Judging a Book by its Cover

Is judging a book by its cover always a crime? Laura E. James explores the reasons why it might not be in today’s blog post. Make sure you read right until the end if you’d like to find out how you could get your hands on a FREE copy of Laura’s new book, What Doesn’t Kill You … 

Laura James_author pic copy

Judge: The charge is that judging a book by its cover is a crime. What say you?

Defendant: Your honour, I ask is it a crime to be drawn by the colours, the images and the hint of the treats and secrets in store when browsing online or roaming free from bookshop to library? I am attracted to a book by its cover, but isn’t that the point? If I haven’t become aware of a novel through personal recommendation, a good-looking book is going to turn my head. What can I say? I’m flesh and blood. And surely if covers weren’t important, all books would start at the title page. That would be the equivalent of me strolling in here in my underwear, instead of this smart, skilfully tailored business suit. First impressions count. But it’s not only that. The experience that is reading begins with the intrigue and awe a cover can incite.

I submit my evidence and present the Chesil Beach Book covers.

Truth or Dare? – a fabulous love story without the soft edges.


Notice the light and shade, the carved initials in the bench, the closed, theatrical, red curtains waiting to swish open and expose the secrets lurking behind. I want to know what’s going on back stage. Red is for danger, right? Red traffic lights, red alert, red hot …

The etched heart tells of a romance, but it is crudely scratched into the back of a church seat. A youthful expression of love or a silent prayer? And observe the clarity of the title. It’s bright, it’s white, it’s stark. It’s challenging the reader. Your honour, I ask you, would you tell the truth or take the dare?

Book 2 – Follow Me Follow You – can a first love last forever?


The black cover is eye-catching. It stands out from the crowd. It’s individual, it goes against romantic conventions. Are these characteristics the reader can expect from the hero or heroine, or does it suggest an overall feel of the story? A beautiful shooting star arcs across the top, but does it signify wishful expectation, or represent a sudden descent? The white silhouette of a woman occupies the corner. She’s checking her mobile phone ‒ an important clue. She could be searching for answers or awaiting a call. What or who is she hoping to find? And let’s take a moment to appreciate the colours of the lettering. A blue ‘follow’ and a pink ‘follow’. Your honour, my son explained his understanding of these colours to me and for him the blue symbolises the hero, and the pink, the heroine. I love that idea. For me, the spectral colours bring vibrancy to the dark night, like neon signs showing the way. And I wonder if that shooting star is heading for a place somewhere over the rainbow?

For my final piece of evidence, I give you What Doesn’t Kill You – an intense, emotional, heartbreaking story.


Your honour, I urge you to look at this cover. I mean, really study it. Zoom in. It’s stunning. At first glance, the reader is trapped inside, stranded, their window to the world obscured by rain and condensation. The frame is old, flaking and in desperate need of care and attention. It needs a loving hand to bring it back to life. These are threads of the novel keenly observed and understood by the cover designer and beautifully illustrated. Dark? Yes. Stormy? Yes. Coastal? Unmistakably. Notice the white houses in the distance. They’re out of reach for now, but the yellow glow from the top windows proves there’s life inside, and as the maxim goes, where there’s life, there’s hope. Finally, I draw your attention to the lighthouse. It stands tall, silent and strong, keeping watch, shining its light into the fog, desperate to guide lost souls safely home. Is this a metaphor? Does it relate to a character or does it suggest to the reader that after sailing pages of stormy seas, they’ll finish the book, moored, anchored and sheltered in the harbour? It’s a wonderfully crafted and intelligent cover that speaks volumes and sets up the story in one magnificent image. From out of the darkness, there comes light. Or, in other words, your honour, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

In this digital age of downloads and ebooks, which I appreciate are not on trial today, but which I acknowledge have a place in this world, we forgo the pleasures of touching and smelling the book, of flicking through random passages, seeking out a gem of a line, of hearing the soft flap as we turn the page. But we are still able to indulge our sense of sight. We can still gaze upon the beautiful, thrilling, saucy, bright, dark, emotional, telling covers that hint and tease and excite our imaginations and invite us to explore, consider and share others’ opinions, other lives and other worlds.

Your honour, I cannot speak for everyone, but I speak from the heart. I believe judging a book by its cover is not a crime.

It is an adventure, a pleasure, and a joy.

Judge: Case dismissed.

We have FIFTY copies of What Doesn’t Kill You to give away but there is one condition – if you claim a copy, you will need to read the book and write an Amazon review for it. What Doesn’t Kill You is the first book in our ‘Dark Choc Lit’ range – an intense, emotional, heartbreaking story. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, simply email info@choc-lit.co.uk to request. 

For more on Laura, follow her on Twitter @Laura_E_James

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