Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Now you might be a little intimidated by that title. You may think I’m here to have some profound discussion with you that will make you question your morals, beliefs, how you treat people and how you view the world at large. That is absolutely not what I’m here to do.


In case you forgot, this is an anime blog, not a blog about philosophy, politics, science, psychology, or anything that could actually be helpful for the world at large. We talk about Japanese cartoons and comic books here, though I wouldn’t mind helping a few people think differently about things.


What I mean when I talk about judging a book by its cover is very literal. Is it ok to pick a book purely based on its cover? Is it ok to watch an anime purely for the cover image? That’s the type of useless discussion I wanted to have.

Cosmo Familia covers
(Now those are some nice covers)


I bring this up because when I was browsing for some manga to buy online a little bit ago (well, it was when I wrote this), I chose this series called Cosmo Familia purely because the manga had beautiful covers. That’s it. I was quite literally judging a book’s worth on its cover. I don’t know if that was a good decision or not because I still haven’t read it.


Regardless, this made me realize that I watch series for superficial reasons all the damn time. Both 86 and Sonny Boy, two of my favorite anime series from last year, I watched just because of their weird names. They were both amazing.


That got me to think if that’s really a good enough reason on its own or whether you should put more thought into it than that, and what if something has a bland cover? Doesn’t that mean you’ll just skip over it if you’re that shallow? Am I shallow? What kind of monster am I? Not exactly.

Hotaro reading
(You gotta read your books, kids)


The cover of a book is one of the first things you notice. It’s why authors hire illustrators to make it really pretty. You could have the most amazing writing skills anyone has ever seen, and your book could change the world, but unless you make people open the book, let alone look at it, nothing matters. That’s why covers are so important.


It can be the difference between people finding and loving your work and people never knowing it exists in the first place. That’s why I commission a lot of talented artists and try to make the presentation of things decent. With that being said, a cover isn’t the only reason you pick up a book, the same reason a bad or bland cover wouldn’t. 


There are many reasons you pick a book, many of them not having to do with the actual content at all. It works very much the same way these posts do or YouTube videos or anything type of content. What matters first is you seeing and wanting to experience the thing, triggering that interest in you that carries you the rest of the way.

Boring covers
(Now these are mildly less interesting)


Two other series I got had really boring covers, but I still bought them. I’m Standing on a Million Lives, and I Shall Survive Using Potions both have mostly plain white backgrounds just showing off one or two of their characters. Characters that mean nothing to you since you don’t know anything about them. All they have to grab you is their design, neither of which have anything special. Even their spines kind of suck, to be honest. The books, I don’t know about the characters’ spines.


What made me buy them was their title. They both sound interesting enough to draw me in. That’s why light novel titles in Japan are so stupidly long. They fit the synopsis in the title to draw people’s attention as quickly and efficiently as possible. This combination of cover art and title are the most important two things for getting someone interested in your work, be that book or not.


Because ultimately, there are three things that grab your attention: title, cover, and synopsis. Each of these three things determines whether anyone will even look deeper into your story and read the first page, but two of them appeal more to us as humans. Because, like it or not, we have incredibly short attention spans.

Books are cool
(Wow, time to explain books!)


There’s an order of operation to how we do these things. We notice the cover and or spine first, which leads us to see the name next. If both or one of those interests us, we see the synopsis to make the final decision. The sad truth is if you have a bad cover and title, nobody’s going to read the synopsis. In a world where we want instant gratification, we need to quickly know if something is worth our time or not. You know, despite wasting much of it looking at social media every day.


Realistically, the best way to do that would be to just read the synopsis for everything we see, but that would actually take far too much time. That’s why titles and covers exist, besides the fact that they look pretty on a shelf. Seriously, at least 80% of the reason I collect manga, light novels, and video games is just to look at them.


So while it may seem superficial on the surface, there’s a very good reason why covers should be pretty and why they should be intriguing. It’s not going to make or break the story, but it could be the factor determining if I ever experience the story in the first place.

Read more
(Didn’t I tell you to read your books already?)


What I would say is decent advice is not to make your decisions purely based on a title or cover. If they grab your attention, that’s great. It’s what they’re supposed to do, but take the time to read deeper into it. Do that for everything remotely interesting to you, even if it seems boring at first glance. There’s a lot of amazing stuff out there you might not expect.


And hey, to get all philosophical and bring things full circle, it works the same way with people too. You can take the cover of someone into account in some way. If you see someone acting shady, covering their face in a dark alley at night, you would probably and rightfully stay away from them. Seriously, don’t approach that person.


But if somebody seems a little different than you, don’t just judge them and stay away. Take a minute to read more into them and see what they’re all about, and maybe, just maybe, you might end up finding something well worth your time. See, I made it a nice life lesson in the end. Buh-bye.


Thank you very much for reading


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Irina

    I missed this post first time around, yay for twitter. pretty much chose anime based on key visuals alone. I should do more research but new anime always sneaks up on me.

  2. darkdaemonpk2

    Of course the answer to that question is no; gotta read the content first before making a judgement.

  3. The “judging by visuals alone” approach is very hit-or-miss. Even with reading of content in more than one language for both anime and manga, I bet I haven’t even scratched the surface of either, let alone heard of some of the next big hits, and that’s why I need things like trusted opinions from others and keeping up with anime news to help me divide and conquer.

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