• Caroline Johnston

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover?

'Don't judge a book by its cover': In a 2009 survey on Book Buying Behaviour in the USA*, book covers were noted as being the 5th most important factor in buying a new book, after: author reputation; personal recommendation; price; and book reviews. Personally I was quite surprised to learn it was that far down the list, but that's probably because I do judge books by their cover, and for me it is one of the first things that attracts me to a book.

For years I missed out on a great series of books because of a boring, old fashioned looking cover. As a child I had been given my aunt's old copy of Anne Of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, but the book had a dull cover so it was sent straight to my bookcase and was left there to gather dust. Little did I realise that underneath that non-enticing cover lay a wonderful world of 'kindred spirits' and 'imagination'.

Years later I was flicking through TV channels when I came across the TV adaptation of Anne Of Green Gables, staring Megan Follows. I loved it! I went to my bookshelf to find that old, dusty book. I had judged the book by its cover, and came to the wrong conclusion. What lay within those pages was brilliant. I could identify with Anne: the dramas of teenage years that seem unsurmountable; friendships; the 'idyllic' lifestyle of growing up in the countryside. I was hooked, once I'd read the first book I went out and bought the whole series - this time they all had beautiful covers, depicting scenes from the TV series. Judging by these covers the books looked good, and I wasn't disappointed.

Fast forward another few years, I had the opportunity to travel to Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, Canada, home of our heroine Anne Shirley. It was a dream come true. The visit to Prince Edward Island resulted in the purchase of a new set of books (a friend had lost my initial set), the covers weren't as modern, but they meant more because I bought them on Prince Edward Island. How much I would have missed if I'd never discovered the wonders within that boring, old fashioned cover.

Although cover design is not top of the list for book buying behaviour, potential buyers are still judging books by their covers, and as authors we need to do all we can to ensure that when our book covers are judged they beckon the reader to come in and read for a while.

* Source: Verso Digital (US): 2009 Survey of Book-Buying Behavior (January 2010)

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