You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover

I don’t care what the old adage says, in my opinion, you can tell a lot about a book (a person) by its cover. This is precisely why, when a book isn’t packaged properly, sales fall flat. Each genre has a set of rules—themes, colors, and styles—that are common to the category. Of course these rules are broken from time to time, just as authors break genre rules. But the marketing experts in their dens know what sells. Let’s take a look at a few categories.









Women’s Fiction:












Fugly Cover
First Cover

You can definitely see patterns, right?

And now my cover. As you can see Plume has done a wonderful job marrying two categories as it’s both women’s fiction and a historical.  But it didn’t begin this way. The design team produced another cover before the final (to the right). The concept was like nothing I had ever seen before so I knew they were pushing the envelope and thinking outside of the box—something I very much appreciated, especially since I feel my novel pushes the boundaries of straight historical fiction. But the first cover sent the wrong message. It reflected a nonfiction title, in my opinion, that would sell in the UK, but not in the U.S.


Becoming Josephine Cover
Final Cover

Plume gracefully went back to the drawing board, using a list of suggestions my agent and I put together. When this cover arrived in my inbox, I oohed and aahed. They really nailed the women’s fiction and historical elements beautifully in a unique way. No headless woman and heaving breasts on my cover! Plus it has an elegant and romantic feel that I just adore. My favorite part is that the locket appears to move. I can’t help but be reminded of the rapid pace of Josephine’s life, how it changed instantly at times, without warning. The movement also begs the question: Is she leaving the locket (and her beloved) behind? The bit of mystery is fantastic.

Becoming Josephine will be released by De Fontein, a Dutch press in the Netherlands in 2015. Toss in another culture and all of those genre rules for covers change to reflect what appeals to that society. I’m dying to see what DeHern Press does to it.


How about you? Do you judge a book by its cover?


Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

11 Replies to “You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover”

  1. Your cover is lovely. And you are lucky. I’ve heard horror stories from authors who had absolutely NO control over their covers, and it didn’t matter whether they liked or approved of them or not. What I think is that I *shouldn’t* judge a book by its cover, because it’s not fair to the book. And yet I do.

    1. Thank you! I agree, I’m very lucky. Plume was so flexible and easy to work with, but I will say this–I didn’t throw a fit and whine about how I didn’t like the aesthetic. I made a logical list of reasons why the cover didn’t work for the market. I think that really helped.

  2. Gosh! I <3 your women's fiction choices!

    I am totally influenced by covers, but less so when reading an e-book. Sometimes if I love a cover I'll leave a book out after reading just so I can look at it. They're truly art. And yours is lovely! I'm just itching to read!!!


    1. Ha ha! Yes, how could I surpass one of our lovely Debs? 🙂 I’m also very influenced by covers. So much so that if the cover is ugly, I won’t buy it unless someone whose taste I trust recommends it. For shame, I know.

  3. I think your final cover is just perfect. Kudos to you and your team for tweaking it until it was right. And thanks for featuring VINTAGE’s cover, too. It’s women’s fiction, no doubt about that!

  4. You can definitely get a feel for the story and genre from a book’s cover. Beautifully redone cover you have! Just gorgeous.

    Indeed, my local RWA chapter’s contest is Judge A Book By Its Cover — with awards for the best book cover. But while it’s not as important as the story inside, the cover still matters — especially to get people to start reading what’s inside!

  5. I can’t wait to see your cover for the Dutch edition, Heather! And I agree, you can definitely tell a lot by a book’s cover, especially about how it’s being marketed. One of my favorite covers is for Eowyn Ivey’s THE SNOW CHILD. It’s so ethereal and also beautiful from a graphic design perspective.

    And you’re right about the rules for each genre…although it’s always fun to see when publishers push the envelopes and break those rules a bit. 😉

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