You Can’t Tell A Book By Its Cover..Well Maybe

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?


3 thoughts on “You Can’t Tell A Book By Its Cover..Well Maybe

  1. Absolutely, we judge books by their covers! That’s what marketing is all about. It’s what drives us to pick up a book from the shelf instead of the one next to it. The flip side of that is that I refuse to read a book that has a ridiculous cover. Plain and blah is one thing but ridiculous? No.


    • Well that’s true. I remember when readers bought book covers for their paperback books because they didn’t want others to know they were reading racy romances! Now they have Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers and they still have book covers..But sometimes covers look very unprofessionally done which makes one wonder if the content is the same.


  2. Nothing is more irritating than buying a book with a cover that indicates a book story is one thing then when you start reading it’s totally different. Sort of like expecting a western and you get a story about wall street. So your tests would work. Thanks for sharing your ideas.


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