Yes, We DO Judge a Book By Its Cover

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Jeremy Gardiner. Jeremy is the founder of Gospel eBooks, a Christian e-Book deals website. You can follow them on Twitter @gospelebooks.

As the owner of a website that promotes eBook deals, I receive a lot of self-published submissions. When I sort through these books, more than three quarters are rejected in the first three seconds. Why? The book cover is poorly designed.

If you're a self-published author (or even a traditionally-published one), I have some bad news for you: Your book is being judged by its cover.

Book Cover
Photo credit: Zitona (Creative Commons)

Information overload

With the rise of the digital revolution, we are bombarded with information. There are tweets and status updates, countless articles and blog posts — all awaiting your consumption. We have plenty to read.

Adding to the noise, there are more and more self-publishing efforts, which is now easier than ever. Check a few boxes, click “upload,” and in 12 hours you have an eBook in the Kindle store.

Because of the ease of self-publishing, there is a plethora of new authors, each looking to squeeze their way into your reading list. So what do you do?

The Wild West of publishing

A lot of the ease and speed of self-publishing comes from a lack of critical interaction. No one will read it, critique it, and send it back for editing. No one will examine your book for literary excellence and accuracy. There's no one to judge your book cover — and that poses a problem.

What you submit is what they will publish, no questions asked.

As you can imagine, this makes the self-publishing section difficult to filter through. There are some great books being written, but they're often hidden in the mess.

Bad teachers and bad writers hold this section hostage, bringing down the value of the whole publishing neighborhood. This is why I recommend authors publish through an agency that will not just publish anything.

Being aligned with a respected self-publishing agency (sometimes called “hybrid publishers”) moves your book from the “hood” to the “burbs” in the self-publishing world.

Snap judgments are inevitable

Even if I had the desire to read every book submitted to me, I couldn't. There's just not enough time.

I have to make decisions about each self-published book without actually reading it. Many of your prospective readers are making the same judgments.

So what do you, the author, do to ensure people pay attention to your work? When examining a book, I look at the following:

  • the book summary
  • the education and experience of the author
  • the self-publishing agency used
  • who endorsed the book
  • who wrote the foreword
  • what other titles the author has written

However, with more than three-quarters of the submissions I receive, I don't look for any of these. I don't have to.

If the book cover is bad, my research is done. The eBook will not be promoted on our website.

First impressions really matter

Why such emphasis on a book cover?

We know how important a first introduction is. It’s why we dress up before a first date, give a firm handshake at a job interview, and make a meal look good before we serve it. First impressions matter.

We all make instant judgments that either give us hope or lower expectations. With your book, the cover is the all-important first introduction. It’s a visual representation of your writing. And a bad one gives people the impression that you don't care about quality.

Makes for a great indicator

Your book cover also functions as an indicator or quality. It shows us how much care has gone into the whole project.

An exceptional cover gives us hope that the book may be exceptional. And a poorly designed or low quality cover conveys a lack of care.

If you rushed your cover, maybe you rushed your writing, too. If you wouldn't hire a graphic designer, you probably wouldn't hire an editor, either.

Right or wrong, that's the line of logic being used to judge your book. And you need to be aware of this.

Book cover recommendations

Before you proceed with publishing, take some time to make your first impression count.

Consider getting your book cover professionally designed. You can use a service like 99 Designs or Crowdspring, which both give you options from different designers.

Remember: the cover you choose is a reflection of your whole book, so choose wisely. You've spent a lot of time writing it; don't give someone the opportunity to dismiss it in the first three seconds. You deserve better, and so do your readers.

Be honest: Do you judge books by their covers? Share in the comments.