December 11, 2015

How Snap Judgments can be Misguided

I have published a book, so I know how important the covers are. People assume that a quick glance will tell a potential buyer everything they need to know about a particular book. They also suppose that the novel should be interesting if the cover is.

This is not always true, of course.  Some sloppy books have nice covers. On the other hand, I have seen uninteresting covers on quality books. The value of the interior of any given book cannot always be determined by looking at the outside of the book for a few seconds, but people insist on trying. That’s why authors may agonize for hours over everything related to the cover. Been there. Done that.

To my mind, we must question the efficiency of snap judgments.  How accurately can you judge something that may take hours to grasp by a two-second glance?  Not so much. I think potential buyers make quite a few assumptions. They do this because of time constraints.

My Book

The cover above is the old book cover for my work, Accept No Trash Talk: Overcoming the Odds. I made it with the help of my family. I’m told it’s kind of plain. The cover on the right sidebar of this post is the latest one. It was made by my ultra-talented friend at The Book Khaleesi

The content of my self-help manual has remained the same. However, some readers might be more inclined to purchase my work if they see the newer cover. It pops. It makes you want to read more. Right? (Hint! Hint!)

Alright. That’s enough of an extended analogy, and a plug for my book. Let’s move on to judging people by their exteriors. One person in particular…

Ulysses S. Grant

This man is a towering figure in U.S. history. Here’s what most school children know:
  • 18th President of the United States
  • 4-star general
  • Commanding General of the Union Army for the last part of the Civil War
  • Accepted the surrender of Confederate Commanding General, Robert. E. Lee, at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865

I learned some facts that we don’t learn in school from this educational series. Grant was underestimated (judged by his cover) in many ways. Here are two examples:

  • He was an expert equestrian, and almost a horse whisperer, from his childhood. At the age of 11, his father insisted that he try to ride a circus horse that “could not be tamed”. He succeeded. The horse couldn’t buck him off. The owner of the act was furious, so he put a monkey on the horse to distract it. Grant still kept his seat on the horse. Who would expect such skill in a pre-teen?
  • His height wasn’t so towering. Grant was only 5’1”. (Who knew?!) He was bullied even at West Point Military Academy. An aggressor beat him three times. However, Grant practiced his skills. He also studied the strengths and weaknesses of the other young man. When the two fought for the fourth time, Grant won. That guy never bothered him again.
My Conclusion

Naturally, there are plenty of quotes outside the Bible about going beyond appearances. Here are a few that I found through Google Images:

“Don’t judge a book by it cover. It’s what’s inside that counts.”
“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”
“If you judge a book by its cover, you might miss an amazing story.”

Do you look beyond the exterior?

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