“Don’t judge a book by a cover” is a popular saying meaning we shouldn’t judge people based on appearances. In reality, it’s a lot harder to not make snap judgements, and when taken literally, I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t judged a book by the cover. Haven’t you ever bought a book because of the pretty cover? Or avoided a book because it has half-naked people on the front? I know I do. So, the real question is, should we not do this and if so, why do we?
If we know that a person who looks intimidating can be nice, surely we know a book with an ugly cover can still have great content. One could argue that judging a book by the cover can cause you to be close-minded and even spiteful. To quote Aladdin, “but it’s not the outside, but what’s on the inside that counts.”
But covers are great marketing content. They are the first thing your eyes see when browsing books, and even tell you a little about what the book is about. According to Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, our brains are hardwired to process images faster than words. This is why we sometimes pick a pretty book up before even reading the title.
Because covers can give us an idea of what the book is about, or at least the genre of the book, I know what to look for. For example, fantasy covers typically feature weapons, ballgowns, nature, glowing magic, or rich colors with a curly, elaborate font. Romance covers tend to have two people leaning into each other in some form. Meanwhile, thrillers sell with covers of bold covers against a stormy sky or creepy silhouettes.
We also know that covers do a lot of the marketing work as fans will take to platforms such as bookstagram to promote their #prettycovers and #coverbuys.
Not to mention that covers provide a space to appreciate other forms of art aside from literature and give illustrators a chance to show off their work.
So should we and do we judge books by their covers? My simple answer is yes. There will be exceptions to the rule, of course, but covers play an important role in the literary world. When it comes to people, though, don’t judge. 🙂
What do you think? Do you judge books by their covers?