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Selling a book by its cover

What causes people to buy certain books, is it the author, the title or the book cover? Publishing houses aim to sell books and in doing that they are conscious of what is on the book cover. From the font of the title and authors name and any pictures that represent what the book is about, the publishers arrange all of this so that the cover will catch the eye of a potential buyer. So, do people focus more on how the cover looks or are they more interested in the actual story of the book?

  • On Goodreads, I occasionally come across readers who buy a book because of how gorgeous the cover is - and they later find out it's just a bad story in a pretty wrapping. (I myself have been guilty of this, which now makes me wary of buying a book based solely on its cover.) But I do think the author's name is a big factor; if you've read a good series/standalone by a certain author, you're more likely to purchase their newest publication, perhaps without even looking at the new story's synopsis because it's expected the newest venture will be just as well-written or funny or action-packed as the last one. Even if it's a flop or not as great, copies will still sell solely based on the success attached to the author's name. For example, I know people who bought J.K Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" simply because of her name on the cover, even though they were warned it was nothing like Harry Potter and they inevitably hated or gave up reading it. – Karen 5 years ago
  • Good topic. So good that a really interesting book of scholarly essays has already been compiled on the subject. It's worth checking out if you're interested in paratextuality of this kind: Judging a Book by its Cover: Fans, Publishers, Designers, and the Marketing of Fiction (2007), ed. Nicole Matthews & Nickianne Moody. – ProtoCanon 5 years ago
  • Obviously people are going to judge a book by its cover. We shouldn't, but it happens all the time. Covers are designed to grab our attention with the most marketable facets of the book. The only real way to combat a bad cover is good buzz circulating around the book community. – AGMacdonald 5 years ago
  • Nice topic. We all can't help but judge a book by its cover occasionally. A good cover and title grabs our attention it makes us pick it up and read the description. I've noticed that I am more likely to buy or check out a book with a cover I like, but only if the story sounds interesting to me. I still pick up books even if I'm not a fan of the cover. – TooBusyReading 5 years ago
  • This is a really interesting concept. In my study of black female street lit (sub genre of crime fiction), I noticed some interesting tensions between the cover of the novels - which were often hyper-sexualised , bold colour and graphic images - and the content of the books, which were much more nuanced and complex. This relationship, and the context of these books readerships - which are generally young black females, was really interesting to consider. Looking at specific examples of authors, genre and readerships would be really interesting to develop this concept! Thanks for bringing this up – izsy 5 years ago
  • It's quite true, we certainly do judge books by their covers, and sometimes they can be so misleading. You might be interested in am essay called 'The Clothing Of Books' by Jhumpa Lahiri. She speaks about her experiences with books covers, both good and bad. – Ferix 5 years ago
  • When I buy print copies, content and cover are equally determining factors. If the cover doesn't fit my tastes, I usually go for the cheaper e-book version. I have never bought a book solely because it looked nice, though. Definitely an interesting topic. – captom 5 years ago
  • Magazines also try to entice potential readership with tantalising misleading covers. Book covers, with many now reverting to simple monochrome with just the title and author’s name, played an important part in attracting me to science fiction adventure fantasy stories. – Dr. Vishnu Unnithan 3 years ago