Yes, we do judge a book by its cover! #writingtips #amwriting


It’s a very old and very well-known saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But this is a saying that shouldn’t be taken literally. While I urge you not to judge other things in life by their appearance (particularly people!), it’s usually a safe bet that a poorly designed book cover means a poorly executed book.

Unfair? Well, taking off my editor hat and putting on my reader hat for a minute, if I’m going to spend my (very) hard-earned cash on a book, I want to make sure I spend it wisely. And what have I got to go on when I browse the endless goodies on offer on Amazon? I have the blurb, (please authors – get this right. It is NOT a synopsis), the reviews (if I can trust them), and I have the cover. And I won’t get to the blurb or the reviews if the cover doesn’t grab me in the first place.

A good, well-thought out, attention-grabbing cover tells me that this author cares – cares about their work, cares about their book, cares about their reader. A poorly executed cover sends warning bells ringing that this author hasn’t researched the self-publishing world thoroughly, doesn’t understand what they need to do to publish successfully, and has probably rushed to publish.

So what makes a good cover, and what doesn’t? And what should you bear in mind when designing your cover?

Think thumbnails. Will your cover stand out in that tiny, tiny little space it will have in a search?
Think genre. What’s your book about? If it’s a romance, go for an image that says romance. If it’s a gritty detective story, then show that in your cover. Don’t be vague, and don’t overthink it.
Think trends. I hate to say it, but there are fashions in book covers as there are in anything else. Look at other books in your genre and see what’s popular at the moment. People know what they like and they may go for a book by an author they don’t know if the cover reminds them of a book they’ve liked (although don’t plagiarise, obviously). But do give it your own twist and be original too.
Think title. Make sure it stands out and that people can read it. Make sure the font is clear and big enough.
I’ve seen covers with dreadful hand-drawn images, cut and paste pictures that are the wrong size and perspective, and random images that have nothing to do with the book itself. There are blogs devoted to showcasing the worst of these – which, while it’s easy to laugh, it’s also heart-breaking that these authors haven’t done the research and have set themselves up for ridicule.

Self-publishing can be an expensive business – but there are some things that cannot be scrimped on. Editing, proofreading and a great book cover are worth investing in. There are some great designers out there who do a good job and don’t cost the earth (although you shouldn’t expect to pay peanuts for a professional). Research, ask for recommendations; if you see a self-published book with a great cover ask the author who designed it – most will be more than happy to give you a recommendation. If you’ve spent time crafting a wonderful novel, give it the polish and packaging it deserves.



  1. I could not agree more – the cover is so important when sparking interest with the reader! So many books I’ve walked past, because the cover was bad or boring, and the one’s I’ve picked up solely because it had a beautiful cover design. It definitely matters!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. I root for all these writers. I enjoy what they write. Then I look at those covers and they are offputting. If you can’t invest in great art, and more importantly non pixelated images, then just use a one color background with your name and book title. It would be far more desirable.

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  3. You’re absolutely so right about this, Alison. I’ve seen some shocking book covers where you can tell that an image too big and poorly edited has been placed onto a background, sometimes not even placed square. They give the feeling that the inside of the book is just as poor. Just like when I’m choosing a bottle of wine, it’s what’s on the front that attracts me. If it’s eye-catching then I’m likely to pick it up and read what it says on the back cover.

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  4. I always feel so frustrated when I’ve read a great book that has an Amazon standard cover that just doesn’t do it justice. Not as frustrated as when the book has a gorgeous cover but the inside is a badly edited first draft, but that’s another blog post!!!

    I fully realised the worth of a book cover that looks like the genre of the book, with my post apoc/dystopian series. My instruction to Cover Chap was: make it look like all the rest of them.
    A year after publication, Tipping Point still sells every day (with no paid advertising), and I imagine most of the sales come from Amazon or Kindle itself, as the ‘also boughts’ are mostly of the same genre. Cover Chap sometimes says he has ‘ideas’ for a new cover for me, and I tell him that as far as Amazon sales are concerned, it’s best to stay not too original!

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    1. Absolutely – why make it more difficult for a potential reader to know what your book is about? And why spend all that time and effort writing a book and than ruin its chances with a rubbish cover?


  5. I’m afraid I can only agree that many if not most do judge the book by its cover. I no more judge a book by its cover than I do people by their appearance. In the thousands of books I have purchased, only one was ever picked up because the picture tickled my funny bone so I looked inside and started reading, it passed the reading test and remains one of the funniest books I’ve read, check out Lamb by Christopher Moore.
    Appearances and book covers are frequently deceptive in my experience. Yet, I am not in the majority and if your goal is to sell to the mass market, you will make those allowances.

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