I saw this and thought I should buy the book — Kate Christensen’s novel The Great Man — just because I liked the cover. As an experiment, I deliberately did not scan the contents or read the blurbs on the back. The title isn’t very descriptive either. I then bought the book.
My thought was this: presumably the publisher designs the cover to
appeal to people who will spread favorable word of mouth about the
book. As a sometimes good (but non-reductionist) Bayesian, if I like
the cover I should infer I will praise the book. Furthermore I should
be especially keen to buy on this basis for a "word of mouth book," and
indeed this author does not have a celebrity name.
If I like the cover *a lot*, can I receive a worse evaluation by
checking out the blurbs and thus skewing or minimizing my gut reaction
to the image? Surely if someone is able to manipulate me, my optimal
strategy is let just some of the manipulative information through. The
case for viewing the cover — and only the cover — is simply that many
more people see the cover than evaluate any other part or aspect of the
book. Might we then not expect the cover to be the strongest and best
thought out signal?
I can now report that the topic of the book interests me greatly,
and I am enjoying the first half of the book. I fully expect to finish
I will continue this experiment by buying another book just for its cover.
I do understand that this is usually considered the strategy of a relatively stupid person.
Under what conditions should a smart person prefer books with stupid or ugly covers?
Under what conditions should you — for non-superficial reasons — prefer other items, just because of their looks?