Judging a Book by Its Cover


Author PhotoStacy Lynn Carroll is the best selling contemporary fiction author of My Name is Bryan. She is a two-time Whitney Awards finalist and inspirational speaker. Stacy has always loved telling stories. She started out at Utah State University where she pursued a degree in English, learned how to western swing, and watched as many of her fellow students became ‘True Aggies’.  She then finished her BA at the University of Utah where she got an emphasis in creative writing.  After college, she worked as an administrative assistant, where she continued to write stories for the amusement of her co-workers. When her first daughter was born, and with the encouragement of a fortune cookie, she quit her job and became a full-time mommy and writer. Seven books and four small kids later, Stacy has truly learned the necessary skills of balance and time management. Chocolate also helps. She and her husband live in Utah with their four children and a small zoo.


Imagine you’re walking through a crowded craft fair. People are calling to you left and right to rub this into your dry skin or taste that sample. Your eyes flit from booth to booth as you pick up the pace. What is going to make you stop? It’s too loud to hear anything and your nose is already being accosted by an armory of fragrances. In order to stop, something has to catch your eye. And it only has .5 seconds to make an impression.

Now pretend you’re in a Barnes & Noble. Thousands of books wink at you from their place on the shelf. You want to peruse them all, but there just isn’t time. What makes you reach out and pick up that one book? It’s not the blurb, no matter how intriguing it may be. It’s not the well-crafted, perfectly edited story, it’s the cover that draws the readers in and dares them to read the back.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We’ve all heard this saying time and time again. When it comes to people, this statement is true. When it comes to books, it’s very very false. Everyone judges books by their cover! This is why having the best possible cover is so essential. Having a beautifully crafted story is not enough. Just having someone who knows how to use photoshop is not enough. And just having a pretty cover is not enough. There are many things to consider when making your newest book cover. Please take the time to consider them all. After spending hundreds of hours writing, re-writing, and editing, you owe it to your book (and yourself) to create the best product possible.

Anyone who knows how to use photo editing software can make a book cover, right? Wrong! There are plenty of people who have a degree in graphic design and are very good at creating ads and editing photos. But book covers are a specialty. Your cover designer needs to know what sells in your specific genre. Take this cover for example:

The Dive

This cover was created by a professional graphic designer. He works for an ad agency and designs websites. This cover is done by a professional. But not a professional cover designer. This book is Inspirational Fiction. When people look at this cover they think suicide and depression. Several people told me it looks like an Indie cover. Now compare it to this one:


These two covers are the exact same book. Not one word of text on the inside was changed. But this book cover went on to be a best-seller and was a finalist for two different prestigious awards. I had to change the original title of this book in order to come up with a better cover. But it was worth it! For this cover, I not only hired a professional, I hired a professional cover designer. If you are an Indie author, always hire a professional cover designer. Always! It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but skimping on a cover to save some money will only hurt you and your book baby, which you spent so much time to create.


Now let’s talk genre. It’s not enough to have a pretty, eye-catching cover. You need to have the right cover for the right audience. When I released my first book, I hired an artist to draw the cover for me and I hired a graphic designer to turn that artwork into a cover. This is what they came up with and I was thrilled!

PS Cover

Here’s the problem with this cover. Sure, it was attracting a lot of people, but it was attracting the wrong people. One look at the cover and I had little girls going crazy: “Mommy, buy me this book!” The dilemma? This book is not for little girls. In fact, I wouldn’t allow a girl under the age of 11 to read it. Yet 6-10 year-old’s were going crazy for the pink frills and cartoon-looking characters. Bad reviews poured in because the only people reading the book were not my intended audience. Fast-forward two years when my book got a makeover.


Now my book was attracting teen girls. Not only did my sales increase, but so did my positive reviews, because it was finally being read by the target audience.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Hire a professional off the bat and have several people who fall into your target audience give their feedback before you go to print. Then maybe you won’t have to keep re-doing covers like I did. Here is one more example for you:


Cute cover, right? Professionally done, it’s cute and intriguing. Well, once again, I attracted the wrong audience. The rainbow, shimmery background gave off the impression that this book was fantasy. This is a YA Contemporary Fiction novel. One small tweak to the image and now the cover gives potential readers a more accurate idea for what the book is about.


If you want people to take you seriously as an author, then take yourself seriously. You are creating a brand and building a business. Take pride in your product by creating an eye-catching cover to match your brilliantly written masterpiece. After all, you have to spend money to make money. It’s a cliché for a reason.

Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

Visit Jen’s blog at: http://www.jjbennett.com/