Monday, August 4, 2014

Do You Judge?

Do you judge a book by its cover? 

A blog or website by the graphics and layout?

A book cover, blog or website home page are often our initial point of contact. Although we know better than to judge on appearance only, it's tempting to do so sometimes.

What draws or brings us to a cover or site? 

A familiar writer or author? Catchy title? Bold image? Beautiful illustrations? Interesting subject? Striking scenery?  A recommendation? Research? Curiosity?

The answer varies of course, as all of the above may have applied at some point. We've different tastes and interests, and what draws one may not draw another. Our views are subjective, and we associate topics with life experience, expectations, and worldview. When images and impressions are contrary to expectations they can put us off or intrigue us.

With this in mind, how do we know what will draw readers? Design choices are endless, and especially difficult for the artistically challenged.  How does a writer choose images for a blog or site, or the right words for a post title, or an author choose a cover (when they have a say in the selection)? We only get one chance to make a first impression. How can we put our best foot forward? 

It helps to consider the following:
  • Content
  • Target audience 

Then ask:
  • Is the image clean and crisp?
  • Is it pleasing to the eye?
  • How is the flow of the cover or site, is it too busy or cluttered?
  • If a title, what keywords can be utilized to grab readers' attention?

  • Enlist help from a graphic designer or artist.
  • Ask for input from friends, family, and colleagues.
  • View covers, images, or titles for similar books, topics, or sites - don't copy, just observe what works, what doesn't.

Consider also this advice from graphic designer David Lange. When asked what first came to mind in regard to a good cover he replied, "Having a strong, compelling image or graphic."
(Yes, he is my son, and here is his website. Shameless plug over. :)

As I wandered around two bookstores this weekend, I drank in the images on the shelves. It struck me again how although ultimately content is key, the first visual impression can make or break the public's interest. We cannot please all the people all the time, but we can observe, do our research, and make smart, polished choices. You never know who you might impress.

Have you judged a book by its cover lately? A blog or site by its design? What draws you to a cover?

Happy writing,


The cover above is for my next book, due out this fall. :)


  1. We do judge things by their cover, though I don't do that with books. I DO do that with movie trailers however.

  2. I think it's true we judge the covers, but for me it's content that makes me decide whether or not to read it.

  3. I think most of us judge covers. We know what we like and we look for it.

  4. I admit - I judge. I like great graphics, which is probably part of what drew me to science fiction and fantasy.

    1. Alex,
      With you being a graphic designer, I can see why too! I'm with you - if the graphics draw me, I'm more likely to check out the book. My kids are all artistic and I've learned a lot from them about what's good and what's not, learning why certain things work, contrasts, etc. They're handy to have around. :)
      Happy writing,

  5. Keith,
    Now that's a good point. :) I do the same with movies, unless someone recommends it and I do more research on it.

    I agree, content is key. I know I can be slower to pick up a book if I really dislike the cover though. Yes, and I know better! lol :)

    There are just certain things that draw us, that's for sure. We all like different things, and that can make choosing a cover, etc. more challenging too. :)

    Happy writing,

  6. Covers are hard to judge nowadays. I used to spend time looking through a book depending on the covers before I bought them. Now with the digital age we get a glimpse of whats inside on Amazon, but it is not the same, and the pictures can be a better quality with the technology.

  7. Cover choices are critical. The issue I see is that the people who choose the covers may not envision the story the same as I do as a reader. I've been drawn in by covers, only to discover that the image didn't really capture the essence of the story the way I would have liked.

  8. I am constantly judging stuff even though I keep promising I won't. Not easy to stop. I judge books by their sincerity. Does that make sense? Sometimes it's blatantly obvious the publisher is trying to manipulate me into believing the book is the best thing since peanut butter. That trick has happened to me far too often. Now I'm read the first page, plus the reviews on Goodreads. Another reason why yours and Laurel-Snow's blogs are so important. I can trust your reviews.

  9. I'm definitely attracted by a cool cover, but I couldn't tell you what would make me a buy a book without seeing it. Hard to please everyone.


  10. Karen: I know the old adage,"Never judge a book by its cover." I do and I have. If the cover draws me, I will look further about the author and the story, via the back cover.

  11. David,
    It is a different world now, isn't it? Reviews really can help us with the process too. Wonder how things will change in the next 20 years or so.

    I think you are right, they are critical. The challenge lies in what you mentioned - everyone comes to the table with a different perspective. It's tricky, isn't it? :)

    I judge them too, without even thinking sometimes. Reviews are a big help, you're right. I'd never thought about it in those terms - sincerity - but you are on to something. It's true. Thanks so much for your kind words about my reviews. You are so sweet! :)

    Me too! I was drawn to several at the bookstores the other night. This is when a budget comes in handy. lol You're right - can't please everyone!

    I do too. It's a challenge not to sometimes. I've gotten into checking reviews more in recent years. That's been a big help.

    Happy writing,

  12. I do that all the time. All the time! If the cover's cheesy or boring or plain, I'm less likely to pick it up.

    You can absolutely 'plug' your son. He's done good work for you, and you oughta be proud. :D

    Thank you for your take on this topic, one I hope to get familiar with someday. Happy Tuesday!

  13. I try not to judge books by their covers, but I do- all the time. The covers that attract me have me slipping the book off the shelf to learn more. I like all different types of designs and titles- and I have often found that the covers I don't like turn out to have a fabulous story hidden in their pages. Three books I love I put off reading because of their covers!

    Great advice about how to make the cover the best it can be!

  14. Rhonda,
    Yes, me too, not as likely to pick a book up if I don't care for the cover. Thanks so much for your kind words. I am proud of all my kids. :) You will be more familiar with this very soon! I just know it.

    Me too. I think we do it without even thinking, you know? Sometimes they do have great treasures within, so like you said, it is often worth a second look. Thanks so much for your thoughts! :)

    Happy writing,

  15. Yes, a book cover is one of the things that makes me pick up the book to begin with, aside from author and title. I just read an article in Writer's Digest where a best-selling author mentioned that, early on in her career, one of her books wasn't selling well; so she changed the cover, and sales rocketed. We are a visual society in many respects and I think that's a good thing in moderation. Regarding a finished product, I think we should care about how we present our work.

    Interesting question. Enjoy your week!

  16. Hi Karen - certainly I will buy some books based on the cover, but the content must entice too ... and they're usually business books, or educational relative to a subject ... but I don't pick up novels that way - then I don't read them either ..

    However I do like art - and some completely puts me off ... but I'm probably not interested in looking anyway ..

    I really need to up my blogger page - and with bloggers if I enjoy the blog and have got comfortable with their 'old' design and layout I'm happy to be there .. I suspect people come my way because of the content, certainly not the way the blog looks ..

    We need customers at all times in our writing lives ... and how lucky you are to have David there for advice etc .. cheers Hilary

  17. It's difficult not to judge a book by its cover. I try not to, but it can be easier to resist an unappetizing cover.

    I have a pet peeve when I pick up a book that isn't what the cover advertises, especially when it's a historical romance. If the people are dressed in Regency attire, I expect a Regency, not a Victorian. I can't help it!

  18. I'm such a visual person. Seriously. I pick up books based on the cover, so I feel it's terribly important that that first impression be perfect. I understand that can't always be the case, but this is a business and your business card is your cover. Know what I mean?

  19. Janette,
    It's funny how the public can be - something as simple as changing a cover can draw more readers. A friend used to work in a discount store and she told me about an item that sold for 50 cents that was slow to move off the shelves. When they placed these items in a bin in the middle of the main aisle at 2 for 1.00, they flew out of the store. Go figure. :) Thanks for adding to the conversation here!

    Yes, content is important too, and something that probably will help determine long term sales. Just visited your blogger page and actually, I like it! You always have interesting pictures and content, certainly eye pleasing and interesting! But I can relate, thinking I need to do something a bit more interesting here in the header. Need to talk to Dave about that. :)

    Yes, I can resist a boring cover much more easily too! And it is a disappointment when the cover is different from the story - don't care for that at all. It will be interesting to see what your book cover looks like - can't wait! Congratulations! :)

    I do know what you mean, and that's another good point. It is about the marketing, and we are driven by first impressions, that's for sure! :) There's so much more to writing, isn't there?

    Happy writing,

  20. If a book has a not-so-great cover, I look at the reviews. Some awesome books have covers that simply don't match. A wonderful cover will catch my attention. In the past I would buy them readily after reading the back cover, but nowadays I also ask myself if I'm in the mood for the genre and if the reviews are good. I'm pickier with age.

  21. Yes, across the board. The graphic is first. It's visually and brains like picture. It has to work to read (teehee).

  22. Medeia,
    This is why I like reviews; they do help when the cover doesn't appeal. Like you, I am much more selective than I used to be. Age and experience are factors, as is time. :)

    The image is the first thing to engage, usually, unless we are familiar with the author or story. As writers we get to walk this tricky balance of pleasing the public, right? :)

    Happy writing,

  23. Currently on my blog in the 'Shopwindow Area' of my blog you can find a few Summer related keywords for attracting attention, to name a few of them:

    - Travel Writing, Travel Gadgets, Your Summer Outfit, and a post
    about how to Write - Product Reviews - in a Ralaxed Way.

    So I believe that also - Timing - (or what's in fashion at a certain time) can play a role in what draws you to a cover or a site.

  24. HP,
    Now there's another good point! David has mentioned the same thing (but it didn't cross my mind for this post) and he's also mentioned how in some genres certain things are expected, like a particular font, etc. It's a good study of what people look for and like, isn't it?
    Happy writing,

  25. I am shallow. :) I unashamedly judge a book by it's cover and in my genre of choice, historical romance, I'm spoiled with endless delicious looking covers. Do they always deliver on the cover promise? Not always, but then I've been known to buy on cover alone, and sometimes... I even hit the jackpot with the story within.

    (I do read the blurb 99% of the time, and first pages) Thought I should clarify my purchase methods.

    Have a wonderful weekend,
    Dotti ;)

  26. Dotti,
    I am shallow as well. As I browsed the bookstore, many delightful covers caught my eye. I knew that they wouldn't all be to my liking, but they drew me in anyway. Thankfully my budget offers restrictions that help keep things in line! :)
    Hugs to you,


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!