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To Judge a Book by its Cover, or not, That is the Question

To Judge a Book by its Cover, or not, That is the Question.

So, I began my journey as a literary storyteller a number of years ago, but I’m a lifetime book reader and as a reader, I admit that on occasion, I do judge a book by its cover.

For example, lately I’ve read a number of fantasy books that deal with dragons (fancy that) and recently saw one advertised as, “Dragon Storm.” So, I clicked on the link only to find that the book cover was of a half-naked guy with a voluptuous young woman draped over him.

I tried a little experiment. I didn’t read the book blurb and just used the cover to see if I could determine the premise of the book. After a bit of thought, I came to the conclusion that the novel had to be a romance novel.

Wrong answer.

This particular book is a crime mystery thriller about a woman who’s trying to solve a murder and needs a “fake” husband to help her. She hires this fellow to portray her husband only it turns out he’s a dragon shape-shifter and wants her as his mate.

Tried my experiment on another novel that had “dragon” in its title. This time the cover had the face of a young woman whose long hair flowed down and out and formed the face of a fire-breathing dragon.

From the cover I deduced that this novel was about a young woman who had the gift of shape-shifting into a dragon form. Read the blurb and I was right on.

This is a lesson that Pam and I learned a number of years ago with my first novel which was young adult sci-fi story. As a favor, we hired a young woman, an artist friend of one of my sons to do the cover art for my book.

She did pretty well, but I made a strategic mistake. One of the antagonists in that particular novel was what I called a Torther Ape. Hairy creature with big mouse ears and fangs—long, sharp, gruesome fangs. For some reason, I wanted my Torther Ape on the cover.

Wrong move.

We printed the book with my Torther Ape on the cover and went about promoting the book as a YA sci-fi novel. Along the way, Pam found a writer’s group that would review the book and post their review to an author’s website as well as provide the author feedback on her/his writing.

Most of the reviews of my writing were very favorable but not so much on the cover. Some of the comments were:

“From the cover I thought I was about to read a horror novel.”

“The book cover gave me the creeps. Had to put the book face down before I could read.”

Anyway, we printed a thousand copies of the book so there really wasn’t a way to redo the cover and we had to live with my folly. The book was a rousing flop. I think we sold less than twenty copies total.

Now I use a wonderful illustrator and my book covers are not only great, they are representative of the genre and story, so yes, with my book covers you can judge the book.

However, I would add that while we can, and do, judge books by their covers, I would suggest we never do the same with people. After all, they are not books and few of us will ever know their whole story.