Never Judge a Book by its Cover

There are a few things we aspiring writers do when we dream about getting published, and I don’t mean the nuts bolts of actually writing down our stories. We also daydream, a fair bit I’d hazard to say, about things like, who will play the main characters in the film adaptation of our bestselling novel, (yes, I have cast The Point, but not yet Shadows), who will sing the breakout hit on the soundtrack (Adele or James Blunt), and what the cover will look like.

Yes, I’ve even doodled mock-up covers before.

Unfortunately, unless you self-publish you have little (i.e. no) control over what your cover will look. And despite the age-old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, it is in fact, the single most important factor influencing a potential buyer when it comes to new authors. Once you’ve found an author you love, the importance of cover design and title (explored here) don’t matter too much. But, when perusing the book shelves randomly (actual or virtual), the steps for discovering a new author go like this.

  1. Head to the genre you’re interested in
  2. Look at the masses of books in front of you till one of the covers grabs you
  3. Look at the title
  4. Read the blurb on the back
  5. Some people will read opening pages, (importance here).

It’s the cover that grabs us first, before we learn what the story is about, before we even look at the writing.

So I always find it curious when books are published with different covers. Barring any specific cultural concerns when publishing for foreign markets, or re-releases with the movie tie-in cover, why do covers change from place to place, or edition to edition? Synics might suggest it’s a marketing ploy, and I do know people who have to have every edition of a novel by favourite authors, and will buy every cover they can find.

I recently bought a book online purely and simply because of the cover.

The cover I fell in love with

The cover I fell in love with

My thinking was even if I don’t like the book, the cover is so pretty I have to have it. I did enjoy the book, but I think the cover trumps the story.

I wouldn't have bought this one at all

I wouldn’t have bought this one at all

I like this one, but maybe not as much as the one I bought

I like this one, but maybe not as much as the one I bought






And while researching for this post I found 2 other covers for this same book.


When I think of The Red Tent,

The current cover

The current cover

The Original Uk Cover (the one I have)

The Original UK Cover (the one I have)

I’m not sure I’d have picked it up off the shelf, if the version I’d seen had been the later cover (a little too biblical looking for my personal taste), and I might well have missed out on this amazing novel that tops my list of favourite reads (here).


Here a few more examples of changes to covers.

US version

US version

UK version

UK version

The cover of the version I've read (not sure origin)

The cover I’ve read (not sure origin)







Out of these three, does one grab you straight away, one leave you cold?

OZ edition

OZ edition

UK edition

UK edition

US edition

US edition







I find these examples of Kate Morton’s ‘The Secret Keeper’ really interesting, when you consider just how important cover design is. I LOVE the UK cover, am ‘so-so’ about the Australian cover (interestingly), and really don’t care for the US cover at all.

Have you ever bought a book solely because of the cover? Did you end up liking the book or not?

Is there a type of cover you’re always drawn to?

Is there a type you always steer clear of?

Ok, back to doodling my own covers now….(I mean editing my MS).

S 🙂

I’m joining in the Hump Day Blog Hop again, so if you want to find out what other authors are up to, click below…

Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.



14 thoughts on “Never Judge a Book by its Cover

  1. There is so much truth to this post! My most favorite book ever, I don’t think I would have picked up the original cover. When I saw it months later, I thought it was hideous! What I picked up was the special edition, all three books in the series smushed together in a package that was too irresistible to ignore! It’s so true that once we like someone, we care a lot less. I went on to read everything with her name on it, regardless of what the cover looked like.

    I totally agree with you about the Kate Morton book, the UK edition is FABULOUS. I wouldn’t have even looked at the third one. And the same goes for the third Melissa Hill book.

    p.s. I also make mock covers on the regular. 😉

    • Yep, I’m totally in love with Morton’s UK cover. Lucky you picked up that special edition, right?
      I suspect we all make up mock covers. I can’t draw to save my life, but in my head, they always look perfect 🙂

  2. Gail Margaret

    Hi Sandie
    You make a good point that perhaps could be explored – “but in my head they always look perfect”? Thank goodness for our imagination and what we can do in our head. I was reading something recently that talked about people practicing things they wanted to achieve and people spending time imagining themselves achieving the outcome and the people who practiced in their heads achieved far better! Yes I am off the topic, however blogs can take a detour can’t they? PS I also choose an unknown author by the cover initially, but if I don’t like the blurb it goes back on the shelf, no matter how attractive the cover is! (except for cookbooks)

    • Of course blogs can take a detour. I’ve imagined my book launch countless times (to which you’ll be invited of course), so here’s hoping. And in my head, it’s perfect. We writers love living in our heads, creating the worlds we want, the way we want them.
      And yep, cover makes you pick up the book, blurb makes you buy it.

  3. Yes, yes, yes! I’ve definitely purchased books because I like the cover. And everything you said in this post is spot on. So interesting to look at a series of covers from the same book and examine why you like them.

    I especially appreciate the very difficult work of designing book covers across a series. I think Jill Mansell’s book covers look great across her 67 gazillion 400+ page books. I almost always pick one of them up when I’m at the bookstore to just look at all the watercolored doodling. Love them.

    Sandie, I hope you don’t mind my leaving a link to Jill Mansell’s covers – I thought someone might want a quick peek at what I’m referring to.

    Thanks for hopping on the Hump Day Blog Hop!!

    • By all means Julie. Jill Mansell’s covers are great. So recognisable as hers. Let’s hope we both get to 67 gazillion and we can sit back one day and compare our cover art 🙂
      Thanks for hosting the hop.

  4. Interesting lesson for indie authors as well. It isn’t necessarily all about whether the cover looks “professional” or not – many other indefinable factors go into appealing to readers. And if your book isn’t selling well with its current cover, perhaps a different approach is in order!

  5. Covers TOTALLY matter! I’ve gotten both positive and negative reactions to my covers (designed by my publisher). I get all fussy if the people on them don’t look like my characters, because that matters very much if you have “full face” images—and some reviewers have pointed out when the people on the cover don’t match my descriptions. I’ve dabbled in graphic design over the years, and I’m a control freak, so quite often my fingers itch as I long to do my own covers!

    You posted good examples—I have to say for The Secret Keeper, I was really drawn to the Aussie version because it just commands attention. Not to say that it’s the best of the three, but it is the most striking. Interesting!

    • Yeah, people on covers can be tricky. If you take a handful of readers who’ve read your book, I bet they would all have slightly different images in their heads of what your characters look like. I wonder if that’s why we often see people on covers from behind, or obscured views?

  6. paulinewiles

    I choose most of my reading from online recommendations but I do have a Pinterest board, just for beautiful covers. I don’t know if I’d pick up a book solely for its cover, but I’d certainly be put off by something that looked too much like pure romance, or (like you) heavily biblical. I am in perfect agreement with you for Hill’s cover, but I actually like Morton’s Oz edition best. Another thing that fascinates me is when titles change for different countries. I do understand that when the words simply don’t “translate”, but it seems to be done for other reasons, too.
    Another person with super consistent covers: Katie Fforde. I adore this style:

  7. I have the same taste as you, I think. I nearly always judge a book on its cover and won’t even look any further if it doesn’t appeal. I like colour and romanticism. Don’t like drawings. UK wins, from these examples. 🙂

    • Sounds like we’re cover twins :). I do find it interesting that I tend to favour the uk versions, as I guess publishers tailor the covers to suit the nation, and I’m not English. Did live there for 4 years, so maybe something rubbed off????

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