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A crime novelist used PickFu to test two cover designs for his book Whiskey Devils. The respondent pool consisted of 50 people drawn from the general population. Option A featured an orange backdrop with bullet holes and gunsmoke and an evocative illustration of a hand transforming into a gun. Option B featured a subdued and elegant photograph of two shot glasses filled with whiskey on a dimly lit bar top. The publisher asked two questions of respondents: “Which cover is more enticing and eye-catching for a crime novel? Which makes you want to read further?”

Which book cover do you think our general population audience selected? Give it your best guess, then read the poll results here.

And the winner is…

Our test panel tied down the middle in their opinions of the two book cover designs, a perfect 50-50 split. Respondents offered a wide variety of reasons for their choices. Almost a third of Option A voters cited the finger gun or the gun imagery as pivotal in their choice, while supporters of Option B used words such as professional, classy, and sophisticated.

Muddled confusion

Because the poll author asked two questions, respondents were puzzled as to which book cover design they should choose – the one they thought was most eye-catching, or the one that made them want to read the book? Some respondents clearly voted on the basis of which cover they found more eye-catching, while others used language implying or stating that the question about reading further was their primary motivator.

This common mistake is a polling bias known as asking a double-barreled question. Questions of this nature rarely produce reliable results because respondents only react to the question that is most meaningful to them. Learn how to write unbiased poll questions. A less biased question might have been, “Which book cover is more enticing to you?” or “Which book cover makes you more curious to read this crime novel?”

Do it better yourself

Read our best practices for testing book covers, then create your own PickFu poll here.


Robert Hayes

Robert Hayes is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Colorado.

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