Do You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

How much does the cover of a book influence your decision, if not to buy, then at least to pick it up and take a look? Although we’d like to think otherwise, covers strongly influence our choice of reading.  Sure, if you’re looking for something specific because you’ve heard it’s great, you probably won’t let your opinion of its cover dissuade you.  But how about when you’re browsing the mystery and thriller section of your local bookstore, looking for that next new read?

Like a grand entrance at a speed dating event, the cover of a book makes that all-important first impression. The colors, the graphics, the layout all provide a strong visceral feeling that either draws the reader like the call of a siren or else repulses like a bad toupee dangling askew on a sweaty forehead.  Moreover, a cover often sets up a certain expectation in the reader’s mind. Will the story be funny, dramatic, scary, or intense?

Take a look at the covers below and think about which you would be most likely to pick up:

DoT_all three

(And yes, these are all actual covers for the same book – my first novel DEATH ON TOUR.)

The image on the left is the original cover, used on both the hardback and mass market paperback English editions. The image in the middle is the cover used for the German translation.  The image on the right is the cover used for the English large print edition.  (The title in German translates roughly to “Murder Inclusive” and is a play on the term “all-inclusive” used for travel packages.)

My point is that these three covers give three completely different impressions of my novel. So different, in fact, that they easily could belong to three entirely different books. Personally, I find one of them far more appealing than the others, which are attractive, but not compelling. (I’m not telling which is my favorite.) As an aside, authors typically have little or no say about the covers of their books. I was lucky enough to be shown the initial sketches and final art of the English translation, but I saw the covers of the other two only after they hit the shelves.

I’d love to know which you think is the most compelling.  And if you’ve read my book, I’m dying to know which one provides the most “truth in advertising.”

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7 Responses to Do You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

  1. Donna D says:

    You know, I never used to think I paid much attention to covers. But, as you’ve said, the cover does at least draw me in to pick the book up to read the synopsis, or blurb. I still don’t think I make my decision to buy, or read – or not – on the cover.

    I have not read any of your books yet (just been introduced to you through BookHounds), so I can’t comment about whether the covers on any of them provide “truth in advertising.” But I will say, of the 3 covers pictured, I think I like the right one — the pyamid, sun, and death .

    P/S — I also liked your cartoons. :)

    • Janice Hamrick says:

      Hi Donna,
      Glad you like the cartoons. Not exactly an art major, but I have fun with them!
      I like all my covers, but just can’t get over how different they are.

  2. Kay T says:

    I have to say that I am not usually swayed much by the cover art, and in fact I don’t care much for the cover art on your books! Aack! The pictures are too cartoony, and I would probably never have picked up the books based on their covers. I found your books through a friend in Austin (I am in California), and I really enjoyed them. I sort of liked the first cover because it immediately told me the tour was in Egypt. The second one was misleading because I kept waiting for blonde twins to show up. The third was too cute and did not really capture anything about the family reunion (or the rodeo, may the race) in the book. Keep up the good work.

    • Janice Hamrick says:

      Hi Kay,
      Glad you gave the books a chance anyway. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they initially thought the books were for young adults.

  3. Bonnie Dickson says:

    I like the cover on the left as it is the one most indicative of the content. I read the book (and loved it) and this cover represents the story well. It indicates the humor in the book as well as the fact that it involves a tour of Egypt that includes more than the tourists bargained for, a murder.

    • Janice Hamrick says:

      Hi Bonnie,
      I’m really glad you liked the story – thanks so much for letting me know. I’ve always loved the grim reaper and the way a couple of the tourists have noticed him. :)

  4. Hi , first I want to say that I absolutely loved your Death on tour book. I am a former flight attendant for United airlines and have traveled quite bit. Although I have never been to Egypt , I would love to go though. The cover is what caught my eye in the book store. It looked so interesting with the pyramids in the background!
    I would love if you would write about different locals, a mystery in different countries is so neat! I recently went to Shanghai, and Beijing, so neat and busy! I can just see the two girls in your book getting caught in a mystery in those cities, so much fun!!
    I will keep buying your books, you are now my favourite author!!!