Can You Judge a Book by its Cover? Guest Post from Elizabeth Camden

It’s an old question: Can you judge a book by its cover?

My answer: Yes! Especially if it is a book by Bethany House.

A book’s cover is the first thing a potential reader will see and it should make a lasting impression within the space of a few seconds. A great cover will help the reader instantly recognize the genre, tone, and setting of a book. For example, if you look at the covers below, you can probably tell which novels are in a genre you are interested in:

An Elegant Façade is falls directly into the regency romance category and is likely to appeal to Jane Austen fans. A Dangerous Legacy is still a historical, but the tone is a little more turbulent and promises a stormy romance. A Love Like Ours is clearly a contemporary, with a vibe that blends both humorous and a down-home western feel. Return to Me communicates a traditional biblical fiction novel with an epic feel to it.

Once upon a time cover designers could pour a lot of detail into the cover image, but with the rise of online shopping, it is essential a book cover look good both on a bookstore shelf and a thumbnail image on a smart phone. The physical copy of a Bethany House novel is 8 ½ inches tall. If a potential reader is looking at the same book on an iPhone, the cover will only be ¾” tall. That presents a huge challenge for the designer. It means the titles need to be shorter, details are streamlined, and backgrounds can’t be too busy.

With all those limitations, it is amazing that designers can still produce such diversity that communicates a genre and vibe so quickly.

Although authors rarely have much say in our covers, the team of professionals in a publishing company are experts in picking out color palettes, symbolism, and design elements to convey these messages in the space of only a few seconds. The cover is making a promise to the reader about what sort of experience they can expect once they open the page, which is why Bethany House puts so much attention on designing that image. People really do judge a book by its cover!

Thanks for joining us, Elizabeth! (Here she is becoming part of her latest cover.)

What about you? What is your favorite book cover in recent memory?

14 thoughts on “Can You Judge a Book by its Cover? Guest Post from Elizabeth Camden

  1. Covers make all the difference in the world. To As a reader, I’ve started to categorize my expectations and anticipation by cover…which in a way is by publishing house. It’s all connected.

  2. “Irish Meadows” and “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” are two of my all time favorites! . . . . “Lady Jayne Disappears” most recently. That being said, ” A Dangerous Legacy” is gorgeous!

    • Great choice! Covers are so fun to look at! (I could browse a bookstore all day even if there were no actual pages inside the covers, although of course I’m glad there are.)

      Amy Green
      BHP Fiction Publicist

  3. There are so many beautiful covers out right now it would be hard to pick just one! I will say, however, that I have a pet peeve- it bothers me when the people on the book cover don’t match the descriptions of the characters in the book!! For example, I’m reading a book right now where the cover models are a man with short, dark hair and a woman with long flowing blond hair, but the character descriptions in the book are a man with shoulder-length blond hair and a woman with auburn hair!! I’m just too OCD about things like that….(and it’s not a BHP book, just so you know!) 🙂

  4. I think most of my fav authors and books seem to have Bethany House on the spine! I love the covers of Roseanna White, Ann Gabhart, Kristi Hunter, Beth White, Jessica Dotta, Julie Klassen to name a few.

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