How to Judge Books By Their Covers

Posted on November 26, 2021

I judge books by their covers. Unashamedly. And I’m pretty sure you do too. Book covers are super important in getting readers’ attention, and once it does, you’ll find that they can tell you a lot about what’s in the book- like a lot. As I’ve been reading more and more this year, I’ve begun to notice some trends and design choices in book cover art that make it immediately obvious not only what the book genre will be, but also some significant plot details without ever reading the synopsis.

Using Text - The ‘Enemies-to-Lovers’ Rom-Com

We’ll start easy. Cover-wise, rom-coms kind of all look the same at the moment with their super-simplified human figures over a soft one-tone background. In this way, they’re not that hard to pick out from cover alone. That being said, the character positions can tell a lot about the inner story, which is best exemplified by the ‘enemies-to-lovers’ set-up. If the story follows this trope, the cover will always show two characters separated by the title text. Always. I swear. The physical distance between the characters likely symbolizes the more metaphorical distance and tension that they must overcome to find love <3 (which based on the pastel background and cutesy fonts, you already know they will.)

Image Credits: Goodreads

Floral Symbolism - Female-led Horror

The next design trend I’ve been seeing a lot recently is the ‘girl with flowers’ cover. This is a theme I noticed because I actually thought some of these covers were for the same book! If you see this style of cover you can pretty much always expect a female-led horror or horror adjacent novel. The flower symbolism is likely used for contrast, as the horror or disturbing elements of the book seem incongruous to the beauty of the flowers. There’s something unsettling in the calmness of the woman’s faces even though they’re often being blinded, strangled, or even torn apart by the delicate flowers. There’s probably also some symbolic representation of impermanence in the sense that flowers are beautiful for a short period before they ultimately wither and die which parallels the narratives of the female protagonists who slowly uncover disturbing truths and often descend into madness.

Image Credits: Goodreads

Abstraction - Contemporary & Literary Fiction

Finally, the colour blob abstraction cover. This is a design trend I’ve seen slowly making its way onto store bookshelves, and I’m now starting to see it EVERYWHERE. That being said this cover style is a really good fit for the book genre it gets placed on as both the visual art and literary style have a lot in common, they want to make you think. If a book is going to challenge your understanding or encourage you to look at things from a different perspective, I suppose it’s only logical that the cover art would use abstract, the artistic genre most known for its ‘huh?” factor. The bombardment of colour and shape forces its viewer to look longer at each cover to see if any details escaped their notice. In this way, the cover mirrors the intent of the novel, to encourage higher thinking, new perspectives and introspection. Essentially, if you see these colour blobs, expect a hard-hitting novel, probably in the genres of contemporary or literary fiction.

Image Credits: Goodreads

And just like that, you no longer have to read those pesky spoiler-filled synopses anymore. To further prove it, I’ll come clean about something, I haven’t read all of these books. I noticed these trends, made a guess on the books’ contents, and when I checked I found that I was right! In a way, learning to read the imagery means you can avoid actually reading because you’ll know right away if a book interests you or not. So keep on judging books by their covers, you’ll be doing yourself a favour. 

Posted in Blog.