Do You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

File:Old book bindings.jpg
Photo by Tom Murphy VII

You know that old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s an
old saying that makes sense because it’s something we typically do. We
DO judge books by their covers. Their covers and their titles.

I know I do. I may be an author, but I’m also a reader.

When I’m walking through a bookstore that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Cover after cover, title after title. I only pick up ones that grab me
or peak my interest. It doesn’t mean I’ll buy them, but they don’t even
stand a chance if the cover doesn’t work.

Obviously, I’m talking about books by authors I don’t know or haven’t
read before. If I know and love the author, I’ll buy the book whether I
like the cover or title at all. But I’m always on the lookout for a new
book and new authors and, with them, the covers and titles definitely

This issue often creates a challenge between authors and the
marketing folks in traditional publishing houses. When authors finish a
book, we’ve typically spent between 6 months and a year on it. For most
of that time we’ve been calling it something; often referred to as a “working
title.” It’s called that because the author’s title rarely survives the
marketing process (unless you’re a mega bestselling author. In which case,
you get to call all the shots). My books are selling well, but that’s not my situation.

I have 8 published novels on the
shelf now, 2 more due out in Sept and next April. Both have official covers and
titles already fixed. Of those 10 books, guess how many of my working
titles made it onto the actual books? Only 4. Six of my titles are not
mine. Some (won’t say which ones) I didn’t even like. I will tell you
which titles were mine: The Deepest Waters, Remembering Christmas, The Dance and What Follows After (the one due out next April).

As for my covers, I’ve liked all but 4 (won’t say which ones). My
biggest gripe is probably when we settle on a cover that, to me, seems
to have absolutely no tie-in to the book. I’ve actually gone back with a
couple of my books, after the cover was decided on, and added several paragraphs to the story so the
reader won’t be asking, “Now what in the world does that cover have to do with this book?”

The Promise - CoverI’m curious…how much do you judge a book by its cover and/or its
title? Does it matter much to you when considering a book by an author
you don’t know? Have you bought books with covers and/or titles you
didn’t find appealing? Do you have any pet peeves about covers and

While I’m asking questions, I’d like to get some feedback from you on
a couple of title matters. My 2nd book with Gary Smalley comes out in
September, called The Promise. I wanted to call the book The Broken Portrait.
That got nixed because the marketing folks thought it might be too negative.
I don’t think it is and, to me, it works much better for the story. Be honest,
would you consider buying a book called The Broken Portrait?

To my fellow published authors, do any of you struggle at all with this? Have any similar challenges? To everyone, can you think of any books you actually bought just because the cover and/or title were so good?

Okay, let me have it.

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 8 novels,
including The Unfinished Gift,
Remembering Christmas
and The Dance. He’s won 3 Carol Awards and 2 Selah
Awards. Six of his books were named Top Picks by RT Reviews.
Two were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year.
Dan is a member of ACFW and
Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach
area where he and Cindi love to take long walks. To connect
with Dan or check out his books, go to: He also blogs weekly with fellow male fiction authors Jim Rubart and Harry Kraus at: