Have you ever bought a book because it had a great cover? In today’s market, you can pretty much tell what the book is about when the cover has a women with a beautiful ball gown, a gun on the cover with a bull’s eye, a cowboy with no shirt, a rear view of a woman in a thong and two men, a picture of a woman or man with a church in the background. But even if you know what the book is about, is there a way to tell if you might like it unless you know the quality of the author’s earlier books? I read a lot and I can tell you many good books have covers with content that misses the mark. On the other hand there are some such as The Rosie Project with a cover not so memorable but contains a really good story.
Dust jackets, blurbs, shout lines, critics’ commendations all jostle for the browser’s attention. But you just forget this and apply the McLuhan test.
Marshall McLuhan, the guru of The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), recommended that the browser turn to page 69 of any book and read it. If you like that page, buy the book. It works. Rule One, then: browse powerfully and read page 69.
Another test is:
The Page 99 Test
“Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” –Ford Madox
Have you tried this test before? Do you buy a book because the cover attracts you?