Monday 22 October 2012

Judging a book by its cover

Hello, welcome to my blog. I’m the BlogFEST 2012 Host of the Day for Monday 22nd October, and I’ve chosen ‘Judging a book by its cover’ as my topic for today.
If you’re a writer, you’ll know that a lot of emphasis is put on book covers. I know I wait with bated breath to see my own covers. It’s said that the cover is your first chance to attract a reader. I’ll agree with that to a certain extent, having seen many book covers which don’t attract me at all. That’s usually because they represent a genre in which I don’t really have any interest. I’ve also seen a lot of beautiful and/or interesting covers. However, is it really fair to judge a book by its cover?
Many years ago, I used to see a man riding his bike to work every morning. He had long straggly brown hair (half way down his back) and a bushy beard, and he always wore shorts and climbing boots, whatever the weather. The local kids considered him a ‘weirdo’.
Jump forward twenty-odd years, and I’m directing shows with the local Musical Theatre group, and the ‘weirdo’ is one of the sound and lighting crew. I very soon learnt that Bob (not his real name) was, in fact, one of the most considerate and caring men I have ever met. Yes, he still had his long straggly hair and bushy beard, and yes, he still wore his shorts and climbing boots, but I’d been able to look past the ‘cover’ and see the real person.
The reverse can, of course, be equally true. The good-looking guy may turn out to be a spouse-abuser; the attractive woman may be mean, nasty and vindictive.
We can’t judge people by their appearance, and I think the same applies to books. Don’t judge them and leave them on the shelf because you don’t happen to like the cover!
Please leave me a comment below and/or write a post on your own blog! Have you been disappointed by a book with an attractive cover - or vice-versa? And what about people? Have you ever judged someone by their appearance and then discovered you were wrong about them?

I’m looking forward to reading your take on "Judging a book by its cover.”

When you are finished posting to your blog, visit our BlogFEST 2012 facebook page and leave us the URL to your post and I'll be sure to come by and read it


  1. I agree completely. And since there are days that I know I look offensive, especially while in the middle of a remodel, then have to run to the hardware store for something I "missed"...ok, so I've had to run to Lowes as many as SEVEN times during a point is, my hair in a ponytail under a hat with paint smudges doesn't mean I am always a slob. Thanks for the topic. I liked it.

  2. Great post, Paula.

    Yes, I bought a book because of the cover (cowboy style)and I couldn't get past chapter one!

  3. Nice one Paula, I remembered a nice article when I read your theme!

  4. Right on! Great post topic, Paula! More often than not, it's not enough to simply take in a "book cover" and then make a judgment. Occasionally there are clues, though... My husband has been trying to get me to read, "The History of the Defense Nuclear Agency" (a group he used to work for), for some time now. With a sexy title like that, is it any wonder I'm not champing at the bit? LOL! I told him that if I'm ever suffering from insomnia, "The History of the Defense Nuclear Agency" will be my go to choice! Cheers! BTW, you gave me a great idea for my daily post. I hope you'll drop by and check it out later.

  5. Great blog and topic, Paula! I have to admit that I get sucked into checking out a book because of the cover, but never buy it solely based on it. I usually go straight to the back to get a quick review.

    You are so right about judging the person by their looks. You never know what's inside the package.

  6. Awesome topic. I love non-fiction books which probably have the most unattractive book covers. So, I don't look normally check out their covers but instead reading their summary instead or perhaps checking others' reviews online.

    As for person, I must say I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes it is tough, if I would have walked outside and passed "Bob" --the character in your blog today, I would have been a bit skeptical. But, if I am in a safe environment, I would be able to find out the real person inside him.

    Scratching my head and off thinking on what to write :-)

  7. I like your take and I immediately had the post in my mind - where it remains. I'll try to get it done today.

    Judging people has never served me well. I have it up.

    Great topic choice.

  8. Wonderful Topic choice,

  9. Such a great topic. I am usually intrigued by the cover but always read the brief summary inside the cover or on the back to decide if I really want to read it.


  10. I have made the mistake too...but, have improved now or so I think.
    Nice prompt.

  11. Awesome reading today, Paula. I suppose it depends on the book to say whether or not I give a lot of meaning to its cover or not.

    Very evocative, though, and I enjoyed writing to your prompt!

    Happy Monday!!

  12. Humor after 50 - I agree and hope people don't always judge me by my appearance!

    Toni - I think a cover is more likely to put me off, rather than persuade me to buy it! But it does mean I might miss some good books!

    Claudia - that was a fascinating article you linked to in your blog.

    Daphne - I agree, the Defense Nuclear Agency book sounds ideal to keep on one side for any bout of insomnia!

    beachlover - I do the same and it's the blurb on the back cover (and maybe a quick glance at the first page) that influences my decision.

    Journey - I sometimes check reviews, but sometimes wonder how objective they actually are!

    Jo - I've been taken in by people's appearances too, although I try not to judge until I find out more about them!

    Thanks, Emily - look forward to reading yours.

    Kathy - it's the description of the characters and setting that influences me too.

    Janu - I'm sure we've all made that mistake at some time.

    Julie - whatever the picture on the cover, I tend to have my own 'picture' of what the characters look like!

  13. There were times when I did judge books and people by surface value and I did regret doing the same. Great prompt Paula.

  14. Great post Paula. I don't judge a book by its cover anymore, though I did years ago, now I look at the first page and if the style appeals to me then that's it. Doesn't really matter about genre, it's all about story and style for me.
    However, when my grandson saw the cover of my latest book Tilly's Trials he asked me. "Is it about bikes!" Guess he hasn't arrived at the stage where the picture doesn't tell it all.

  15. Book covers, and titles, rank as equal and important sales tools to help lure readers into the stories we write. Visual impact is a critical consideration, not only among readers, but among reviewers, as well--especially post-publication. Reviewers often take into consideration the physical appearance of a book to determine (1) whether they want to invest their time to read it, and (2) whether it's visually strong enough to sell its intended audience. Great topic. Thanks.

  16. Swarnali - I have done both things, too.

    Margaret - Agree about the story and style being the important thing. Love your grandson's reaction!

    Tom - while I agree the visual impact is important, I think most potential readers look further than the cover. For me personally, it's the back cover blurb that either pulls me in or puts me off, whatever the cover and title may be.

  17. Hi Paula, I know you are a busy lady but I've posted an award for you on my blog. 'The Next Big Thing' thingy.

    Please do drop by when you get the time.

  18. Paula--I am the world's worst about judging a book by its cover. I'm a visual person--I need to see something to comprehend. For example, if I need directions (and I can't figure out how to use my ##&***# GPS system, and I can't find a paper map, then I must resort to asking a person. But my husband knows not to allow me to do that. I "don't get" verbal instructions.
    Such is the way with book covers. I'm visual, so a cover is all important. I look at the cover first, and if something really turns me off, I won't even read the blurb.
    So, yes, covers matter a great deal. In today's world of ebooks, I can discount and discard about 70% of the books based on the cover. If there are two naked people--or 3!--or any such thing, I can tell you what will be in the book. And I don't read it.
    So, it is true I often judge a person by their appearance. And yes, I've been dead wrong more than once! I try not to be so judgemental, but if an employer wants to interview young ladies for a job in say, a bank or any such thing, and she came in with flip-flops on, I daresay the interviewer would not give her the time of day.
    This morning I was shopping in Kohl's Department Store. I looked at jewelry, rounded a display, and there was a young woman in a wheelchair in the middle of the aisle, fiddling with something in her lap. I wondered about the sweet-looking girl, wondering if someone hadn't left her there while they went to another part of the story. While I was feeling sorry for her, she looked up at me--her body was thin and crippled up--and said in a sweet professional voice, "May I help you with something?" Good lord, she was a clerk! I asked her about some brand, and she pointed the best she could where to find it. What did she have in her lap? Little plastic bags of costume jewelry she was adding tags to.
    I felt very low, and yes, judgemental. But wouldn't that have surprise you?
    Okay, maybe I should read a book someday that has a cover I don't like. Who know? I might be surprised.
    Good job, Paula!

  19. Paula = thanks, have left a rpely on your blog!

    Celia - this is where we differ, as I prefer written word instructions - although I do rather enjoy the soft Irish accent on my GPS (which one of my grandsons found for me!)
    I'll agree with covers showing naked or even half naked people, and if there are 3 of them then no way - not stories I want to read! I always say to my cover artists 'No bare chests please!'
    I understand how you felt about the girl in the wheelchair, and having used a wheelchair and/or disability scooter sometimes myself (because of my difficulties with walking), I wonder just what people think when they see me!

  20. Paula, this was a great blog. I am attracted to eyecatching covers, but titles mean little to me. I do read the blurbs carefully and sometimes a beginning of the book just to check the author's style of writing. I seldom start a book I don't doggedly finish even if I'm bored silly with it. As for judging books, or people, it's a feeling I get, not what they look like, that I rely on most. I am sometimes wrong or seem to be after I get to know them. But usually at some later point, I realize that my intuition was right all along.

  21. Thanks, Linda! Titles can be interesting, especially some of the current M&B/HQN current titlles which start with the 'The Millionaire's ...' whatever!
    I've started books I can't finish, mainly because of the style or grammatical errors which irritate me so much! Predicatble plots ared a big turn-off too!
    Intuition with people is interesting as it's not based on appearance but on the first few minutes of conversation with them, I think!

  22. I am guilty of judging a book by its cover. At least when it comes to people! Really enjoyed this topic, and great post!! Here is my thoughts on it. ~Jessie

  23. Excellent post, Paula, and perfect analogy. And yes, I've been guilty of both, although I agree we should not be so hasty!

  24. Thanks, Jessie and Rosemary - I'm sure we can all admit to doing both!

  25. Really interesting topic with some fascinating answers, Paula. It's true we shouldn't 'judge a book by its cover,' but it's also true that 'first impressions count,' and that's so true for books in a competitive market. There are books I wouldn't pick up at all because of the impression the cover gives, and that isn't just in terms of genre but also includes things like the care that's been taken, the standards of the design and also an overall impression of the professionalism of the product, which I do think can give a reasonable overall impression of what you might expect to find inside! There are just too many books out there, and it's not possible to go beyond a 'first impression' on them all. I only by books on the strength of an excerpt. Even 5-star reviews sometimes don't swing it for me these days (gosh, I'm difficult!!;-)
    But with people - I have the same background as you, Paula, and some of the weirdest, oddest and downright whackiest-looking people I've ever met have turned out to be real diamonds! So yes, I might judge books by their covers, but I hope, not people. :-)
    Great topic.

    Jane x

  26. Paula-- thank you so much for hosting BlogFEST 2012 with this great prompt. It is both a lesson we need to learn in life and something we can all understand beyond books themselves.

    I've been behind with my blogging--but managed to get this prompt posted :D

    Thanks, Jenn.

  27. Jane - that's a very good point about the cover revealing professionalism, but often the attractiveness (or not) of a cover can be very subjective. I've see people rave about some covers that I personally think are appallingly bad! It's the blurb that pulls me in far more than a cover!

    Jenn - so pleased you liked this topic. When I first chose it, I had no idea what I was going to write, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised how much it referred to things other than books!

  28. Great topic ....and all the comments too. As far as actual books go, I guess I really do pass judgement without even opening the book...people, well....I'll post on that :)

  29. You're so right, Paula. Trouble is, because a lot of people DO judge a book by its cover, it's important to get the cover as 'right' as possible. I write 'romance with an edge' or love stories grounded in the real world. It would be ridiculous putting bare-chested hunks on my book covers because it would send entirely the wrong message. gx

  30. Sylvia - I think a poor cover can put people off - and maybe then we miss the good story inside. Same applies to people, I think!

    Gilli - I agree about a cover sending the right kind of image and, like you, I don't want bare-chested hunks on my covers either!

  31. Fabulous prompt Paula......loved penning it! thank you! Yes it is far easier to be judgmental for you have company. Being on the other side of the fence takes a whole lot of courage to paint a green picture. :)