Go Ahead and Judge That Book By Its Cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover! I bet you’ve heard that saying too many times to count. And while the underlying message about not judging people by how they look has merit, when it comes to actual books, we all tend to judge them by their covers – at least in part. As a reader, your time is valuable. You probably read fiction as a sort of escape from real life. Maybe you even think of it as a mini vacation. No one wants to make the mistake of grabbing a book that disappoints and nothing has more power to sway a reader than a book’s cover.

You Do Judge Books by Their Covers – And That’s OK

Think about it. As you scan the shelves in a bookstore, or the virtual bookshelf at Amazon, you spend only a few seconds on each book. In fact, studies show that readers spend about 8 seconds looking at a book cover before moving on. But that’s only if the cover doesn’t capture their attention for a longer period of time for some reason.

I’ve written in the past about the importance of opening lines and book titles. Those represent two of the three most important aspects of a book that make the most lasting impression on you as a potential reader. The book cover, though, is the first thing you see and probably the most important element when it comes to making a good first impression.

What a Reader Wants, a Reader Gets

As an author of crime novels, I strive to give you, my reader, exactly what you want in a story and that includes a cover that you simply can’t pass up on the virtual shelf. The cover of any book, regardless of genre, should convey a sense of the story. So, for crime thrillers, the cover needs to speak to the suspense, danger, and dark menace lurking inside the pages. Likewise, for romance novels, the best covers send a message of passion, sex, and romance to entice you to peek inside its steamy pages. Think about your favorite book series, for instance. I like the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. Although each cover is different, the distinctive colors, fonts, and graphics he uses for each one tie all the books together as a brand.

Michael Connelly Harry Bosch SeriesWhen putting the final touches on Chasing the Dead, the second and soon-to-be-launched book in my Alex Stone Thriller Series, I had to consider cover design. While I wanted it to “match” the series brand of Stone Cold, it also needed to stand on its own. Jeroen Ten Berge, my amazingly talented cover designer, did a great job doing just that.

legal thrillers chasing the deadIn order to help him in his efforts to come up with the perfect cover, I sent him the unfinished manuscript as soon as I was far enough along for him to get a sense of the story. This lends him not only insight, but I imagine lights the creative spark in him that the best designers need to produce their stellar work. Jeroen had this to say about the process of cover design:

“Sometimes inspiration for a book cover design comes from a specific scene, sometimes from the overall feel of a book. With Joel Goldman’s Chasing the Dead, it is a combination of both. The story opens with the find of a dead girl lying in a riverbed, but her almost translucent body represents the nightmarish ghosts that torment Alex Stone. Positioning Alex on the riverbank, looking at the corpse from a distance, with the Kansas City skyline looming behind her visualizes what I believe is the feel of this excellent thriller. Can’t wait to read the ending!”

So you see, a lot goes into the cover design and it’s really all for you, the reader. Not only must the book cover be enticing and compelling, but the text also has to be legible in thumbnail size, so you can get the whole picture of the story. Most of all, book covers need to pop and grab your attention. I want to share my thrillers with you and I’m dedicated to making your experience, while in the world of Alex Stone, Lou Mason, and Jack Davis, as exciting and satisfying as possible.

On that note, I’m turning this over to you.

What do you like and not like in book covers? How important is a book’s cover in your purchase decision? I’d love to read your thoughts and open up a dialogue about this aspect of the reading experience from your perspective. Please share in the comments.

2 Responses to “Go Ahead and Judge That Book By Its Cover”

  1. Angela Parson Myers

    If I’m shopping in a bookstore, the cover might attract my attention. But on Amazon, the cover means almost nothing, since I go there in search of particular titles or authors–never to browse. In both cases, my decision to buy depends on the cover blurb and the first several pages of the manuscript. Those first several pages had better grab me in some way, and the editing must be nearly perfect.

    • JoelGoldmanAuthor2

      Understood, Angela, and I think many people feel as you do. ~Joel