They say don't judge a book by its cover, which usually means if someone is physically ugly that doesn't mean that they are not pretty inside. Of course, the reverse is also true. The pretty can be ugly. But for this post I'm not really talking about people. I'm taking it literally. I'm talking books.
Now, I don't know about you, but condensing the quality of around 100,000 words into one cover image which encapsulates the contents seems like a tough task. Yet its essential for publishers to achieve this to get the book from the shelf into someone's hands. Once there, other things can come into play: like the actual quality of the writing. But the springboard for the sale is the cover. Which begs the question, why are many of them so bad?
Branding comes into it, of course. Take the world's current obsession with "Fifty Shades of Grey". A novel which almost doesn't need a cover in order to be sold (copies are 'literally' walking out of the stores), but something ambiguous is needed rather than graphic for this subject matter. And it helps that all three covers of the trilogy look the same: