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Even though we’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” that’s exactly what most of us do. That first glance decides whether or not we pick up the book and peek inside. So it’s crucial that authors choose book covers that convince readers to do just that!

This principle applies to both physical books and ebooks. When nonfiction author Greg Cayea wrote a book to sell on Amazon, and he used a PickFu poll aimed at nonfiction readers to figure out which cover won them over.

Option A shows a traveler walking along a path that winds through a bright orange background. Option B shows the same traveler at the edge of a blue-sea beach.

Can you guess which one won?

And the winner is…Option A! Option A won with a score of 52 to Option B’s 48, so the race was close. (If you’re interested, learn how to interpret ties and close results in your PickFu poll here)

Let’s find out why Option A won.

Sex still sells

One male respondent summed it up best: In Option A, “Sex [is] at the top of the page.” That word’s prominence, along with the bright orange, would convince him to buy the book on Amazon.

Funnily enough, a female respondent also noticed the word “sex” on Option B’s cover: “I like the blue cover better, the description has ‘sex’ and what better place to set a scenario than the beach.”

It seems no matter the cover, sex still sells. But the word catches reader attention faster if it’s at the top of the page, even before the main title.

A vintage look is pleasing to the eye

Many respondents liked Option A’s orange and tan cover, saying it inspired a cozy vintage feeling for them. One respondent said the book cover would look good in her home, while another said “the orange, white and black color scheme reminds me of those retro book cover of the 1960s.”

Others added that the orange and tan reminded them of different, exciting times and evoked feelings of mystery and adventure.

A winding path is more hopeful than an ocean

While both covers feature a backpack-clad traveler, Option A’s winding path appealed to many respondents.

One female said, “The figure on option B appears to be at the end of a road, almost as if he is walking into the ocean. It’s much more foreboding, whereas choice A is much more of a hopeful look.”

Since the book’s title implies adventure and mystery, Option A’s winding path fits that idea better than the traveler’s journey ending at the ocean.

Key takeaways

If sex is going to be a main part of your nonfiction book, put the word near the top of the cover so that it catches reader attention.

And if adventure is vital to your story, think about how to evoke a sense of energy, life, and even nostalgia on your cover. Option A’s winding path and bright orange background accomplish these goals.

To test which nonfiction book cover makes readers judge your book in a good way, try using split testing to create your own PickFu poll. Target your poll to a specific audience, such as a group of nonfiction readers, to gain super-specific feedback!


Laura Melchor

Laura Ojeda Melchor (she/her) is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in,, Gardener’s Path, and of course, PickFu. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle-grade novel, Missing Okalee, was published in the fall of 2021 by Shadow Mountain Publishing. Find her online at

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