Do You Judge a Book by its Cover?

A book cover. As a reader, it is the first thing that either pulls me in, or pushes me toward a different selection. I have scrolled through the Kindle store looking for something new to read and passed by on several just because the cover did not appeal to me. That is probably not fair at all to the author, but I’m just being honest. (Since I’ve started selling my own work on Amazon, I have tried to give some books a chance, especially if I’ve interacted with the author in any way.) As a writer, I realize how vital it is to have an eye catching image on the front of my book. It is the main selling point.

You can learn so much about a book just by taking once glance at its cover. In this world where we are almost programmed to make decisions in a nanosecond, the cover has to be so intriguing that no one can pass it up without taking a peek inside. Since I didn’t inherit any artistic capabilities other than writing, if I tried to create my own covers, they would probably resemble a game of hangman. I can barely draw a straight line. You should see me play Draw Something on the iPad. 90% of the time, I just write out the word and forget about trying to draw it.

When I started to self-publish my books, I knew that I would need someone experienced in design and layout. I looked no further than Mom. She has been designing online graphics for years and is the most artistic person I know. I have three books for sale currently on Amazon, and I have not been disappointed with the covers. I wanted to take this week to give my mom, Betty Jo Martin, a huge shout out for all the work she has done on my books. (I have a link to her blog over on the right, but here it is in case you missed it: Living Real)


Click to enlarge.

Other Side of Night was the first novella I published on Amazon. This story has appeared in two different newspapers, one of them being the West Australian. This cover absolutely captures the essence of the plot.

Other Side of Night



Click to enlarge.

The Stranger. This is, by far, the best thing I’ve written yet. (That is, of course, my own opinion.) The cover screams creepy, which I love. This is also my favorite cover art. Who wouldn’t get a little nervous being out in those woods?

The Stranger



Click to enlarge.

I was somewhat hesitant when Mom first showed me the figure with a ? for his head. By itself, I have to say, it was quite comical. Once she had finished the entire cover, I was hooked. It’s one of the most unique book covers I have ever seen, and I absolutely love it.



Next week: Love, Pain, and Song Lyrics

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Have a blessed day,


Categories: Fiction, General

Tags: , , , , , , ,

83 replies

  1. I constantly spent my half an hour to read this web site’s content daily along with a cup of coffee.

  2. The cover is definitely how I initially judge the book (shame on me), then I read the very first page. If those two things jive, the book will be on my nightstand that night.

    Thanks for the visit to my site, Chris. I appreciate it!

  3. Covers are eye catching but I judge the book by the first page and the last page. I can tell whether it will be a good read for me. Will check out your books.

  4. You are so right! We have two seconds, at most, to capture the attention of a reader flicking through the offerings on Amazon/Kobo/Nook etc: cover image and book title, no more. My second novel will be released in February, and I am agonising over two covers — both eye catching (so I’ve been told!), yet very different! Whichever I go with, I will always wonder if I’ve made the wrong choice …

  5. While the old saying goes, “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” I’m with you on this…I do…it’s that first impression that inspires me to look deeper into it or not… also…wow, your mom does a fantastic job! Thanks for checking out my blog too. My nephew is a fine artist…he captured my love of tea and literature for me on my cover of Tea With Betty….

  6. i judge a book by its cover and often a can of peas :)
    yep, i am a visual purchaser and not ashamed to admit it (except of course when those peas cost 50 cents more, then i’m just an idiot).
    art is very important. it brings beauty to our lives and depth. i love your creepy cover, and, the last one definitely intrigues me. i want to know what’s going on inside that book, although, i have to admit, the creepy one gets me more. and that black figure behind the boy. very distressing.

  7. Reblogged this on Joshua Lisec and commented:
    *Guilty as charged*

  8. You are right, I also judge a book by it’s cover.
    Or I must known the wirter from other books I have read from them and loved those. Than I don’t care about the cover, but otherwise, online, in a shop or in the library I first look at a cover. Next it is tittle and writer and after that I read the synopis before I take the book with me.

  9. A cover is one of the most difficult things of self-publishing a book. It has to be professional, unique, and totally cool – which is kind of hard on a budget. One of my favorite book covers, by far, has to be this one. It’s so haunting, but it pulls you in, too.

  10. I am in the process of writing/publishing a book, so the cover is something I have just been working on (great post timing). It’s hard to know what will attract someone else, so it’s not an easy task and I can’t draw a straight line either. Thanks for visiting/following my blog too.

  11. They are beautiful covers indeed. The Lord has gifted you both.

  12. I don’t recall the exact stats, but I think people in bookstores decide (based on a book cover) in less than 15 seconds whether to take a novel off the shelf and read the blurb or thumb through it. A lot of people commented negatively about the cover on Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy,” saying that it was rather drab and plain. I loved the book, but if this had been a book from an aujthor I’d never heard of, I probably wouldn’t have read it.


  13. I always judge a book by its cover and “The Stranger” has captured my interest already.

  14. This is so correct. There is so much choice out there that, to even start figuring out which book you might like, you do start (and possibly end) with shallow factors! For me, it’s a combination of cover, book title and blurb. The cover/title have to be good to even bother looking at the blurb though! Amazons “recommendations” based on your previous purchases are great and I’ve found that they’ve led me to a lot of grea books and authors that I might not have found otherwise.

  15. I am always attracted to books by their cover and not just their imagery but also how they feel. I love the texture of some book covers, and often run my hands over a book before opening it-that may be weird but it’s the truth!

  16. Hello Chris, nice to ‘meet’ you. You certainly cover a lot of great topics and interests. One of my profs hated the picture her publisher picked for her latest text book that she held a ‘ceremony’ in our class where she tore the cover off and ritually destroyed it. I want to also speak up for the first sentence of a story. What’s your opinion on its importance?

    • Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I think the first sentence in a story is very important. In this day and age, people are constantly moving on to new things. As a writer, if I don’t get their attention in the first couple of sentences, then they will move on to something else. I don’t think it’s a deal breaker for every reader, but the better I write the first sentence, the better the chances are that someone will continue to read.


  17. Don’t sell yourself short on creativity! Everyone has it. We tend to “forget” how to find it as we age. Meanwhile, “yay!” for how your mom as helped. Awesome covers :-)

  18. Love the bold covers and the scary one. Nice tribute to your mom’s talent.

  19. Hi Chris, I know exactly what you mean and all credit to you for recognising your mums talents which serve your books so well. Personally, having been suckered by a few killer covers concealing very bad books, I’ve taken to reading the first and last pages whenever in a bookstore. Great stuff, good luck with everything.

  20. This is so true for me at this point in my life. Thanks for a good reminder. And for showing my blog some love! :)

  21. I agree totally with you Chris. Loved your covers, they do make a difference. The only time that I would be able to get past a “bad cover” is if I had familiarised myself with the author’s work or I’d had a chance to speak to them in person. I think I could tolerate a “mediocre looking” cover but I certainly would be put off if I didn’t know the author and the cover looked like fried vomit dipped in grease.

    Great post, enjoyed it.

  22. Thanks for visiting and liking my blog Chris. Yes, I judge a book by its cover when I’m looking on the bookstore or library shelf, it’s impossible not to. The cover is what makes you pick it up and look at the blurb and decide whether to go further or not. Your mum is doing a great job on your books by the way!

  23. Everyone judges a book by its cover. That’s why publishers pay cover artists more than they pay authors — I kid you not. (Unless you are Stephen King or Nora Roberts, that is.)

    One of the most frustrating things about traditional publishing is the complete lack of control you have, as an author, over what gets slapped onto the front of your book. When the cover gods smile, the results can be breathtaking — it never ceases to thrill & amaze me that a total stranger can paint a picture of my characters and, voila, there they are! But when the cover gods are cruel, you weep bitter, bitter tears … LOL …

    Not sure if I can paste links into this comment, but if this works, here are my examples of the GOOD …

    the BAD ..

    and the UGLY!

    That being said, now that I’m self-publishing I really miss having an art department!


  24. I DO judge a book by its cover and have felt very shallow for ;) – the three you showed above, however, would all give me pause to pick it up and peruse. What a good match, you and your mother.

  25. I’m a fan of Doctor Who, and in the nineties, when the show was off air, it survived asa series of spin-off novels. Now, these novels were great, taking the ‘mythos’ into new directions and aiming at a somewhat older audience than the TV series. But the covers were awful. It’s not that they often used comic-book style art, it’s that the art wasn’t very good or evocative or… Sorry to any fans who love the covers, but I think they let the side down quite often!

  26. The cover does impact whether I check out the summary. If I’m turned off by the cover, I won’t bother to read the story blurb. Your mom did a nice job in the designs. Did she read the stories before designing the cover art?

  27. Hi Chris,

    To give you some of my thoughts:

    I myself am an avid reader and most of the time I go for readers I know and love, and sometimes I stray just outside the line just looking for something new. 9/10 a cover will not actually make the choice for me, but rather the blurb on the back will. Half of the time there are quotes from other authors hyping up the book and wanting to sell the book, and sometimes I find that these quotes can misleading if it turns out to be a rubbish book.

    Sometimes I look at the cover and just pick up the book without looking at the quotes, so sometimes the cover may not affect.

    Furthermore, I think it’s pretty awesome that your mom has done the covers for you. They look pretty good and I might be tempted to check you out.

  28. Hahaha I love the second cover but I thought it was serene not creepy.. I have yet to choose a book on my own.. Suddenly I feel odd about that.. Every book I have ever read has been based on friends or family opinions..

  29. I’m totally guilty of this, what I hate the most are book covers with pictures of the story’s movie versio, ugh!

  30. You’re not ‘pose to write out the word on Draw Something, silly!! :D You’re right about the book cover… I am such a visual person. When I see a pic I’d like to feel something. I hate to admit this, but I judge blogs for the most part by their covers. If a blog is not inviting no matter the content, chances are I turn around and leave… sad huh? I’m missing a lot of good stuff by being so judgmental (I’ll work on that, but you brought it up remember?!). Great post btw, Chris!

  31. not so quick answer to a not so simple querstion,
    i would say, with considerable shame and contrition and the consummate flaggeletory self excuriation, that I do in fact judge a book primarily on the cover. But with a sort of expiatorial confession i would also remediate my position by the secondary response that at least some of that effort is directed towards the back cover and the inner front and back pieces as well.

  32. I’m a blurb girl. The back cover is much more important than the front. Of your 3 books if I was going to go with aesthetics alone I would choose Unknown. After reading the description it’s The Stranger. When browsing bookshops it’s titles that grab my attention

  33. Guilty, I often judge a book by its cover. Wines as well for that matter!

  34. Interesting…I did not know that you self-published. I’ll have to check those out.

  35. I never really thought about it until now…cover or what’s written on the back?
    *thinking*..okay, it has to be what’s written on the back! *laughing*..The cover makes me stop and read what’s on the back!..but if it’s not what I’m interested in reading…then the cover was nothing more than foreplay! Lol x

  36. I’ll be honest and say that I do often judge a book by its cover. Oddly enough, even the font used for the title can make or break a book for me…Happily enough, I’m more keen now to open the inside or turn the book over and read the synopsis so that I dont seem to judgmental… :)

  37. I’m drawn to the cover of “The Stranger”. It is dark and creepy and simple; I love the black and white.
    I think in general we’re trained to be very visual creatures, which is not to say the cover of a book is everything, but I find myself doing the same thing. I think it has a lot to do with marketing and the commercials we’re constantly bombarded with, telling us that beauty is everything and what’s gorgeous on the outside will be the same on the inside, and of course, it’s all wrong.

  38. You have a talented Mom, how cool is that??

  39. Those are all lovely covers! While covers can draw me in quickly, the title usually does it for me. Depending on what I’m in the mood for, a title can make me pick up a book, read the back and then I decide whether I want to read it or not. I may even flip through some pages to get a feeling for the author’s style. And then I buy. Or I don’t. From the three books you listed, “The Stranger” is the one that draws me in most by title. :) I love horror/thrillers and that sort of title – no matter the cover – will make me stop and consider for sure.

  40. I grew up in a diverse area of central London and judging a book by it’s cover in the social sense would have made me a very different person and I pride myself on not doing so …so hate that I do with books. It’s strange that I admit to being attracted by certain covers although I’m not especially repelled by them. I still read in paper from the library and I think publishing houses use the combined sciences of pyschology and marketing, usually to great effect. It must be really tough to go it alone and your Mom’s artwork is exceptional (I can’t speak as to it’s relevance to your story), and not least because each cover is so different from the others. Branding is everything for authors publishing a series I know, and I think publishers try to draw a very literal picture of the story content for sadsacks like me who have maybe five minutes in the library before my 20 month old starts chewing on the carpet! I read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo before all the hype purely because I had no clue from the cover what was inside….but usually I’ll grab what I think I know and have been bitterly disappointed by my choices. Which sucks because I have a compulsion that says I have to fiish everything I start so with limited choices here in rural VA, I’ve wasted way too much precious time reading rubbish! Drat those pretty pictures …….

  41. I guess I’ll add my two cents. I don’t usually look at the cover at all, I read the back of the book (or flyleaf, where ever the summary is placed) and then the first chapter. I can spend hours in a book store picking up books in whatever genre I’m “in the mood for” and flipping them over to read the back. Sometimes I concentrate on a lower shelf because I feel like they get overlooked and the author’s only misfortune is where his or her last name falls in the alphabet, sometimes I go through all the books with authors in that genre that start with a random letter, but very rarely do I bother to look at covers. I guess for me the issue is that I read for the writing and the story, and sometimes the cover designer and the writer don’t match up very well, so the only way I can figure out if I’m going to like the book or not is to read a plot synopsis and then the first chapter to get a taste of how it’s written. That’s not to say when I’m looking at buying a book I may prefer one cover design to another (for instance, books that are made into movies I tend to dislike book covers that feature scenes from the movie in favor of original cover art) but otherwise I just don’t pay attention very much to it. Based on the responses here I guess that makes me somewhat of an anomoly, but I figured I’d share :) Your book covers are very creative, however, so kudos to your mom for her obvious talent! It is nice when the book cover and the story match up, I just have to admit that thats an afterthought or a “bonus” to me, it doesn’t figure in to the “choosing what to read” category. I enjoy your blog, I hope to read some of your books when I get the chance!

  42. You’re mom is great!

  43. wow amazing, i love the cover of other side of night. lucky you have artistic mom.

  44. Being a very visual person, I admit, I do check out the cover first, then read the summary. A lot of book covers give non-verbal clues to the story, so I’d say they really are important, even if they don’t always trend with the story. :D

  45. You know, now that you mention book covers, I realize that I never really look at the cover now that I have a Kindle. In a bookstore, yes, but no electronic books. I always go right to the blurb about the story and then look at the ratings. Hummm. . . . now that is bizarre. Need to think more on that one.

    Your mother is one clever woman.

    • Karron, that is exacting what I do. I also add in price. I will take a flyer on a low price book that looks kind of interesting while a higher price must be interesting. Found some wonderful new authors through cheap kindle books.

  46. I’d put in an additional thought (hope someone else hasn’t covered this). With thumbnails and avatars, covers have even less space with which to communicate. Especially for those of us who do not sell in physical stores, whether or not the cover works on a 1/10th scale is crucial. I love all three of your covers, but #3 is the best miniature.

  47. the whole write up is really a sweet piece and the reason is you have mentioned your Mom secondly i want to point out the “first paragraph” of the post as my favourite one… why? Because it includes some real facts which happens to me as well.. thanks Chris Martin for sharing it. BRAVO!!

  48. the whole write up is really a sweet piece and the reason is you have mentioned your Mom :) secondly i want to mention point out the the first paragraph as my favourite one… why? because it includes some real facts which happens to me as well.. thanks Chris Martin for sharing it. BRAVO!!

  49. Your mom did the amazing arts! I would love to read those book. You are right, the cover are the key to everything. Keep up with amazing job.

  50. Chris, the covers are indeed awesome…Other Side Of Night’s got me to get a copy of the book…now look forward to reading it :)

  51. I’m a cover person, then a title person. But it always boils down to the story. If I can’t get into it by the end of the first chapter, I’m out.

  52. . . . and you my Dear, are a pleasure to design for. Thank you so much for this shout out. Love you!!

  53. I rather like this thought you have written out loud. Why I say thought is that in the past I have thought the same thing, but never put it into words. I read what you wrote and looked at the book covers Three times, each time my thoughts were this; * You Mom is talented * If it was a book in a bookstore I would pick them up and read the back as well, then decide. * If it was a book on Amazon, where I can only see the cover then sadly I would never pick up the first book at all. The Other Side Of Night to me, makes me think it is a childs book. Sorry if I offend you here, that is my impression though. The last two are book covers that Steven King would be proud to have I am sure, they are very professional and look like adult writings as well. Although I am new to following your blog, I am very happy with everything you have written, make me want to get off my rump and finish my long unfinished works as well. Keep up the good fight, cheers ~WildE

  54. You are one lucky person to have such a talented mom! I agree the cover is important for many, so is the title. But personally I’d first glance at the title and read the back cover for the story to see if it appeals to me. If it does, then I flip the pages to see if my first impression is still true. I am not a cover person. I had no one to help me with the cover and could not afford a professional one, thus my first novel – e-book on Lulu- has a simple and boring cover. Maybe this is why very few were interested :) Writing is something, it’s an art, but when it comes to publishing, then it has to play the game with the rules of marketing. This I know, yet very reluctant about the latter.

  55. This is so helpful! I am almost there… After the editing part. I am stuck at the ending! Your covers are great! The picture and the first few sentences describing the world the reader is about to enter… is the only chance you get to pull them in. Like a new restaurant… the menu, the ambiance and just the outside of the front door… are all the deciding factors of whether they are going to stop or drive by!
    The cover is the most important but the last chapter is too and I am sooo stuck!
    Your blog has inspired me to get outta here and finish!

  56. I love that image on The Stranger! How great to have a mum that is artistic. My mum is still trying to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t become a lawyer.

  57. Yep I’m a title person, then cover, then I’ll read the fly leaf or blurb on the back. Might even have a look at the authors bio too. Finally, a look inside. But with all the online stuff it does get harder, hence the image on my blog page about Reading the Written Word. I still like a hard copy! But with Fybro-myalgia it is getting harder n harder to hold them!

  58. I’m more of a title girl myself, but if the cover art is mysterious, that leads me to read either the back cover or the liner, and I make my decision to purchase then.

  59. Wow. The Other side of Night cover really got to me…Talk about leaving an impression.

  60. The cover is important, but I always read the blurb which is, for me at least, the decisive element. But I have to say that I love the cover of Unknown. Great work!

  61. Twenty five percent will go for the cover, twenty five for the title but fifty will go to the leafing through the pages to see if the reading grasps my attention

  62. Okay, so I’m an oddball. I do admit that the cover colors draw my eye, but I’m usually swayed to investigate by a book’s title.

  63. I judge a book by the title..then see ,if it matches the cover, turn around and read a bit..then sneak i..skim the language..hmmm if middle part can hold my must be good.

  64. How awesome that your Mom designs the covers to your books, and yes. I am a complete cover judge… I’m sure many good books have been passed over because they didn’t “Speak” to me. :)


  65. I just recently read The Stranger, and that creepy cover works perfectly for that book. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and I really didn’t see that ending coming. And that’s unusual for me…I can usually figure out “whodunit”. :)

  66. Yes, indeed, I judge away!

  67. Cover and binding. I’ve gotten books solely for the cover or binding, not even knowing what was inside. Your Mom has done an excellent job with your books. Your one lucky guy to have her on your team. They all look like spooky books.

  68. I agree, the cover has to appeal to me before I’ll go any further. Please tell your mom, her covers are terrific!

  69. I agree, the cover has to pass for me to investigate further. Please tell your mom, her covers are terrific!

  70. I agree with you the cover and the tittle of the book that attracts me.


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