The Women's Journal

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

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By Ara Atkinson-Skinner

Ara Atkinson-Skinner offers creative solutions to business owners, entrepreneurs, art directors, authors, writers and discerning clientele “Make Their Mark”   with distinct unforgettable original illustrations and creative design.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover”? When wearing one of my humanitarian or artistic hats, that phrase has been invaluable to me on so many levels. I can’t imagine how many things I would have looking beneath the surface of something or someone that didn’t resonate to my “normal”.  However, in this article, I’m not wearing those hats, I’m wearing my Marketing & Sales hat and that phrase takes on the opposite meaning when it comes to Book Covers. You can count on folks judging your cover before ever buying anything you are selling.

Good or bad, judgment is built into us as a natural defense to keep us safe or comfortable. Some of our judgment calls are so subtle and engrained in our subconscious from birth due to the environment in which we were raised. All of the exposure or not to religion, spirituality, arts, education, politics, culture and list goes on to develop prejudges and beliefs that will influence our decision making system. You are probably wondering, “What the heck does this have to do with marketing and selling my books?” and the answer is everything!

Authors, especially new authors self-publishing, need to be aware of the judgment and the competition out there marketing to the same audience as you and maybe sharing the same shelf space. Nothing is more frustrating than getting your amazing works overlooked by maybe a lesser quality works, because the other book had a more artfully designed cover capturing the attention of the buyer. The only covers that might escape this kind of scrutiny, might be your religious books, education textbooks and your proven authors who can just write their name on a paper bag cover and they will sell like gold! However, that’s a BRAND created usually after years of selling very successful books and renowned creditability (a topic for another article).

So, if your name isn’t Stephen King or James Patterson, chances are you need to think about your cover and ask  yourself hard questions, starting with, is my cover going to speak to my target audience? Do I even know who my audience is and even more important, will my audience be able to immediately resonate with my cover? Stephen and James were picked up early in their careers by a publisher with marketing experts looking out for them and the cover is a very important part of the launch of any book and usually decided heavily by the publisher based on years of experience of knowing how to appeal to their target audience (publishing house protecting their investment). You may not have that luxury of being picked up by a publishing house going right out of the gate, however it doesn’t have to be that way forever. So for now, you need to protect yourself and make the effort and the investment in your cover that will attract your intended audience. Don’t hide behind a cover that doesn’t reflect your amazing works inside—you never know who might be looking just for you!


“Thank you for capturing autumn on my book cover and bringing it to life for me as you did for 3E Marketing Solutions– our fully-leaded coffee brand. I love your creative genius and your endless patience with me.” – Donna Duffy, 3E Marketing Solutions

“Since I retired in 2001, reflecting and writing on the many blessings of my life has become a passion.  Ara’s illustrations are a kick that make my stories come alive.” – Burt Chase, Leader, W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc.

“Ara’s attention to detail as well as incredible creativity for my book cover made my job easier and the end result is quite eye catching!” –  Frederick J. Dawson, ChFC, CLU, Bassett, Dawson & Foy, Inc.


Ara Atkinson-Skinner, Illustrator/Designer

Make your Mark… with Unique Impressions!

Ara brings over 35 years of experience in the graphic design industry. After a 23 year stint with W. L. Gore & Associations, Inc. as their corporate designer, she started her own business, Ara Illustrated Studio in 2007. She specializing in custom illustration & design for book covers, event posters, logos and supportive business branding imagery.