I think we all know the phrase ‘never judge a book by its cover’, used in reference not only to books but to people, telling you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts – and this is very true. You shouldn’t judge by what’s on the outside, as a brilliant book may well have a really terrible cover. However, that doesn’t mean that I stop buying books that have beautiful covers – even when I don’t really know what it’s about.
In reference to books, when someone chastises me for buying one due to its pretty cover, quite often they’ll use that phrase, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. “It could be awful”, a very true statement. “The cover shouldn’t factor – it doesn’t matter in comparison”, and that is where I disagree completely. See, some people forget that it’s someone’s job to design that cover to fit the book and to appeal to their targeted audience. Someone has put in blood, sweat, and tears to make that cover something great so that you, the reader, pick it up. A cover is meant to attract people to it. It’s not the blurb that catches your eye from across the room, it’s the gorgeous cover. It’s supposed to reel you in to get you to read the blurb and flick through the first pages. A book cover is meant to not only capture the book, but enrapture you, so that as you make your way towards it you entertain fantasies of what that beautiful book will look like on your shelf.
Not to mention that most book covers are more than simple pretty pictures or designs. There are often little hidden gems within them – take V.E Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. When you look at all three books together, there are little details that are meant to open up your imagination about the books. For the US covers, it’s the use of maps, for the UK covers it’s the changing coloured circles on each cover that change as the series progresses, showing a clever continuation that relates to what happens in the books.
There have been many occasions where I’ve picked up a book purely for the cover, and I have even bought a book that I already owned just because it had a different cover that was just stunning. There has even been an instance where I bought a book barely glancing at the blurb, as the cover was just so appealing for me. Called The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky, I saw it at work with it’s tribal wolf in this shiny gold emboss which pictures really can’t capture. It probably helps that I adore dogs and, so by default, also love wolves, so any cover with a wolf on I’m eager to buy, but this particular book was just too angelic to walk past.
And that’s what we want! That means that the book designer has done their job in following the outlines of the publisher. It is the publisher who will give the designer ideas, such as colour ways or images etc that they think sums up the book, and then the designer has something to play around with. The marketing is a complete success if you actually like the cover and it draws you in. Because at the end of the day, this is one of the big factors of why people buy physical copies of books. It’s the feel of them in their hands, the smell, and the pleasing cover – it’s the whole experience, beautifully packaged, which makes physical books so marvellous.
And that, my friends, is why when it comes to books, it is absolutely ok, in my opinion, to buy a book for its cover.