another more well-known and thus reliable author – or instead of a bottle of wine and a DVD!  So all the elements of my book need to work hard to make people notice my book over and above the vampire trilogies and the Candace Bushnells and the Lionel Shrivers, and then pick it up and turn over the cover to the first page.  Then it’s up to my words to make them want to keep turning the pages.

I decided to go with the cover that my publisher sent to me.  It’s been haunting me – in a good way.  I keep seeing it in my mind because it’s both strong and intriguing as well as open to interpretation.  I’m also proud to have it be the face of my book, the face for my words, which is the most important thing.


  1. Katrina Hunter

    Interesting to hear your thoughts on the whole book cover as I approach it quite differently. Yes I go into book shops or department stores looking for a specific book or an author I want so the cover isn’t given much thought. However mostly I wander around hoping for a cover to catch my eye and appeal to me. The covers that do appeal, I pick up and read the blurb. If I like what it says I choose it there and then. If I don’t like what it says it goes back on the shelf. So for me the cover acts as a filter of sorts. When I look at my shelf there are lot’s of moden, funky, pretty covers. You’ve just given me insight into how much I may be missing out on as at the end of the day once you have read the book you don’t give the cover nearly as much thought. By the way the part of the cover is sensational and definately one I would pick up off a shelf.

  2. You’re right, the blurb is really important too. I am terrible at summarising what my book is about and was looking forward to seeing what the publisher would come up with for the blurb. They sent it to me a couple of days ago and I’m so happy with it. They have, coincidentally, used one of my favourite lines from the book on the blurb. They’ve also taken a slightly different angle with it – probably emphasising sex a whole lot more than I do when I’m describing it to people!

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