Judging a book by its cover

Small Kindnesses kindleDo you judge books by their covers?

I do. And I’m not going to apologise for that, either.

Most of the time, covers give us a short-cut towards knowing something about what’s inside. I can often tell a lot about how good a restaurant’s food will taste by reading their menu. When I meet new people I look at their clothes and hair and make decisions about whether I might want to be their friend.

You’ll be doing the same as you look at this website, as you look at the new cover of ‘Small Kindnesses‘. Is this the kind of writer I’m going to like?

Of course, there is always more to people or objects than what’s on the outside. I fell in love with a new magazine recently because of how it looked – it appealed to my aesthetic and my values, valuing simple things, gardening, cooking, relationship… on its cover it promised all of this.

However as I read the articles and got to know their editorial policy, I realised that it was only really paying lip service to authenticity. It was just as much about ‘fashion’ and ‘lifestyle’ as all the other women’s magazines I have a love-hate relationship with.

And this is why it’s important to use all of the information we receive about something or someone, but to always hold our guesses lightly with a willingness to drop them at any moment if we are giving evidence to the contrary.

Do we ever really know the whole truth about the other? Regardless of what the covers look like, every single one of my books have been loved by some people and hated by others. Which of these is ‘true’? Neither? Both?

Yesterday we changed the kindle cover of my novel ‘Small Kindnesses’ into this picture of grass & sky. My husband Kaspa designed the first cover (which we’ll still use for the paperback) and this new one (pictured), and I love both of them, but the delicate drawing of wood-sorrel on a white background was just getting lost at a small size and on a white screen.

It’ll be interesting to see if we notice any changes in the numbers of books we sell. Will people be more likely to stop and read the blurb and buy it, or less?

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover”

  1. I love the other cover actually but do you know, my perception about book covers has changed completely since I had my Kindle, they don’t influence me like they used to – I have actually bought a book simply because I loved the cover ( thank goodness it was Haruki Murakami then!) . It will be interesting to see what happens, I am sure ebooks are changing our literary world in such big ways. Regarding SK, I can’t believe the Beeb or someone hasn’t picked it up to dramatise, it would be so fabulous.

  2. Well, I LOVE photography — it’s a personal thing — so I really love the new cover. Also I love grass and sky — two things which are so ordinary, but full of wonder and mystery. Also, I love the hugeness of the words on the new cover, because the physical presence of the words gives the feeling of the size and scope of the impact of a small kindness.

    All in all, I think the new cover says more than the previous one. Of course, the previous one conveys a different tone, a softness that is different from the new one. I love them both, and I’d probably pick up either, but in different moods.

  3. Thanks both. It’s interesting to know what leads someone to click on a book or not… so many intangibles, I guess…

  4. I prefer the paler wood-sorrel cover but then I’m a whore for an appealing cover and regularly have to fight my instinct to avoid a book if I don’t like the cover. And it’s not that I don’t like the new cover you’re using, it’s just too bold and bright for this particular winter day.

    As for magazines – have you tried Oh Comely – I discovered it recently and find it quite gently satisfying – it might suit you more than the usual stuff – and it felt quite genuine.

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