Posted by: kimberlysullivan | July 27, 2012

You can’t judge a book by its cover … or can you?

Loved this cover

Back when I lived in Milan, I had a friend who designed book covers for one of Italy’s largest publishers. I was just learning Italian back then and I remember asking her if there was an equivalent expression for “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, and being surprised to learn there wasn’t.

I just read this hilarious post from the sobadsogood blog on the Ten worst book covers in the history of literature and, I must admit, this seems to be a pretty definitive list. Authors beware! You really don’t want to find yourself on this type of a top ten list…

With a lot more self-publishing today, I get the impression there are even more questionable design choices – even if this sobadsogood blog post seems to prove the phenomenon has been around for a while.

… and this, too. A Parisian preference, maybe?

I know it’s superficial, but I can’t help being drawn to a good cover. Since e-readers haven’t yet taken over in Italy, I still love spying on the book covers I see on the metro or on the beach and, when one catches my eye, I tend to seek it out in the bookstores.

My non-scientific method has certainly netted me some duds, but some nice surprises as well, where the evocative cover really did hint at the beauty of the words within.

What about you, writers? Are you drawn to an appealing cover? Have you ‘discovered’ good books this way, simply because good art work caught your eye?


  1. I think covers are meant to be judged, really, and I use them as means to attract me to new books. I’m more likely to pick up something if the cover appeals to me, and I have indeed discovered great reads (and bad reads) this way.

  2. The cover many times ‘catch’ the eye, both book covers and music covers – but if I know the writer or the musicians from before, then not so much.

    The words at the back of the covers are that which catch me most…😉

  3. I think it’s always the cover that initially draws us to new authors (if we didn’t hear of them from someone else), but I have always then read the blurb and maybe the first couple pages before buying. I know the cover really has nothing to do with what’s inside, and the book might suck. However, I think most people are attracted to pretty things😉

  4. I am drawn to covers. I might not buy it but I do pick it up off the shelf and give it a glance. I do the same for wine too (except in that case I have to buy it).

  5. Definitely, definitely! I do judge a book by its cover😦 Horrible, I know!😉 But yes. I do agree with Chantel. Covers to initially draw us to new authors. Then the blurb. Then we skim a couple of pages, haha.
    I do agree that self-publishing has let strange covers invade the cyber world.😛

  6. Absolutely, a great cover seals a decision and definitely entices us to pick up a book and at least consider it, wanting the promise of what’s inside to be equally appealing. It’s a part of the choosing process that is a real delight.

    I often wonder about a lot of the French books in the bookshops here with their very minimal covers, a title and a border only and often no image at all. It suggests they must rely even more on the blurb than the decision being a combination effect of the words and the image. If they all had plain white covers and a border, think how much more authors would have to rely on the publicity machine.

  7. Thanks for all your comments! I’m glad to see I’m not the only one whose head is turned by a pretty cover. : ) Yes, Janet, a nice label on a bottle of wine can also have the same effect on me! Interesting, Claire, about the French covers. I also read French books and I’ve always been amazed by their minimalist covers.

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