The Merits of Judging a Book by Its Cover


As a disclaimer, there have been numerous books that have impressed me with their content despite an unattractive cover. However, it wouldn’t be fair to discredit the work of artists who design covers as inconsequential to the final product of the book. Writing is a collaborative effort being that the publishing industry relies on factors alongside the story alone to be market success. Similar to other mediums of artmaking, such as movies, it is rarely done by a single person.

That’s why I get upset when an amazing book has an incompetent representation of what’s inside. Graphic designers are tasked with creating a visual accompaniment for the story. That could take on the form of illustrating a character, introducing the tone, or generating intrigue. Covers are often entry points to decide whether you want to invest your time. Since descriptions have to be vague, a compelling cover is the deciding element to help convince me. There are even moments when I value a book higher due to a beautiful cover rather than from what I’ve read. I saw potential suggested from the font, layout, and imagery. It can be disappointing when I open a book only to be let down by lack luster dialogue and an incoherent plot.

There are technical aspects to any medium that sets a benchmark of skills or talents. Yet, that applies to a certain extent when it comes to visual communication. “Bad” designs derive from miscommunication. To avoid that, any thoughtful designer would first read the material to better understand the appropriate design. Another consideration that influences the final cover is identifying the audience. What type of genre is it? Is there an already established language that permeates?

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For example, I find erotic adult romance covers to be utterly unappealing but that says more about me than it does the design. A truncated beefy man putting his abs on display with a variation of props (ie cowboy hat, unbuttoned suit, kilt) is the very definition of pandering. But that’s not necessarily a poor decision. It is attractive to those craving porn and communicates what to expect.

The last thing you want to do is mislead a reader only to receive a justified negative review. The goal isn’t to reach out to every potential reader. Instead, it’s to call out to those who have an interest in what you’re writing. At the end of the day, someone is making art (commercial in this sense). It’s okay to dissect the imagery and critique it apart from its functionality. Concurrently, there are times when we have to admit that a cover isn’t made for us specifically.


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