Judging a Book by Its Cover

The English idiom “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” has several meanings, one being you can’t make assumptions about the inside of something by only seeing the surface. It wasn’t until after I saw my book cover that I realized how much this idiom had driven my thoughts on its appearance. Now I have to give credit where it is due, as my publisher came up with the design while I only contributed some images and ideas.

Originally I wanted a photo of a horse running, thinking back to covers of the great horse novels such as The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, and National Velvet. My publisher instead suggested a close-up photo of a horse’s face.  Okay…he’s the boss. Then he wanted to use a photo of a young girl, and on this one I didn’t in give as easily.

I had several reasons for not wanting to include a photo of Sadie, the protagonist, on the cover, but most importantly, the old idiom came to mind. One of my favorite parts of reading includes creating the characters in my mind’s eye. I wanted my readers to imagine their own Sadie, not have someone else’s creation of her delivered on the cover. Even my mother commented to me about the lack of physical description of my main character when she read the book. I explained to her that I really wanted people to have their own ideas about what someone like Sadie on the inside might look like from the outside.

Hopefully you’ve taken a peek at the cover by now, attached here, and also available at www.believinginhorses.com. Look carefully — to quote another old idiom, there may be “more than meets the eye.”


  1. Love, Love, Love the cover!!!!! It is absolutely perfect for the story! and you couldnt of hit it more on the spot with the sillouette of sadie and the horse….I really like your idea of people forming their own vision of what Sadie looks like….so many times when I read a book and then see the movie afterwards….the images in the movie cannot compete with my imagination and the book always wins over as the best of the two! 🙂

  2. Love the cover and is truly reflective of how a teenager saw something more in every individual horse; as well as learning more about the wonderful people surrounding her and their support.

    Happy New Year indeed and look forward to the 2011 publication!

  3. “Eye” also love the last line of your post, Valerie!

    The idiom is true, that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I am encouraged by the responses here. The first instinct was to create a “classic” looking cover, along the lines of those great classics that Valerie has mentioned. Growing up, it was those books that opened my imagination to the world of horses.

    Of course, the publishing world has changed since then and most modern books do not have the classic design that many of us grew up with. In creating this cover, we wanted a modern look, but a modern look that hung on to the beauty and mystery of some of those classics. We wanted a visual that would invite the reader in, but not give too much away. We wanted to show Lucky, but in a unique way. We wanted to show Sadie, but not show her enough to overshadow anyone’s imagined image of her. Both horse and girl are largely left to the imagination of the reader.

    I am particularly inspired by what Mr. eGuest said:

    “My favorite reason for loving the book cover concerns the “hidden” reflection of the youngster in the horse’s eye. Who is it? Is it a youngster? A boy? A girl? Sadie or Austin? I reflected upon this, as any good reader would, and then it occurred to me that I had come to see MYSELF in the eye”

    A good story is one that draws the reader in and makes him or her a part of it. I believe the cover is a reflection of the story. If people can see themselves in the eye on the cover, than I certainly believe they will see themselves in the story – the story of a 12-year-old girl who makes a difference that any man, woman or child can relate to and be inspired by.

    You might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but I believe this cover successfully reflects the story inside, and leaves just enough to the imagination to make the story the reader’s own.

    Jonathan Boudin, ……AKA the boss 😉
    JB Max Publ.

    • Thanks, boss!

      I also wanted to provide a quick note about “Riki” below. I “met” Riki via JacketFlap, a resource for writers, editors, and publishers. Riki is one of our nations heroes, having served two deployments to Iraq, and getting ready for his third deployment. Two books, two deployments, and starting on his third of each. I salute you, Riki, for all you are doing. Stay safe.

  4. “Eye” love that last line!
    I can understand why you wouldn’t want to attach Sadie to one particular image. Because you want any little girl to imagine she could be Sadie and by putting a close-up of ANY girl on the cover inevitable someone would have ended up feeling left out.

    I had originally thought of doing the same thing with my own characters where I wanted to focus solely on their personalities, but I suppose I began to spend so much time around them that they eventually became real enough to me that each had a distinctive description. So, I made a little compromise. I gave each a physical image and description as my mind envisioned it but at the same time decided that I would make them change on the outside as well as on the inside.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I tried to find a balance in presenting my own image of them while at the same time leaving readers with enough room to create their own mental images of the characters. I think that’s why in the end I went with the half-face close ups. And, it helps too that my artwork is still “abstract” enough (as in, not all that great!) that my characters have not been pegged down to one particular image. The Harry Potter movies come to mind.

    Look forward to more of your blogs! I love digging into books for meaning. If you don’t mind later, I’d even like to share an excerpt on my own take on horses as portrayed in my books. Riki.

  5. Mr. eGuest Says:

    I’ve been reflecting upon this wonderful book’s cover. I like the fact that it is unlike the other book covers in our minds or on the shelf. The publisher probably does, too! I appreciate the art for other reasons as well. One is just for the reason you stated about the protagonist but it applies to Lucky as well. Although vivid descriptions of Lucky are defined in the book, this cover indicates that there is more to be revealed about this hero (and there is!) in later books.

    I, as a reader, like to make my own mind pictures about the characters, too. You, the author, have done a superb job helping with that, too. Of course, I had my own imagery working (Sadie looked like my sister when she had her first horse) until running into a girl at work named Sadie, who was of a different race than “my” Sadie. Wow! It was then that I realized how “open” the text was in regard to leaving it up to the readers’ mind’s eye to visualize their own lead character- or “EveryGirl.”

    Speaking of the mind’s eye… My favorite reason for loving the book cover concerns the “hidden” reflection of the youngster in the horse’s eye. Who is it? Is it a youngster? A boy? A girl? Sadie or Austin? I reflected upon this, as any good reader would, and then it occurred to me that I had come to see MYSELF in the eye.

    “Eye” got it! It IS a reflection… of the reader!

    • Thank you, Mr. eGuest. Since you one of the few people who have read the book pre-publication, I appreciate your thoughts and comments on this topic.