Book Covers: What My Students Think

We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (or so the saying goes), but when we’re honest with ourselves many of us admit to it.  I’ll admit that I’ve avoided books because of covers and I’ve pined over books because of covers.  My students do exactly the same.  I also know that my students are sensitive to gender specific covers and will turn books away because of them.

Covers are discussed often in my classes, especially my Y.A. Lit class.  I often pull up the cover features from Stacked during these discussions so we can have a broader or more specific conversation.  Because of this I decided to create a short cover survey for my Y.A. Lit students.  Only 24 students participated, the majority of which are girls.  I know this isn’t a very large poll, so I plan on using this survey again with more students.

1. What about a book draws your attention the most?

  • Cover design–58%
  • Author/reviewer blurb–0%
  • Summary–42%

2. What kind of cover design do you prefer the most?

  • Models on the cover–25%
  • Objects/scenes related to the story–75%

3. What kind of color combination draws you the most?

“Dark and an object that’s bright and vice-versa.”
“Reds, pinks”
“Pink, red, purple, girly covers”
“Bright warm colors”
“Bright colors against soft colors”
“Dark colors”
“It depends on the book, but I’d say dark and mysterious.”
“Smoky colors–blues and grays”
“Dark with colors that pop out and grab your attention.”

4. Is font style & placement important to you? Explain.

  • Yes–58%
  • No–42%

“If I like the font, I’ll probably be more likely to read it.”
“Not really, as long as the plot is good then I don’t care.”
“Yes, it should match the book in my mind.  A scary book should have a darker style for it.  A girly book should have a girly font.”
“Yes, it gives you hints to the feel or even formatting of the book.”
“The placement is important. Like on Looking for Alaska, I didn’t like how the title was at the bottom in small letters, and the author’s name was in big letters at the top.” (Note–Our books have this cover.)

5. Would you feel comfortable reading a book w/a gender-specific feel to it? (Guys reading a book w/a “girly” cover.)

  • Yes–67%
  • No–33%

“Yes, I would actually enjoy it since I prefer hanging out with guys anyway.”
“I probably wouldn’t pick it out by myself, but if it’s a good story I wouldn’t mind.”

6. Do you prefer to see the character’s “face” or would you rather imagine the character on your own?

  • See the character’s face–25%
  • Use your imagination–75%

“Even if I see their ‘face’ on the cover I imagine them my own way when I read and sometimes will compare the two.”
“I’d rather imagine the character, but parts of their body or their back is interesting too.”
“I don’t want to see the face because I want to picture the character on how I want him/her to look.  Usually if I see the character’s face I’ll be disappointed because that would not look how I would picture him/her.”


  1. This is really interesting. I’m actually pretty surprised by the results about gender-specific imagery. I would have expected more respondents being reluctant to read a book specifically saying “boy book” or “girl book.”


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