Publishing Expert Tips

People DO Judge Books By Their Covers…

Mom told us not to, but we do it, because…science!
Check out the FREE Archway Publishing webinar “Four Tips to a Killer Book Cover Design,” to help draw readers to your book.

By Kevin A. Gray

Mom always insisted “don’t judge a book by its cover.” In doing so, we might miss on meeting some great people, embarking on new adventures, or even worse, reading some great books. Now we’re not one to question mom (that never ends well), but the fact is people DO judge books by their covers.

The good news is, if you’re in the process of self-publishing a book, Archway Publishing has some free help for you when it comes to designing your book cover. More on that later.

Simon and Schuster is letting fans submit cover ideas for its upcoming "T-Swift" fan book. We knew including the photo from the contest page would help this post get more views, because people are visual creatures.

Simon & Schuster is letting fans submit cover ideas for its upcoming Taylor Swift fan book.
We think it’s a cool idea, and we knew including the contest’s promotion picture would drive more views to this post. Why? Because we’re all visual people and we all think “T-Swif”t is awesome.

First, let’s talk science. The smart people at Psychology Today, have written extensively about the psychology of “judging a book by it cover” — in both the metaphorical and literal sense. One easy read for us laymen is this great column, “Judging a Book By Its Cover: How wrappers affect our expectations about lies inside them,” by Dr. Alex Lickerman.

In it, Dr. Lickerman writes that we’re predominantly visual creatures, because the visual area — at the back of our brains — comprises 30 percent of our brain’s cortex. That sounds pretty important, even to those of us who aren’t brain scientists. In short, despite mom’s admonitions, we WILL judge people, products, and (most importantly for our purposes) books by their appearance. Because that’s how are brains are wired.

So, what does this mean for authors?

Generally speaking, traditionally published authors  will have some input on their covers; but ultimately, the publisher who owns the right to the author’s work has the final say. For these authors, that means letting go and allowing others to create the tangible visual manifestation of the authors’ personal vision. For creative folks, like authors, that’s got to be tough.

Self-published authors, including those who work with publishing services providers, like Archway Publishing, can have as little or as much input in their covers as they so choose. That’s a lot of pressure, especially if an author isn’t a “design person.” But it can ultimately be a fulfilling and exhilarating creative process (and successful, if you listen to input of the cover experts

Jason Heuer, associate art director at Simon & Schuster, laid out 4 Keys to a Killer Book Cover Design in a free  webinar hosted by Archway. We think it’s the best 33 minutes you’ll spend this week, especially if you’re writing a book, considering writing a book, like books or just want to learn more about “killer design” (we assume that’s an industry term).

Visit, enter your email address, and download the webinar. Once you’ve listened to it, come back here and let us know in the comments what you learned from Jason. We look forward to having a conversation.

If you’d like to learn more about Archway Publishing supported self-publishing services, grab a copy of the free Archway Publishing publishing guide.

– AWP –