I Judge Books By Their Covers (And So Do You)

Most of the times when I see people talking about judging a book by its cover, they’re talking about a cover buy. A book that they only picked up because of how pretty the cover was. But today I kind of want to talk about the opposite. I want to talk about books I’ve disregarded because of the cover!

Recently I made the realization that a lot of times when I’m reading a review, it’s the first time that I’ve read the synopsis.  But what really struck me as strange was that usually, it wasn’t the first time I had seen the book around. That’s when I realized that I have been judging books by their cover and choosing not to read them without ever reading the synopsis. 

fresh off the boat judgement GIF by ABC Network

I think this is most apparent when you think about the books you see in a tag. You’re most likely to comment about the ones you’ve read or the ones that you already want to read, regardless of how they got on your radar. I mostly am interested in new books in a tag when I like the cover. Sometimes a tag will generate interest in the book, but usually it’s the more in-depth review that grabs people’s attention. Which is interesting because we have been many discussions, including my own, about how difficult reviewing is and how they’re not the most appreciated posts on people’s blogs.

But apparently, reviews are necessary, more necessary than we might realize. Publishers know what they’re talking about when they ask for a review. It’s the easiest way for people to know whether or not this is a book for them. People need more information, not just the cover. 

she is the best constance wu GIF

Me when I see a book I haven’t seen before in a tag

And this kind of makes sense. I know that for myself when I see a dark cover I assume that the book is a fantasy and I will lose interest. But sometimes I then read the synopsis and discover that, Hey! It might still be a fantasy, but I’m actually interested in this fantasy! Or I read the synopsis and it turns out not to be a fantasy after all! Or there’s something about the synopsis that draws my attention more than the cover. I’ve already discussed how important synopses are to me, but I didn’t realize that I use covers to make a judgment on whether I should bother to even read the synopsis until recently.

And I know that cover judging is used in marketing. Take for example the new trend in illustrated romance novel covers.  Plenty of people who do not generally read romance have read The Kiss Quotient and Red, White, & Royal Blue. I believe this is because people were judging by the cover. They don’t see any shirtless men on the cover and assume that it’s either not a romance, or not a “trashy” romance.

excited stephen colbert GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

When a pretty cover has you trying a genre you weren’t expecting

I myself believed that Red, White, & Royal Blue was a YA novel up until the day I bought it. I couldn’t find it in the YA section and was texting Chana all about my search, when she corrected my assumption. I was more than happy to hear that it was a romance, but I think part of the reason I thought it was YA was because of the cover, and how it got marketed because of said cover. More people were willing to take a chance on a new genre because they were misled by a cover. But in this case that misleading cover was actually a good thing because many people discovered a new book in a genre they would have otherwise dismissed!

So I’m curious. I know many of us have fallen prey to a cover buy, but have any of you ever judged the book by its cover in this manner as well?

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Have you ever ignored a book, then read its synopsis and became interested? Have you ever thought a book was a different genre because of the cover? 

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44 thoughts on “I Judge Books By Their Covers (And So Do You)

  1. I completely agree. I think to a certain extent, books are designed to be judged by their covers and publishers know it. It is (often) quite easy to tell the genre of a book from it’s cover—like you say, dark covers tend to be fantasy—and I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world if people can avoid genres that they don’t particularly enjoy by looking at the cover. It saves time to immediately dismiss it.

    On the otherhand, there are some books that I would never have picked up (either based on their cover or genre) that I had to read and ended up really enjoying, so it goes both ways! The issue comes when the cover doesn’t accurately convey the content of the book and people make the wrong judgement.

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    1. Oh, definitely! Publishers have been using this trick forever to get readers to pick up books! But it was interesting that I found that there were some books I was interested in that I had originally dismissed because of the cover. In general though, I agree. I’m glad cover judging saves me time!

      Mismarketing is definitely the worst outcome when it comes to covers! There are some times where I’m genuinely curious how a cover ends up on a book after I finish reading it! But that’s why I value the synopsis so much. I find it’s generally more accurate than the cover!

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  2. Books are very beautiful in every sense, to me. I always appreciate a really good cover, but as I commented on another blog, when I love the content but not the cover, I will get black paper and write the title and synopsis. If fan art is online I might print some to put on the cover, too.
    -Emma 🙂

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  3. Not only have I definitely disregarded books because of their unappealing covers, I have also bought so many books just because they’re pretty… In this visual world with all the marketing and other tools, it isn’t really a surprise that we all judge books by their covers, but it isn’t really a good thing. So many great books have meh covers!

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  4. I admit that I’m much the same and I never really realized it until I started seeing books I passed over a) blowing up on bookstagram or b) receiving glowing reviews from reviewers I follow on GR. Then I realize that I never felt pulled to read it because I thought it looked unattractive 😂 Oops.

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  5. I used to do this a lot more than I do now, and I think it’s because once you get into Urban Fantasy, you just learn to mostly ignore book covers (as something that will be informative about the book and its quality – you can still appreciate a good cover!) because most UF covers are Awful in every possible way. Like the Kate Daniels series: great books, terrible covers.

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    1. Oh, that’s definitely true! I’ve moved a bit away from Urban Fantasy, but I definitely know the kind of covers you’re referring to that had some great books inside! I always find it sad when a wonderful book has an unfortunate cover since I know that less people will want to pick it up because of the cover! I think once you know you like a genre it becomes a bit different though, since you are already familiar with the kinds of covers you can expect, and can look past that.

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  6. Yes I definitely see a cover then make a judgement to whether I want to find out more information about it— if the cover doesn’t appeal I will miss out on the synopsis as I will have made up my mind. But then if I do end up reading the synopsis I might end up liking it as my initial impression is wrong. I am drawn to book covers that are like books that I have read and loved so I think if covers are like them I might be tempted to try out different genres so I think you are right. 🙂

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    1. I think a lot of people use this method without even realizing! And that’s super interesting about how you like similar covers. I don’t think I do that as much, but I now want to see if I’ve ever picked up a book since it had a similar cover to a favorite of mine! I know that covers I enjoy in general can get me to pick up a book in a new genre, but I’m unsure if there’s ever been a specific connection to a favorite book of mine!

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  7. YES! I’ve done this. I’ll see a book and pass on it. And actually its normally a review that changes my mind about reading it. But I tend to seek out reviews more than other people and look out for reviews of books I’ve passed on to see if I was right to have passed or missed a great book. hahah. ❤️ Love this.

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    1. I’m so glad to hear I’m not alone in this! I read the reviews that pop up from the blogs I’m subscribed to, and I’ve been surprised more than once to hear what a book is about! But I don’t actively search out reviews, so I’m sure quite a few have flown under my radar! Thank you! 💕

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  8. Thank you for putting light on this issue because it’s very true. Covers are a big part of books and a bad cover can completely keep me from reading an excellent book. I always think about how the book would look on my shelf…I kind of try to stop judging by buying books on my kindle so I’m not entirely bothered by the cover.

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    1. I find that this problem is most apparent for me when it comes to classics! I cannot get myself to read a classic unless it’s a pretty edition! But at least with classics I have many choices! And that’s a great idea to use your Kindle because the covers aren’t as prominent with e-books!

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    1. 😂 I’m so glad my words rang true! The funny thing about both those book is that they’re a lot steamier than a lot of bare-chested romances! That’s what’s so deceiving about covers! But I’m glad it introduced you to a new genre!

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  9. I’d never thought of it this way but you are totally right! I know I’ve disregarded a book (or five) because I thought the cover was not for me. Initially, I thought you just meant you judged because it had a bad cover (because there are a lot of those around) but yes I do judge a book and make assumptions without even taking the time to read the synopsis. I do like when people at least link to goodreads on tag posts so I can read the synopsis because, depending on the blogger, I can be convinced to ignore the cover and check the book itself out and I’m normally pleasantly surprised. The number of times I’ve read a review for a book I’ve totally disregarded and found it’s a total me book is shocking and whilst it’s great to stealthily convince folks to stop being judgey assholes about romance and find out they actually love the genre, it can be annoying when you find out you are said judgey asshole missing out on a brilliant book, you know?

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    1. That’s exactly the point I wanted to make! Cover judging goes both ways! And I’m glad that you appreciate when bloggers link up books to Goodreads because it takes so much work, so I’m glad to hear it helps you discover new reads! I’m always excited when I see someone clicked on a Goodreads link!

      I don’t get shocked as often because I mainly read contemporary, which have pretty standard covers, but there have been some surprises!

      And your point about romances was spot on. 😂 I’m just so happy that more people are discovering that romances are wonderful, since the genre has brought me such joy for so long!

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  10. I love this so much! You just summed it up so perfectly. I found myself realizing I do the exact same thing while reading a tag post- I’ll only investigate a book more if I like the cover, or if I’ve heard of it before. Now I’m thinking back to all the awesome books I have probably missed out on and shaking my head at myself…

    YES, I definitely thought Red, White, & Royal Blue was YA too! And honestly, that was both because of the cover and because all the YA blogs I read were talking about it. Realizing it wasn’t didn’t make me not want to read it, either. (Although it meant I had to go to the adult section of the library to get it which is always a stressful experience for me because it’s completely silent and large and I don’t know where anything is, lol.)

    Lovely post! ❤

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    1. Thank you! I always have so much fun when I realize that I’ve been doing something that I assume other people have been doing as well without realizing! Because then I get to share my discovery and find that I really am not alone!

      That’s definitely true about RW&RB! A lot of YA blogs were talking about it, now that you mention it. And I totally get the stress of going to the adult section of the library. My library has YA and Adult in the same area because it’s a pretty small building, so I’m familiar with both sections, but going upstairs to the non-fiction section always feels like an adventure!

      Thank you! 💕

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  11. I 100% do this. I make a decision to even read the synopsis based on whether I like the cover or not. It’s honestly hard NOT to do this when there are so many books to choose from. I can’t sit in a book store reading the synopsis of every book on the shelf so I have to have some sort of method to narrow it down. Although, there are some books out there with crappy covers that are amazing. Great post!

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    1. I knew I couldn’t be alone in this! And I didn’t even think of how much judging I do in a book store, but I definitely judge my heart out whenever I’m there! I think I can be swayed to read books with crappy covers only once I see a fabulous review or two beforehand! Thank you! 💕

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  12. I will admit that I have totally disregarded books in the past due to their covers. There are so books that I look at and I do judge because they seem like they might be adult books or super high fantasy or sci-fi, which aren’t genres that I tend to gravitate to. One of my favorite series ever has terrible covers, and I literally almost skimped on reading them because I didn’t think the cover was great at all and it looked super…maybe even adult? Wonderful post!! 🙂

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    1. Exactly! I definitely judge by genre as well! So if a book has a cover design that’s similar to a genre I don’t read, I’ll just assume I’m not interested in the book because of the genre! And I think this is the only blessing when it comes to cover changes. There’s the chance that a series you love will get a new, beautiful cover that will draw in lots of new readers who will love it as much as you! Thank you! 💕

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  13. What a great discussion! I’m usually not that tempted to add a pretty cover to my TBR if the synopsis doesn’t grip me, but I totally feel myself checking out books on Goodreads with pretty covers more often than those that I don’t like the cover of 😱 I feel like a pretty cover really manages to draw me in first and even if I’m not interested in the content, my attention has been drawn.

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  14. Guilty of this one, I actually skipped over The Hate U Give initially because of the cover, and then decided to pick it up from the library because of the hype. I ended up loving it so much, I ordered a special UK edition for my shelves and have been talking about the book since – whoops! But it happens all the time I’m sure and I have no doubt that I have skipped over a lot of books I’d probably love because the cover didn’t strike me.

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    1. I actually really like The Hate U Give’s cover! Although at this point I’m not sure if that’s what made me read the synopsis, or if the hype got to me as well! But I totally agree, I’ve definitely skipped over lots of books because the cover wasn’t able to grab my attention!

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  15. Oh ABSOLUTELY! Here’s one for you- I will avoid ANY book with a bird cover. Which is completely ridiculous because my favorite book ever is The Hunger Games? But yeah I do this ALL the time. I get some kind of preconceived feeling about a book based on the cover, and it’s hard for me to let it go, even if I find out what it’s about. In those cases, you are VERY right that reviews from trusted bloggers and such are quite necessary! “Like okay this isn’t about birds, I can read it”

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    1. I feel like there’s always an exception to the rule! Even if the rule is no birds on covers! But I definitely have pre-conceived notions about books all the time! And it rarely works in a book’s favor! I’ll be like, “Oh, look! What a cute contemporary!” Then said book either turns depressing or turns out not to be contemporary after all, and I hate it because I feel betrayed since all I ever wanted was cuteness! Reviews have definitely saved me from this fate more than once!

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  16. Ahh what a fantastic discussion, I love it so much and 200% relate to it, too… like, you mentioned it, when you read a tag and sometimes you stop at a cover you’re not familiar with… well, sometimes I’ll scroll by and won’t stop because I will judge the cover and I will, somehow, think that this book is not for me based on that cover. Or I will do the very opposite thing and will stop and stare because the cover somehow catch my eye. Obviously, it all goes with what the blogger says right next to the book cover, when it’s in a tag and I’m actually reading the blog post, but still, I find myself naturally attracted to some books because of their covers and naturally well… repelled, that’s a strong word but the one coming to mind hahaha, by some other covers. It’s a habit and it’s hard to let go of it sometimes to focus on what’s happening inside the book’s pages, but I’m trying my best not to judge too harshly haha, it’s a work in progress for sure 🙂

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    1. Thank you! I love when my weird quirks are actually relatable! Isn’t it so strange how we interact with books in tags? I think what’s most interesting for me is when I click on a book that I don’t think I’d want to read, just because the cover is pretty and I want to know what it’s about. And I find I’m pickiest with classics. I’ll only read classics once I find an edition I like. It’s kid of funny how I’ll avoid a classic for years, then find a pretty edition and read it pretty soon after! But much like you I’m still working on my cover judging!

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  17. This is such a fantastic post, Malka! I honestly judge covers quite often, because it is the first thing I will notice about a book! I really like what you brought up about tag posts – I relate to that 100%! The trends and artwork that are often popular with covers can definitely be correlated to marketers trying to play into our expectations. I’ve noticed this with some New Adult novels (as you mentioned above), as well as some MG ones! I really enjoyed reading all your thoughts in this post, love! ❤

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  18. I judge books by their covers all the time. I won’t pick up a book if it has a shirtless man on the cover for example. The cover is the first thing I see most of the time and if it doesn’t look good then I won’t read the review or even the synopsis. Time is short and I don’t want to waste time on books that don’t look good.

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    1. It’s funny because I used to feel the same way about shirtless men on the covers. But then I fell in love with the romance genre and had to learn to accept them. I still prefer the illustrated covers though. And I tend to only read the reviews when I see it’s from a blogger I follow and trust. That’s usually where I end up reading the synopsis and finding out whether my expectations were right or not. But your philosophy is definitely a useful one! Life definitely is too short for bad books!

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      1. I used to love romance, but I lately I just don’t like it. I just feel like it’s all lust and no actual romance, at least what I read. I love real romance though.
        I say that I don’t chance books with bad covers, but right now I’m reading one that had a gorgeous cover that I probably should have DNFed it bc it’s so slow and boring. It’s not bad, but just kinda slow and so easy to set down.

        When certain bloggers make a recommendation I will pick up the book without a second thought. But I have like… an anti book blogger who I follow and if she likes something I’m sure to hate it, so I follow her for that too! HAHA

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        1. That’s interesting. I sometimes have the opposite problem, where I feel like a romance is actually all fighting an arguments!

          And an anti book blogger is actually a brilliant idea! You’re lucky to have found someone with dislikes that match yours so well!

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