Should You Judge a Book by its Cover?

We’ve all grown up hearing the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Working in the publishing industry (and more specifically, in marketing), this saying can be a bit troublesome. While it would certainly be wonderful for books to be read completely on the merits of their writing, very few (if any) people have the time to read every single book that they come across before they develop their opinion about it.

While it would be wonderful for people to purchase books based on the recommendations of others (like librarians, friends, and teachers), rather than just by the most eye-catching covers and titles, that is unlikely to ever happen. As humans, we tend to make snap judgements about people, art, music, and even books as soon as we see them.

If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he writes about the important role our initial impressions play in our decision making process. There is always a split second of our first impressions that gives us an irrational “gut feeling” about something. Whether we choose to mind those first impressions or not, they still play a huge role in developing our overall and final opinions of people, movies, and books.

Because of this, we in publishing put a lot of time and effort into developing new covers, titles, and marketing pieces for books. An intriguing or catchy cover can easily mean the difference between someone picking up a book or walking past it. A cover can’t just be catchy, however, it also needs to be representative of the story inside, a process that Chip Kidd talks about more in the Ted Talks episode below. For those of you who don’t know, Chip is the designer who came up with the Jurassic Park logo back in the day.

If you don’t actually have time to watch it right now (I realize it is a 17 minute video), I’ll try to give a quick summary. Chip talks about the thought and effort that goes into designing a book cover that represents those without being overwhelming in the process. One example he gives from his time in college is a lesson from a teacher about how it is okay to either show a picture of an apple or the word apple, but if you try to focus on both the image and the words, you are giving the consumer too much (The cover of Blink offers a demonstration of this ideal in action).

The goal of a designer is to create that first impression you get from the cover and transition that interest into reading and purchasing that book. We happen to have two amazing designers that are incredibly good at doing this and I would like to take this opportunity to recognize them for the work they do (and show off some of their covers). They do a lot to make my job in Marketing much easier!

Merrill Miller:


Reuben Graham:

Next time you are in a library or bookstore and find yourself picking up a new book to look at, take the time and consider the role the cover played in that process (or just buy it if it was one of ours ;-)).

Evan McCarthy (Marketing)

Growing Fifty Shade of Grace

How is the idea for a book born? Let me count the ways.

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Most often in the mind of an author or writer–I often scribble an idea–or lots of them–on a scrap of paper. Sometimes on a blank computer document. Sometimes through lively staff discussions or brainstorms in the lunchroom.

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Fifty Shades of Grace: Stories of Inspiration and Promise was launched in our lunchroom at MennoMedia on Dec. 12, 2012, as an “answer” of sorts to a certain other popular Fifty Shades book.

An email went out soliciting stories. Deadlines were established, with a desired release date of April 15.

Fifty Shades of Grace: Stories of Inspiration and Promise

A designer got busy working on a cover in time for the 2013 Catalog.

Oh, and then in this case, a project manager (me) is assigned to pull the stories and chapters together cohesively.

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Mostly we work with manuscripts electronically, but sometimes, when organizing a book of this nature with more than 50 submissions, you eventually have to print it out and work hands on. At least I do.

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There! It feels more like a book. Funny, since many readers will end up accessing this as an ebook–which is fine!

So the thoughts go full circle–whether electronically or printed–into the minds of readers! and the stories carry us to another place, another time, another world …

“Cold mountain wind roared in my ears. The path through the snow had vanished, along with visibility beyond forty feet. I had no map, no compass, and no idea where the 2,000 foot cliffs were lurking …”


We hope you look for this book April 15 or thereabouts!


Watch this for a lovely quick peek how books are still made in some places. Today many titles can be handled as print on demand only books. MennoMedia has many books available as ebooks through standard sources like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.

–Melodie Davis, MennoMedia author, columnist, producer, blogger.