You Can’t Judge a Book by its cover… or can you?


There is an old saying which I’m sure everybody has heard saying you can’t judge a book by its cover. It’s supposed to be a warning not to take anything at face value and look at the whole ‘picture’ instead of only at how something appears. But one has to wonder whether the situation is really still the same in the publishing industry.

Publishing is an industry and it’s big business, so the publishers try to present the best possible product to the end consumer in order to entice them to buy the product. This results in publishing houses no doubt spending large amounts of money on the cover. If the publishing company isn’t willing to spend some of its money on the cover then do they really back the product? I know that according to Brandon Sanderson, Tom Doherty from TOR believes the book itself is the modern equivalent of a movie poster and dropping a couple hundred books in a single bookstore to be used as a display is seen as a cheap form of advertising. So, if the publishers put a bland cover on the book, its almost as though they’re putting the message out there that they don’t believe in their product and maybe only printed it because the author had an airtight contract. At least that’s my perception of it.

At least, that’s how it appears to be in the US publishing industry. The UK book market seems intent on downplaying books and their covers and how they are seen in the market. If one looks at the UK edition of some books, it’s almost as though the UK publishing house has taken the above proverb to heart. An example of what I mean is the recent Brandon Sanderson novel, The Way of Kings.

The Way of Kings US edition

The Way of Kings UK edition

It may just be me but I far prefer the US edition with the Michael Whelan cover with the colour maps inside to the UK softcover edition with the colour maps presented in the US edition not even included. The US version looks far more appealing. I’m thankful I ordered the US edition and wanted for almost two months for it to arrive rather than pick up the UK edition.

Another pair of examples are the Wheel of Time and Dresden File series covers:

The Gathering Storm US Edition

The Gathering Storm UK Edition

Proven Guilty US Edition

Proven Guilty UK Edition

Maybe it’s just me again but it almost feels as though the UK Publishers are trying to sabotage these novels in their own markets when compared to the US editions. At least with The Way of Kings the rather bland illustration of the man in armour provides some clue as to the content of the novel. But with both these series’, the covers don’t say anything about the novels other than providing symbols of what is included inside.

After reading the Way of Kings and how it was presented by TOR, I think I’ve actually made the decision that any book I purchase will now be done over the internet and I’ll be purchasing the US versions as these are by far more visually pleasing.

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