Why We Judge Books By Their Covers

Why We Judge Books By Their Covers

We’ve all heard the old adage don’t judge a book by its cover, but most often that is precisely what we do with actual books. Today I’m going to be talking about why book covers are so important when it comes to choosing your next read, or if you’re an author, selling your next book.

You Don’t Have To Tell The Whole Story To Sell Your Story

As a cover designer and marketing specialist, I often get authors who want to depict scenes or sometimes, whole plotlines on their book cover. This is simply not necessary. For one, you want readers to be intrigued by the cover enough to read the contents. If you spell it all out on the front, they have no incentive to buy the book and read the story. It’s also hard from a design standpoint to deliver the vision that the author has inside their head, and this often leads to the author of being disappointed with the end result. It can also lead to a busy cover with no clear genre or direction.

Font Choice Does Matter

One thing that determines which readers will be picking up a book is something that you may not realize is that important. Font Choice can tell a reader what genre a book belongs to. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the image below.

Chances are you saw that first font and thought about a horror or thriller novel, while the second font brought you visions of hunky Fabio man-chest and a romantic vibe! The truth is that our brains already interpret the genre of a book based on our previous knowledge. If we’ve seen 1,000 fantasy books, movies, or tv shows with a consistent font style, we immediately associate that style with the fantasy genre.

Tropes And Trends Are Not Bad Words

I often hear authors say: I want my book to stand out from the rest. I want my cover to be unique and one-of-a-kind. That is all well and good, individuality and freshness are things to aspire to with a new book, but you also don’t want to be so left of center that no one understands what your book is about, or worse, mistakes your book for an entirely different genre!

Each genre has certain trends and tropes that consistently sell more books. For YA Fantasy, you’ll see a lot of lone figures, a lot of them looking either off to the left or right, or walking toward something (could this be symbolic of the protagonist walking toward a goal?) with their back turned. Urban Fantasy often has a strong female with a glowing orb or a blue, green, purple, or pink glow around her figure. Some genres have a significant focus on people while other genres revolve around objects. One thing to note about symbolic/object covers is that the symbol or object can be connected to a human aspect. As readers, and as human beings, we are drawn toward stories we can relate to.

These traits are another way to signify to the reader what to expect between the pages of the book.

But what about individuality? There is always some way you can make your book stand out from the rest and still include familiar tropes in your cover design.

One way to do this is with consistent author branding. Using the same font choices, frames, symbols, and sometimes even colors to signify that this book is your work, and other works you have done or will do in the future can be recognized by this unique styling.

Another way to stand out is to set an air of mystery. You can do this with simple designs. For example, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is an international bestseller, but the only thing on the cover is a crown and some blood. But looking at that image, it just pulls you in! You need to know who is wearing the crown, what the blood represents. It creates an immediate pull to learn more.


Taglines Can Reel In Readers Too

Have you ever walked by a book or scrolled past one on your feed that you were like, yeah, that looks pretty cool, but I’m not sure I…and then you read the tagline, and you just have to click an see if this book might be for you? This is why taglines are also an important thing you can add to your book. Taglines should be short, catchy, and clearly displayed to be most effective. Often, asking a question you want the audience to answer is a great way to utilize a tagline. This makes the reader wonder about the answer to the question and thus, read the book to find out!

Think of some books with some wicked taglines.

Can you imagine The Hunger Games without the phrase “May the odds be ever in your favor” coming to mind?

What about A Song of Ice and Fire without the ominous “Winter is coming”?

One tag that really got me recently was for Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Coro McCarthy. The cover is stunning on its own, but once I saw the tagline and discovered this was going to be about a female King Arthur and likely in a futuristic setting, I was sold! I one-clicked!


Your Experiences

So what have been some of your experiences when selecting books? Was there a stunning visual that snagged you, a tagline that wowed you? What’s your favorite book cover of all time? We’d love to know what draws YOU to a book! Let us know in the comments!


We hope that one of the awesome covers that you love is the cover of Rogue Skies which you can get for just .99 at the link below!

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