Book Cover Quiz–with Takeaway

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Buzzfeed put together a book cover quiz that is entitled, “The Hardest Book Cover Quiz You’ll Ever Take.”  Not one easily daunted by a little challenge, I immediately set about taking the quiz.

One aspect of the test that I really liked is that it’s a great tool to learn what makes for a strong book cover. Before reading more of my post, I’d suggest you hop over to Buzzfeed here and take the quiz. Then come back, and let’s talk about it. And compare scores!

…What did you think? The hardest cover quiz you’ve ever taken?Cat in the Hat Right

When I saw the first set of covers, The Cat in the Hat, I was startled at their similarity. I recalled taking IQ tests as a kid in which you pick one graphic out of a bunch of almost lookalikes. And that’s really what this quiz is about–picking out subtle differences in designs. Eventually, since I hadn’t read all these books (and I’m pretty sure the version of Catcher in the Rye that I read as middle-schooler had a different cover), I started picking the cover that I thought was the stronger of the two, in hopes the publisher and I agreed. To be clear, the publishers most likely didn’t have these sets of covers to make their decisions. But sometimes cover choices really do come down to small variations.

We’ll get to how I did on the quiz in a minute. But before I reveal my score, I want to use this quiz to examine what makes a cover, even with minor adjustments, work well.

For Boy Snow Bird, I chose the cover on the left because I thought the snake insinuating itself around the letters made for a more interesting design and also suggested a touch of danger in that slithering creature. Turns out that was the cover design chosen. The other cover seems flat in comparison, with the images layered on top of each other rather than interconnecting.

For the Tampa cover, I chose the one on the right because the title is bolder in black than in pink. It’s important for a title’s cover to be easily read, even from a bit of distance in a bookstore. I happened to pick correctly.

I missed A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, picking the cover on the right because I thought having the first “A” upside down was asking too much of the reader. Apparently the publishing team didn’t agree with me. Looking at the covers again, I can see, from a designerly eye, that the odd “A” actually balances the other words in the title better. Little details can make a larger impact than one would think.

With the American Psycho choices, I went with the yellow tie version. I thought the red tie didn’t highlight the yellow lines in the rest of the graphic. So I chose the version that I thought worked better artistically. Bingo! Got that one right.

Several of the covers had such minor differences, I honestly couldn’t figure out which one the publisher selected. For those, I went with the one that seemed to have the greatest clarity of lines and color. What elements did you use to make a choice?

Wolf Hall’s cover was a bit of a guess for me. I knew I needed to choose the one with the Tudor rose, but I couldn’t recall what color that would be. I happily selected the one on the right. I appreciate that the designer went with a subtle image to say “Tudor.” Every image on a cover must convey an idea about the book or evoke an emotion that matches the content.

For Catch 22, I pondered awhile before selecting the cover on the left. I chose it because I thought the airplane was more subtle and could easily be missed–sort of like a sly joke–which matched the tone of the book. I guessed correctly!

To Kill a Mockingbird needed a bird on the cover, I figured. Turns out many editions do portray a bird in a tree–but not the 50th edition, which this is the cover for. Missed this one. I still think I made the best choice, though.

For A Clockwork Orange, I went with the orange background cover. I thought it made for a more startling cover and therefore was a better match to the book’s content. I was right.

With The Luminaries, I chose the torn edges of the images rather than the clean-cut version. To me, it gave more a feel of luminaries and the fuzzy edges of the story. The designer and I saw this the same way.

Catching Fire’s better cover was, in my opinion, the one with the white title. I thought it made the title pop more. Once again, I made my choice based on the title standing out most graphically. Turns out that was the correct choice.

With Half of a Yellow Sun, I had a hard time choosing. The cover on the left made the title easier to read, but it didn’t make sense to me that a cover about a yellow sun would have such cool colors. I didn’t care for the cover on the right because the yellow yarn made the “Half” hard to read. But I went with that one. I thought I was selecting between two not-the-best covers. The publisher chose the one on the right as well.

For Catcher in the Rye, I went with the cover in which Salinger’s name is black. I thought it made the name stand out more and tied in nicely with the black lines in the cover. Apparently the publisher agreed.

Citizen’s cover is a puzzler. I couldn’t find a version of it that stated it was a New York Times bestseller. So I don’t know which is the correct choice. I went with the one on the right because I figured the publisher would want to position the book’s bestseller status in one of the first places our eye goes on a page–the upper right-hand corner. What are your thoughts?

I couldn’t find NW by Zadie Smith with an edition using either cover design presented. I chose the one on the right because I thought the yellow was used more effectively.

With The Bell Jar I chose the cover on the right since I thought the one on the left had too much pink. Plus, once again, the white lettering caused the title to stand out more. The publisher also gave that design the thumbs up.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants‘ cover was one I selected based on memory. I thought I recalled the one on the right was the correct cover. Yes-s-s! On a closer look, I think artistically it’s the right choice, too. The hand “points” up to the first letters of the title, actually leading the reader’s eye to the most important part of the cover. The design on the left doesn’t utilize that subtle but powerful graphic technique.

My score was 18 of 22.

How did you do? What did you learn about how to look at covers as a result of the quiz? Do you disagree with some of the publishers’ choices?


Take the toughest book cover quiz ever and see why choices were made. Click to tweet.

Check out how small differences in a book cover can make all the difference. Click to tweet.