Your Book Cover: What Kind of First Impression Does it Make?

I was just reading a blog where a lady said she was ashamed to admit she tends to ignore books with amateurish covers even though she suspects some of the stories inside those covers might be pretty good.

As a book cover designer I can tell you no one should feel guilty about judging a book by its cover.


Because humans are, by nature, extremely sensitive to first impressions. The corporate world has known this for a long time. That’s why they spend tens of millions of dollars every year on market surveys and research to determine the effectiveness of their product packaging.

Two important things for authors to remember:
1. A potential reader’s first impression of your book is the cover.

There is an entire psychology built around the concept of “first impressions” that should be understood by anyone whose product (a book, in this case) is just one among many in competition for the public’s attention.

2. Think of the cover of your book in terms of “product packaging” in the same way that manufacturers regard the packaging of their products. The cover of your book is the “packaging”, the “box” (metaphorically speaking) that contains the “product”. The product is the story inside the “box”.

More often than not, a potential buyer’s assumption about the quality of the product is determined by their perception of the quality of the packaging.
Research has shown that people tend to make purchasing decisions within a matter of just a few seconds based on their perception of the product (that “first impression”) which is influenced by the packaging.

It’s pretty simple really. You’re at the store. You see two products from two different manufacturers, side by side, and both products are exactly the same and so are the prices. But one is packaged very attractively with a polished, professional look and the other packaging is rather generic and boring. Which one are you likely to purchase?

Gary Val Tenuta
Author and Designer of Low-Cost, High-Quality Book Covers


  1. Diiarts says

    This is really important. In our experience, three things sell books. In no particular order: Author visibility, print reviews and cover design. Author visibility, because a first-time author who sells him or herself as well as their book is effectively offering two products, two points of interest, for the price of one. Print reviews, because they carry the endorsement of the publication in which they appear, and have a credibility (and a reach) that no individual online reviewer will ever achieve. Cover design, because the cover is the thing that will get you into the bookstores – or not. Chain buyers certainly don’t have time to read your book; they’ll accept or reject you on the strength of your cover and your blurb.

    We’d urge any self-published author to pay for a professional cover designer – and I mean a PROFESSIONAL – someone who understands publishing and cover design and book distribution, not just a mate who’s a whiz at Photoshop. There are 1001 tiny nuances which make or break a design, and the investment really does pay off.

    It’s a far higher priority investment than, say, a book trailer. Because if you get your cover wrong, you’re stuck with that image until you fix it (and even then, the old one is still hanging around on websites and databases and printed stock). And because with the wrong cover, you will lose sales. It’s that simple.