Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Musical Monday: The Cover Story

The Way Back Machine is going all the way to 1962 for this one, a hit for Bo Diddley, written by Willie Dixon.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Do you remember learning that? That little lesson goes back about as far as I can remember. We learned it in school. We learned it from our parents. We learned it from book and stories, and we learned it from TV shows from The Brady Bunch to Davey & Goliath. And maybe you even learned it through an actual life lesson instead of from some fable of Aesop’s. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

And yet, it’s funny, isn’t it? Publishers spend probably millions of dollars each year trying to get us to do just that, don’t they? They try to give us as much a clue about the book from the cover art as they can. Sure, you can’t tell whether the book will be any good or not from the cover, but you can usually get a pretty good idea about the genre. How often do you put a book back on the shelf after a quick glance at the cover art? How often does the cover art entice you to read the blurb or take a peek inside?

11 Responses

  1. I always read the back before I judge the cover. If I think the blurb sound good I then read the first couple of pages to hear the voice of the book, who is tell me the story.

  2. And sometimes I look at misleading covers and wonder what they were thinking. I love Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series. The covers show Mercy dressed liked a skanky ho. She's so not. She's a mechanic who dresses in jeans and t-shirts. I've often wondered if there were people who picked up the books because of the covers and were disappointed because of the cover–or people who passed up books they would have loved because of the cover.

  3. I'm a visual person, so covers are a big deal to me. They're not the only aspect I take into consideration, but they do impact my decision. Not so much with e-books, though. I see the cover once or twice, then it's a file like everything else.

  4. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for a great cover. Of course the description is really what makes me want to buy a book, but the cover is kind of the shiny thing that catches my attention in the first place. 🙂

  5. Some cover art still snags my attention, but I've learned not to trust it. So, I pick up a book based on a recommendation, general buzz, or reviews. Then I usually read the jacket copy and first page, at least, before I commit to it.

  6. I love strong covers, but at the end of the day, it's the blurb that will get me to buy. I suppose now with buying habits leaning more and more online, reviews will also factor into my buying choices as well.

    Hope all is going well Jeff!


  7. Cover art does influence what books I read. If I'm browsing in the library, I'll try to get over a cover I don't like and read the blurb anyway–but it covers will affect my first impression.

  8. I know I shouldn't, but I do let the cover influence me a little. I'll usually read the blurb anyway, but if it's doing its job the cover gives me a feel for the tone of the book, so it gets heavy weight as a first impression.

  9. Thanks for the comments, all. I try not to judge books by the covers, but I admit there are some books with intriguing titles that I do put back based on the cover. There are certain stylistic conventions that seem to have been adopted in recent years that tell you an awful lot about the book (or so it seems) without having to dig too deeply in.

  10. The cover will definitely get me to pick the book up but if I don't like what I read on the book jacket then I won't be interested in reading it. But I think it is the visual thing, I think cover art is really important!

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