Judging a Book By It’s Cover Part 1: Why Do They Tend to Look the Same

Have you ever looked at a row of covers and wondered why so many of the popular ones look so similar?

This has been something that has bugged me since the beginning of my reading life, and it took a while for me to realize why so many covers were the same.

Self Publishing

One of the biggest reasons is because of the digital, self-publish age. There are so many books out there, it’d be hard to be new and inventive in a cover design. But more importantly, for the most part, you don’t want to be new and inventive.

People like what they like. As soon as you figure out what they like you tend to just repackage it over and over because people will keep buying it.

You figure out the genre, the style, and writing almost instantly because of the cover design. It’s pretty damn clever actually.

Online Buying

And online, it’s harder for a reader to care if the cover has a similar design to another than if they were browsing at the store. In fact, they probably like that they look similar. It’s a “oh I liked this so I will probably like this” sort of mentality, especially at 99 cents a read. A ten to twenty dollar book feels like more of a commitment.

Similar Covers with Apples provided by Bustle


Most covers don’t want to give you the whole story in one image. So a lot of the books have that vague man in the background, the cut in half face so you can’t tell who it is, and the broad background. Ambiguity can start to look similar when there’s only so many ways you can lay out images to keep things vague.

Online Cover Creation

The cover creation market is saturated by both freelance newbies and DIY authors. I don’t fault people for this because designers are expensive. I also don’t fault new designers for jumping in freelance themselves.

But the combination of this means that the stock images used in covers tend to be over used. Free images, cheaper stock places, or quick turnover lend themselves to covers with the exact same stock with very little difference or change.

Similar Covers with Exactly the Same Cover Art Provided by Amy on Amino App

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of covers that look similar just by design and not by image, but seeing the same stock image while scrolling through Amazon can be jarring and sometimes a turn off. People still do it because they’re selling a 99 cent book, and don’t want to drop a lot on a cover.

Cover Design Gimmicks

Lastly, there’s the tricks marketers and graphic designers use to make you want to buy the book. There’s the use of space, the mystery, the color selection. The rules of design are rules for a reason and designers don’t tend to break them in the commercial market. It’s risky to be completely off the wall in design unless the book is completely off the wall themselves.

So, now when you go looking for your next read, take a second to look at the covers. Do you notice how similar they look? Do you see similarities in genres? Are these similarities part of why you picked up a book? Are there things you look for in a cover? Let me know in the comments below.

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