Debate: I Judge a Book By Its Cover! So What?

I went to a talk a while back about the gender gap. The discussion led to the idea of how we judge books and if it’s the covers that attract us as a reader or if we do further research beforehand. I found that this conversation went on for quite a while and the whole idea that if you read in public, gripping onto is a typically ‘girly’ book, people will judge you.

Imagine you’re at college, it’s that time to celebrate the day you found your favourite book by rereading it, so you take it to college. You’re reading a stereotypically girly book in the canteen as it starts to fill with people. First thing that pops into people head is: ‘Are they reading for enjoyment?’ - because apparently no one reads for enjoyment and if they do they're weird.. Anyway, after figuring out that you are clearly reading for enjoyment reasons, the second thought is: ‘Oh dear, they’re into those sort of books!” - An issue?

One of the guest speakers was Maureen Johnson. She was the one who was most passionate about this topic. Later when I returned home, I did some further research on the idea that popped up. Flipcovers. This was sparked when Maureen started to receive emails from male readers basically saying ‘stop putting such girly covers on your books!’ – Errrr, but why are you even picking up that book in the first place? And I kinda feel like, if you picked up that book, you just have to deal with it...

‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ they all say. But how can I not when all they do is flash their cover fronts in my face. They are there for a purpose.

It’s the way we’re built, to judge things without thinking about it. So of course, I judge books by their covers. The covers are essentially the packaging of the book. It’s the part that reflects what’s inside and nowadays publishers/designers make it pretty clear that there are only two books in the YA market nowadays. The ‘masculine’ and the ‘feminine.’ You can’t not see it when you walk into a bookshop. But aren't they just making it easier for the buyer?

The thing is, publishers/designers who produce the covers are made to sell the book. They take months to design the covers fits the book to ensure that it gets sold to the ‘correct’ audience. Aren't we supposed to judge them? That’s the point. If I don’t like the appearance because it’s filled with too much pink, I wouldn't pick it up. That basically means that the book is full of lots of clichés, frills and girliness, and this is kinda the same for the ‘male’ books which always seem to be the ones which are dark coloured or have some sort of action sequence on the front of them. My brain subconsciously saying, "That's that sort of book, I won't like it, no need to read the content."

Check out Maureen’s tumblr post, where she discusses the fact that there are no such things as ‘gendered’ books. That they are all ‘gender-neutral.’ What do you think?

So, now you know how I think about book covers, I pose some questions to think about:

- Do you judge a book by its cover or do you do more research on it before buying it?

- What do you think about the flip covers? Will you ever risk buying a book you wouldn't 'typically' go for?

- Do you think that the gendered book covers are an issue? Are books 'gender-neutral'?

Leave your comments below!


And...I know I said there'd be a surprise at the end of this post. 
So here it is: what I just told you above is everything I am against. I don't judge a book by it's cover, I'm someone who looks at blurbs and online ratings. 

Trying to find points for judging a book by its cover was hard! 

So, why this post?
I've been doing a program called the Gold Arts Award, which involves me learning a new art form. I decided to take on creative writing (hence some of my tweets about novella writing) and part of this massive project, involves the discussion of an 'issue' in any art form. I decided to stick with my art form of creative writing but opened it up a little, choosing to look at the problems with book covers and the whole gendered covers. 

Furthermore, I had to create something controversial so that you, an amazing reader who has decided to read my full post, can argue back! 

The large part of it is getting replies and feedback/discussion, so please, even if it is a sentence or two, leave a comment with your points, rant, argument - Thank you :D


  1. First off: yay for covering both sides! I'm glad you did; it'll look better for said portfolio (as I told you, done Bronze and am doing Silver).

    I don't really JUDGE the book, though I'm less inclined to pick it up if it's covered in pink. I'm a tomboy, so that is NOT my thing. I have a few pink books, of course- I read the synopsis first, or it'll be by an author I like, regardless of the cover such as Cathy Cassidy.

    Genderflip covers are a good idea unl the logistics are thought of, more ink, more money, and I personally think it defeats the point of marketing.... If you want your book to be gender specific, then make it that colour. Because realistically, there are books about/involving various, very feminine things that boys would cringe over, so they have girly covers.

    I think, with me, I don't care. At the end of the day, I just want to read a book that's well-written, thought-provoking, earth-shattering.... And if that's within a pink cover, then so be it. I'm willing to try it all.

  2. Interesting read :) You made some great points based of what Maureen Johnson said

    I do my research before buying the book but if the books is covered in pink or looks like a romance novel I more than likely won't pick it up. As someone's who into their violence pink covers are a real turn off for me.

    I think flip covers aren't for me, as someone who knows exactly what I like to read the cover is a huge clue. That answers your second question as well, I wouldn't as I know that I just can't deal with a stereotypical romance novel (I know that's what you like :P)

    I wouldn't consider them an issue however I do see how that can put someone off a book, i'm guilty of that one. Certain books are gender-neutral but the majority aren't in my opinion

  3. I think I do judge a book by its cover just a bit as it's what initially attracts me to the book but after that I will look at reviews and ratings to finalise whether I want to read it or not.

    I like the idea of flip-covers especially if I think there's a cover that I would be embarrassed to have on my shelf but I really want to read it, an alternate cover would be very useful. I wouldn't risk buying a book that I'm doubtful of as what a waste of money it would be if I hated it.

    Gendered book covers aren't really that much of an issue because if that book has a certain looking cover then presumably the book itself has certain characteristics in it that has prompted that cover therefore it’s up to you whether you want to risk reading it. There are a few gender-neutral books but I agree with Lauren, most aren't

  4. I always find it hard to write something I disagree with, so you did very well! Hope your Arts Award goes well! :D

    I wouldn't say I 'judge' a book by it's cover, but I can’t deny that I’m slightly more likely to read the blurb if the cover appeals to me. Frustrating, but true. What’s even more annoying is that I know by unconsciously thinking this way, it probably takes me longer to find books that I like. That being said, I love reading blurbs, so the cover is pretty low down on book-buying priorities anyway!

    Genderflip covers are an interesting idea, but I really think it's a sad reality that changing the appearance of a book can suddenly attract more readers. Gender shouldn't really come into the equation of book covers, unless it's specifically relevant to the story.

    But I think it’s understandable why an author would want to change the cover to attract a greater audience. If the cover was the only hindrance to more readers, then who am I to stop their book from getting more recognition?! It's just sad that some people don't want to be seen with a book supposedly targeted for a different gender. I guess that’s why gendered book covers are a problem. It places a gender on books that anyone could and can read.

    Anyway, if I like a book I like it. And if the cover's good, then I guess that’s just a bonus. :)