Judging a Book by its Cover

We all know the phrase, “never judge a book by its cover”, but we also all know that it’s almost impossible to follow.

In the modern age, according to Nielsen’s most recent released reports, there are over 200,000 new or revised books being published in the UK each year. With this sheer volume of books there are very few ways to decide on a title to read. The usual suspects are awards, shortlists, reviews and most importantly word of mouth from our trusted friends and relatives. But when browsing a bookshop for an impulse purchase, whether second-hand or new, or simply filtering the kindle store for a likely looking title the one chance the author has to sell their book above all others is the cover.

The cover is, as much as we like to pretend otherwise, a crucial factor in a books success, especially those that don’t have the marketing power of a major publisher behind them. A good cover artist and a good cover design are well worth the investment for an independent author.

What makes a good cover is very subjective and no single cover will appeal to all readers, nor should it.

Here I’ve selected a few of my favourite cover designs.

The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson


I love the minimalism of this cover. This actually struck me enough to be an impulse purchase when I was browsing.

The simplicity of this design, with the abstract shapes and single colour impression on the greyscale scenery really make it stand out from the rest. It’s a far cry from the rich over-detailed scenes that are the expected staple of fantasy covers and it is all the better for it.

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien


This classic hardback cover is the epitome of Tolkien cover art. Absolutely beautiful.

The style is reminiscent of Tolkien’s own drawing style, as can be seen on his famous maps, but, whilst I know he was  very involved in this cover design, I’ve been unable to ascertain whether or not he drew this himself.

Perhaps one of you Tolkien fanatics out there can help us out?

As a side note, I’m also a big fan of the minimalist Lord of the Rings covers.

The Shadow of the High King – Frank Dorrian


This is a piece of cover art that I fell in love with. It brings so much darkness and atmosphere to the book that I was sold on it before opening a page.

It features the more traditional fantasy standard of a busy cover, but somehow the art itself conveys stillness. The title and author are unobtrusive, allowing the quality of the work to shine.

Those are my three picks for excellent covers, although there are many more examples out there!

Leave a comment below with your thoughts and suggestions of other great covers!

One comment

  • I hadn’t even realised you’d posted this, I’m glad you like the cover so much! Jason Nguyen is an amazing artist!


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