Yes, Please Judge My Book By Its Cover

Yes, Please Judge My Book By Its Cover, photo via

The phrase, “Never judge a book by its cover,” never dug deep enough for me, and it always seemed to be used in poor context. Was the phrase an attempt to correct the human fallacy of ignorance, or was it an unnatural approach to get everyone to be nice to each other? Don’t get me wrong, one should always keep an open mind, and never presume to know all of someone simply from their outer presentation (things can be very different by chapter 2). But doesn’t the book’s cover summarize what’s inside? It seems many who use this phrase should re-evaluate their book cover.
Brand builders, PR firms, copywriters, designers, and other specialists make their living creating book covers for brands, organizations and celebrities, as well as the shaping of the content from behind that book cover. We know that a blog or press release’s title, for example, is the book’s cover, and the body of the piece, is its content. A job applicant’s overall initial presentation is his cover, while his resume, experience, and on-the-job results is his content. The presence and design of an office building is its cover, while the tenants, location, and costs are the content.

The Criteria of Judgement

The cover of a book — or someone’s outer presence — can cause people to think certain thoughts and commit to certain actions; image makers recognize this, and use it to make things happen for their clients. Like it or not, it’s inhuman and impractical to refrain from judgment based on one’s initial presentation. That goes for a brand or an individual — personal or business. We are constantly judged for better or worse by those who don’t know us, and those who do. Sometimes, judgment is from the fair-minded, and sometimes, not. The idea, however, that it’s immoral to cast judgment from the initial impression is silly. The wrong-doing isn’t in the judging of others — it’s about the criteria used. More in this below.

The Personal Brand

In the personal context, when one gets dressed up for school, work — or for a night out, they are preparing both to be judged by their cover, and to judge others by their cover. Social media strategy relates well with this, too, with a recent statistic showing up to 71% of tweets being ignored — we’re judging the book by its cover. One reason we judge tweets by their cover (or headline), is synonymous with why we judge a lot of things in the same vein — the lack of time and resources, coupled with the influx of info. So, in this case, it’s incumbent upon us to make our book covers relevant and noticeable, while not being over-the-top — attraction, not promotion.

Getting Real About Judging Others

The problem isn’t people judging others, for this is a necessary tool; we’re all going to judge, or assess, based on the initial presentation, as we should. Good judgment in who we associate with, what brands we patronize, and who we learn from leads to better choices, better security, and a more enriched life. The problem comes from judging on a criteria of ignorance — whatever the subject may be. The enlightened will understand they don’t know everything from the initial impression, but if you have both your brand and your personal image together, your prospects — or potential friends — will get the right idea, and you’ll stand a good chance of succeeding in your goals.

If you find too many people presuming your posts, tweets, website or dating profile aren’t worth looking at — you might want to re-think the cover of your book and who you’re trying to reach, instead of hating the haters.

Photo credit, top image:


I photograph headshot and architectural photography for a living, but I also love shooting street photography, abstract architecture and landscapes - more of it lately with my phone. I've had a camera in my hands for the past 20 years, and I currently work for clients in Indianapolis and throughout the Midwest.

  • Josh, I really enjoyed reading this post. It made me think, which I appreciate.

    Your lesson is wonderful, which is to have enough depth as a caring, perceptive, observant person to know that the cover, and what lies beyond that cover, are what make up the whole person.

    Yes, it is only human to judge the book by its cover, and those that are being true to self, product or service are typically representing the interior by the exterior, but others aren’t as comfortable doing so.

    Great post!

    • Thanks so much, Nancy, and well said. I think whether it’s one’s personal or business image, it all comes to strategy, a genuine, healthy confidence, and a practical outlook when reviewing our book covers for public display. A surety in who one is will resonate with their cover, be it a corporate brand or individual.

  • Great post Josh. I might suggest a series of posts on this subject,
    “Does your cover match your book??”
    “10 ways to match your cover to your book.”
    “What cover does the world see of your book?”

    Very interesting insights.

    • Thank you for the great suggestions, Randy – a creative expansion on this subject!

  • Great post, and completely true!

    We make snap judgements based on limited information. That’s a practical skill which allows us to decide when to take the freeway, whether or not to interview the candidate who is 20 minutes late, or whether to read the full article based on the headline.

    Of course, everyone in the world is more than who they first appear to be. Perhaps the sentiment is intended to encourage us not to entirely dismiss someone because of an apparent flaw. Yet, that’s exactly what we need to do to survive.

    For more, read my blog post on why there are no minor mistakes.

    • Thanks, Robby, and always glad to have your input. Proper discernment of a person or brand is critical to survival AND success. Some people’s public presentation paints an accurate picture – and others – not as much, but one thing is almost always certain; you’re getting a sense of that person from what they present to the world.

  • Great post Josh! I also love Randy’s ideas on expanding this conversation too!!!

    I tend to judge people rather quickly, and my assessments are usually pretty close. With all of the people teaching “authenticity” in the social media age, many folks have taken this as a license to be be a slob, use foul language, and disrespect others. Here is the magic sauce for anybody out there who has fallen into this trap –> Being authentic is not about being yourself, it is about being your “best” self.

    Same holds true in business. If I tweet/facebook a question to a company and they do not respond, I judge that they do not care about their customers. It is no different than if they did not answer their phone. This is not just about digital, let’s look at a more traditional example. If a restaurant bathroom is not clean, do we all not think twice about what could be happening in the kitchen? Yes we do.

    It is all about attention to detail, and all the little things adding up to be big things. Regardless of if we like it or not, that first impression is crucial.

    Keep up the great work, and thank you!


    • Thanks for the great words, Harrison. There are a lot of ideas today which are either misunderstood, or just lousy, but they’re hot because they sound great. I like your statement about “authentic” not being yourself, but your “best” self. No one is perfect, and we should not wish to show ALL our negative sides to everyone; it’s completely non-strategic, and we all preach against it every day.

      Also, your example of customer service can be broadly applied to communications. I believe some struggle with their organization and hectic schedules, so I always try to be understanding of slow communication, but it still seems careless at the same time. It’s a priority issue of responding to clients and leads in a timely fashion.

      Lastly, your bathroom analogy is perfect, and one we should always remember. Awareness of our environment is a necessity to survival — both for small and large issues, alike.