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Judge by the Covers

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This week’s topic mandates some deep reflection:
CAN you judge a book by its cover?

The adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover is true, it seems, about just about everything but books. But facing with thousands of books on display, unless you come prepared with an acquisition list, how do you choose? Instantaneously and subliminally we judge by covers. I judge by the covers and—I have become fairly good at it. I might do a random page test before buying; I may even read the reviews on the back if the first few pages don’t speak to me. But there still exists a challenge: How do I identify the thriller or the Michael Cox among the tens of thousands of books on the shelves? How do I, subconsciously, steer around the chick-lit or home in on the biographies? The cover designers and their creative products show me how. Racy covers, such as ones on which a guy with chiseled arms baring his torso, or ones with high heels, immediately discourage me from even picking up the book to look. A picture is better than a thousand words. A movie tie-in cover, which I find obnoxiously intruding, can be a swinger. A bad or good cover design has the power to sink a book, or spawn a thousand imitations. An ugly or disturbing cover might achieve opposite result because it always spawns curiosity. Recently I notice that publishers are now adding chick lit-style covers to any book written by a woman, whether it fits the genre definition or not. The beachy, knitterish, and fashion glamor covers don’t bother me, because I can steer myself clear from chick-lit by doing the random page test. My concern is more of a worrisome nature: publishers will soon realize that their tactic isn’t working and could, in fact, backfire badly. If all book covers look the same, then none stand out.

3 Responses

  1. I am a cover snob, through and through. If it’s in heels with bright, neon colors then you can bet I’ll steer clear of it.

    I am also suspicious of hands and fruit. Lately, women’s fiction has gone that route.

    Once in awhile the cover does not match the story within, but not that often.

    I think self-published books would do much better if they had better cover art. Most are HORRIBLE and scream “no one will publish me!”

  2. Oh Guy! Guy! Guy! I would soo love to know your critique of my cover, or your opinion of the book within it which is about as far from being chick lit or woman’s fiction as a book can be. (The usual comparisons are: Bukowski and Selby — though I’m much funnier.) If only you would contact me, I’d send you a paperback or an e-book coupon — your choice. You wouldn’t even need to review it. Just knowing you OWNED it, would be a dream fulfilled.

  3. I will be happy to admit that I do judge a book by it’s cover.
    at least initially…really, how can it not be something that first draws us to a book or repels us?
    and I have been fooled into reading a book I might not have otherwise, for good and for bad..and no doubt have skipped over some I might have loved.
    But what can you do?

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