By Its Cover

I’m looking at old and new editions of some of the books, asking myself which of each set is the most effective attention grabber, at the same time as I get a lesson in humility, as I’m put in my place by the understanding (anew) of what really ‘sells’ a book.

It would be good for my ego to think that what catches the attention of a potential reader/buyer in the book store is the bewitching prose.

Not so, I’m afraid. The first thing research suggests potential reader/buyers do when they pick up a book in the store is look at the cover. Then they flip it over and read the blurb on the back, hints about the plot or mini-reviews or both. And only then, if they haven’t already decided the book doesn’t look sufficiently interesting to pursue further, do they open it at random and read a few lines of aforesaid bewitching prose.

So in order of attention grabbiness, it’s

  1. Cover
  2. Blurb
  3. Bewitching prose

Take that, writerly conceit.

Here are a few examples of old and new editions. Which of each is the grabbiest?



(Interesting how Miss Little was reduced to Little in the third edition. It was felt that Little’s Losers was more politically correct than Miss Little’s Losers. Hmmm.)



Maybe we can’t tell a book by its cover. But we sure think we can.


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