Comics Creators

Judging a Book By It's Cover


For years, I was taught in school that we should not judge a book by its cover. As a person, I tried to do this in life.
So I wrote a fantasy series, the Guardians of Havenshire. The first cover (Guardians of Havenshire Book 1: The Fall) was unique and caught the eye, the second (The Rise) and third (Rebel) were more generic cover. The Fourth (Triumph and Tragedy) was eye-catching. The results, the first has sold the most. The last is in second mainly because it’s more recent and has not been on the market as long.
People come by me and always buy either or both while skipping the two middle books. So I chose to make a new cover for the second book. Interest in it has increased. So my question is, “Do you judge a book by its cover?”
Which read did you pick up despite the cover and loved.


In general, the first book of any series is going to sell more than subsequent books, as a certain number of readers decide it’s not their cup of tea and pass on the series.


I personally don’t. And a lot of covers that are considered “good” and “marketable” I consider generic. It’s the material I care about, the author, the blurb. Take a dust jacket off a hardcover, and there’s usually nothing at all underneath. That’s all you need to know. “Judging a book by its cover” is a distinctly modern phenomenon, and plain ridiculous. If I could tell that kind of reader to not bother reading at all, I would. I can’t imagine they get much out of what they read.


Completely yes. Given the vast amount of choice today you have to. It’s not always a good measure, but seeing what someone does with the cover can say a lot about what’s inside. Generic art? Generic story. Weird art? Out there story.

Or maybe just a bad cover artist, but that speaks to an overall lack of quality control.


If we’re talking comics, my answer doesn’t change too much, but standout covers certainly draw attention. It’s hard for a professional comic to screw up a cover. For small press comics, it’s a little easier to tell. No one’s going to put out a bad cover if they can help it. If they can’t, likely the rest of the comic is of the same quality. But even a bad small press comic can spring for a good cover. That’s why it’s better when the comic shop doesn’t pre-bag their comics, as appreciated as that otherwise is.


The first book I bought was the Lancer paperback Conan of Cimmeria, which had an amazing Frank Frazetta cover that caught my eye; so, yeah, I judged the book by its cover (and I was not disappointed):


I agree with this. It’s less about the cover of a book directly determining the content but the author/publisher are trying to tell you something with the cover. If they can’t do that, it’s likely they don’t know what kind of story they have and maybe didn’t construct it so well. It’s a bit like a film trailer in that regard.

It’s also a bit like a rider a performer would put into a contract. You may be willing to eat more than just the brown M&M’s but if the venue is meticulous enough to go through a bag of M&M’s to separate them by color maybe they won’t set you on fire with the pyrotechnics.

I also think people are being a bit dishonest with themselves when they say they absolutely don’t make any judgement by the cover especially when they go on to tell what judgments they make by the cover.

I was in the book business for 12 years. So I saw a lot of covers. There are definitely ones that drew my interest and ones that pushed me away from books.

Also, you could generally tell if the book was from a decent publisher by the construction of the book and finish on the cover. Cheaper construction and finish generally meant less likelihood that the publisher was big enough to have good editors in place or was possibly a vanity publisher.


I worked in a bookstore for five years. I handled dozens of magazines as one of my primary responsibilities in my later period. A fantastic magazine cover would never get me to buy that magazine. Maybe look at it, but not buy it. There are famous customers who want “the one with the blue cover” (I guess there’s a red variant to that, too). If a book’s spine stood out in a bookshelf, that was a good way to single them out. That’s how I discovered Javier Marias’s brilliant Your Face Tomorrow books, because I would never have heard of them otherwise. They were never stocked in sufficient quantities for a faceout. They were never released to significant publicity. It was the last volume I initially caught, and I had to go online to catch the first two. But it wasn’t the spine or the cover, no matter how compelling, that convinced me to be interested enough to buy that third volume. Oftentimes it’s a compelling title that catches my interest. A simple title has its own pleasures, but one where the writer, or the publisher, took the time to craft something unique, that evoked something, that doesn’t read like every other title on the shelf…

But all this may be me.


I was magazine lead for a time too. I did just about every job in the store at one point or another except for receiving and general store manager.

I think the spine counts as part of the “cover” here and once again you’re saying you made a judgement based on the exterior even if you did/didn’t continue with subsequent volumes. :wink:


I think strong, eye-catching design that gives you a flavour of what’s inside is always welcome for a book, whether a comic or a prose novel.

I always like seeing how new covers for classic books attempt to put a new spin on the story or find a new angle to represent it.

One of my favourite new covers for an old book was this one, which really grabs your eye and catches your imagination, giving you just enough of a flavour of the story to make you want to know more.


It was more that it was a big fat book with an intriguing title. That fat spine and that title weren’t really anything other than what the binding and pagecount required, and what it was titled. I read the whole series. I would’ve bought the whole series in the store if it’d been available. But it wasn’t, just that last one.

But again, I assert there’s a huge difference between getting me to look and actually getting me to buy.


I think that in a dog-eat-dog world like these, you need a great cover to call people’s attention. The fact is: People’s time is limited, so they have to be attracted to something first-glance. Period.
At least, this is mi opinion.


In the past, yes it would have mattered to me. But long experience has taught me that in almost all cases the cover illustration will have almost nothing to do with the story inside. So the thing that makes me pick up a book in a bookshop is (1) writer’s name and (2) title, usually in that order or importance. The thing that will make me hold it for more than two seconds is the blurb on the back. So yes, all those things are on the cover, but the illustration that goes with them is last thing that matters. I have shelves full of books with utterly boring or downright ugly covers – it (obviously) didn’t stop me buying them. Nice cover illustrations are nice, of course, but they are a bonus after the fact, not a selling point.


I’m completely obsessive-compulsive about book design, the cover and the spine. If something’s not right I can’t have that book in my house, I have actually thrown out books because of this. I can’t stand italic fonts on book covers for instance. Gives me shivers.