Judging a Book By Its Cover

It is no great secret that I am a sucker for a good cover. I willingly give it up for books that put beautiful assets up front for everybody to see.

Cover design matters and influences our perception and purchase of books. Witness Maureen Johnson‘s recent call to Coverflip, which made a very poignant point about gender bias in cover design. Interesting, powerful stuff, but doesn’t make my khakis twitch.

Gorgeous, smart covers, on the other hand, put a bump between my pockets.

This morning, South African cover artist Joey HiFi tweeted a link to a BuzzFeed article in which the author makes plot guesses for 15 popular summer books, based solely on the cover. Normally, I would click the link, read the article and maybe have a laugh or two. This particular article gave me pause. Sitting there at number 15 was my biggest cover disappointment of the year: the North American edition of Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls. I love TSG, but I hate the North American cover.

Haunting foreshadowing adds flavour and texture to the story telling.

“A beloved town beekeeper lives a secret life as a Flapper in 1920s Connecticut.”

Joey HiFi’s cover for the South African version of TSG is my favourite of his covers, with his cover for Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds coming in a close second. I love how he reads the story and incorporates elements from it into his art. This foreshadowing creates dramatic tension before the first page is turned.

I also love the covers from Chris F. Holm’s Collector series, which capture the look and feel of well-loved pulp, adding a dash of the supernatural. Those covers are solid representations of what lies inside.

Last night, I finished reading David Nickle’s The ‘Geisters, a creepy horror from ChiZine Publications. ChiZine puts out gorgeous books — beautiful TPBs with seductive covers and stunning writing.

These awesome covers not only add texture — they are textured. The cover finish is lush and velvety. Letters and artwork are raised. These are books that look great on the shelf and feel good in the hand.

What, exactly, is my point?

Other than showing off some of the pretty books that adorn my shelves, I guess I am saying that I do judge books by their covers. I judge them without mercy or regret. And I’m going to keep right on doing it.

If a cover doesn’t make sense relative to the synopsis, I’m probably going to pass on the book.

If a cover doesn’t look great, I’m probably going to pass on the book.

There are so many good books out there and there is no way that I can read everything I want. It is getting harder to choose and I don’t mind using pretty, pretty pictures (along with reviews from trusted writers, reviewers and bloggers) as a basis for those choices.

When publishers and artists take the time (and spend the money) to make the outside of the book gorgeous and relevant, it gives me confidence that the author and editors have done the same on the inside (so I will spend my money).


  1. I rarely read blurbs at all, so I judge a lot of books by their covers. If a cover has: a partially clad individual, a cheap, unprofessional photograph, or looks like a knock-off of an iconic series’ cover, I won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

  2. […] context of some other tweets). OK, maybe somebody bought the book thinking it really was about a “beloved town beekeeper lives a secret life as a Flapper in 1920s Connecticut.” If, however, the reader objects to the serial killer aspect and thinks that Beukes is […]

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