I am guilty of judging a book by its cover, in the literal sense of the phrase. As I walk by the shelves in the bookstore where I work, I see hundreds of book covers a day. All the new releases are faced out on shelves or stacked upon tables, showing off their book jackets. Most of the time I just walk by, but sometimes a book cover will jump out at me. While I know I shouldn’t judge, a book cover is what initially attracts me to a book. I am a visual person, and most people are. Just think about what you click on on the freshly pressed page, is it the photo or the title that attracts your eyes?
I also noticed that the kind of book covers I am attracted to are similar (and ended up to be great reads as well.)
I started the Dresden Files years ago and fell in love with the series. I love the characters, the humor, the wit, and the plots of each novel in the series. But has the book cover trained me to buy other books that look like it, as if promising that the book by the other author is just is good because the art is similar? “Nightlife” caught my eye while waiting for the next Dresden Files to come out and I became absorbed with this series as well. Then I stumbled upon Green, finding yet another series to be hooked on! But it wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized my mind was trained to be attracted to book covers that had similar art as the Dresden Files. Am the only one?
Now, not only are we attracted to the book cover but also what the book cover it telling us. For example, the book covers above tell us a few things (besides having similar art). First, these books are going to involve supernatural elements (gargoyle, bat, pentagram necklace). Second, the main character is a strong, sexual woman (leather boots, chick on a motor cycle, high heels, short short skirt). Having read all three series, I can say that both of these observations are true. Did I realize this when I bought the books? No! Only after reading so many similar series did I see the connection. Subconsciously, I understood that I liked this book, so the other book with a similar leggy cover must be good too.
One last thing to mention is that cover designers take this information into account. The biggest example I can think of is “Fifty Shades of Grey.” After the book EXPLODED, suddenly similar books came out with (yes, you guessed it) similar covers. “Bared to You” kept the blue/grey tones and took a similar pattern from the “Fifty Shades” tie and placed it on cufflinks. Then, the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice was RE-released with new similar covers with a suggestive bed sheet sprawled across it (and don’t forget the blurb at the bottom of the book). It is like a game of follow the leader!
Is judging a book by its cover wrong? It’s a hard question to answer but I don’t think its wrong all the time. Most people like to read similar titles or stay within the same genre. But if you find yourself in a rut and feel like your reading the same thing over and over again, take a look at the book covers that you own and ask “What do these have in common?” When you find what your eyes are attracted to (leggy women or grunge/darkly sketched men) then you can make a conscious effort to avoid staying in that rut!
The only think I can agree with, with absolute certainty is: