Judging books by their covers

Doug Neff

Written by

Doug Neff

Cover of a comic book "Soon I Will be Invincible"

Ready for a quick design lesson?

Click on the picture to go to Joseph Sullivan’s list of Favorite Book Covers for 2008. (That one’s my favorite, by the way.)

Now, imagine you wrote a book this year. And your book just entered the market, along with the 172,000 other books published in the U.S. that year.1

And it’s a FANTASTIC book: engaging characters, compelling story, a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter.

And all you have to do is get people to choose your book out of the veritable ocean of other books in the world. (Yeah, welcome to the long tail.)

When Mrs. Foster told you, way back in the First Grade, that you “shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”, she wasn’t really talking about books. She was talking about people. Or vegetables. Or whatever. But definitely not about books.

Because everybody judges books by their covers. That’s how it works! How else would you sort through Amazon.com or the world’s endless bookshelves trying to find something to keep you occupied during the four hours between San Francisco and Cleveland? (Hi, Mom.)

Here’s the lesson: People see far too many presentations every year to judge them based on content alone. And this becomes more true the higher up the ladder you climb. So, like it or not, people are going to judge you by your cover. And that means everything visual about your presentation, from your slides themselves all the way down to your shoes. (Yes, they check out your shoes.)

It’s still not nice to judge people by their covers, and all vegetables deserve the benefit of the doubt, but if you imagine your audience judging you by your visuals, it might give you the motivation you need to make them worthy of the attention.

Good luck!

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