Why It's Okay to Judge Books by Their Covers

I judge books by their covers pretty much every time I choose one.

Maybe that does make me a horrifically shallow person. If I'm so aesthetic about books, I must be super judgemental about other things, right? According to the old saying, I must be vain and materialistic and generally miss out on a load of super-cool things because I'm too busy being critical about the way they look.

Um ... not really? Because, for a start, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who does it. Bookstagram alone is proof of that (and I'm just going to insert a shameless link to my Instagram here) - what we're basically doing in blogs and social media pictures is showing off some beautiful art. But should that beautiful art be allowed to represent books in such a massive way? By making covers such a big deal, that's what we're doing.

And I don't think that's a bad thing.

The thing is ... covers can be gorgeous, but they're also marketing tools. I repeat, COVERS ARE MARKETING TOOLS. If I miss out on a book that's actually perfect for me because the cover didn't look like my sort of thing, I would argue that's not my fault. The marketing didn't do its job.

That logic isn't perfect. Books also have blurbs and recommendations and even just the author's name on the spine to help with the marketing, and they can be misleading too. But the cover is usually what we see first, and doesn't that make it more imp?

*presses finger to ear* Yes, I'm hearing that it's definitely more important.
I mean, have a look at this beautiful cover of Everything, Everything. It is undeniably gorgeous and - to be honest - what drew me towards reading it in the first place. But what it does very skillfully is demonstrate the genre of the book (YA Contemporary / Romance) ... it doesn't exactly say horror, does it? It's the same as picture books often being drawn with simple colours and shapes to appeal to kids, and dystopian covers involving lots of darkness and shadows and Gothic lettering.

The annoying thing, I guess, is that this near-obsession with covers can lead to elitism. (I know, it sounds totally weird, but hear me out.) Self-published books can be just as good as traditionally released ones, but because the author's paying for everything, they often can't afford the best cover designers, and this can mean that we shallow humans don't end up grabbing the book. The marketing still wasn't doing its job, and I would argue it still wasn't the reader's fault - but that doesn't make it the author's fault either.

What's great (and I mean really, really great) about the new digital revolution is that anyone can be a cover designer - and there are dozens, probably hundreds of websites out there to connect authors with the one who can realise their dream. It's a slow process, but places like 99 Designs and DesignCrowd are bringing us into a lovely future where readers can experience amazing books that they would have missed otherwise.

And in this lovely future, Bookstagrammers have lots more models to work with.

In the comments: Do you guys think it's okay to judge books by their covers? Or is it just too elitist for your taste? Are you afraid of missing out on stories you'd otherwise have loved?

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  1. I just realised I wasn't following you on Instagram and now I feel like a fraud! It's okay, cause I've fixed it now. Anyway, I ALWAYS judge books by their covers, even when I don't mean to. I like pretty books, I admit it. Pretty books make the world go round.

    1. GOSH Ely, you are such a fraud. I don't even know what I'm doing talking to you ... DON'T WORRY I AM OF COURSE KIDDING. I don't even update my Instagram very often to be honest.

      I'm also just going to let you know now that I plan to steal the phrase "Pretty Books Make the World Go Round". You have been warned.

    2. "Pretty Books Make the World Go Round" copyright Ely, 2016. ;) I'm kidding, please use it.

    3. Aww, thanks Ely. I've got to find a good place to use it now!

  2. Yes, absolutely I agree that it's never the author's or reader's fault for terrible cover designs. A reader's time is precious, and we're going to obviously go for the intriguing books first rather than books with crappy covers that may or may not be as exciting. And authors rarely have much say in what covers are used for their books, if any at all. That's not to say I'll never read a book with a bad cover. I just usually won't go for it first unless someone else has recommended it to me or I've heard awesome things about it.

    1. ^this. Exactly. All my feelings on this topic are right here in this comment. Thanks for commenting, Kate, and you have no idea how glad I am someone agrees with me on this!


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