Can you judge a book by its cover? I am not going to attempt to answer that question directly, but instead will tell you how I came by my dog. I have always wanted a dog, although as a child I was petrified of them. All that changed when I found myself sitting next to a huge German Sheperd at dog show being held at my school. He looked like he would eat me whole, but looks were clearly deceiving because all he did was lie on his back waiting for someone to tickle his tummy. From that day forward I was hooked and vowed that one day I would have one of those monsters.
Growing into a responsible adult I realised owning a dog was a huge responsibility, and not something to be taken lightly, so it was many years of cogitating before I found myself driving to a farm in Farringdon where a litter of Border Terrier puppies had been born. I had been told that Border’s were the German Shepherds of the Terrier breed and thus figured I was on to a winner: Compact, intelligent, a quick learner, and unlikely to take up too much space on the sofa.
Having been offered pick of the litter the breeder wanted me to choose early. They were five days old! It was my first voyage into puppy rearing and I had no idea what to look out for. Despite months of research, all I could remember was, “Whatever you do don’t choose the runt.” I chose the runt.
One of a litter of five, Tarka was half the size of his siblings, a tiny little scrap that looked more like a hamster than a dog. The breeder warned me that my choice of pup was unlikely to survive because he was so small and had already needed the vet’s attention. It wasn’t a good start. Yet, as he climbed over his brother and three sisters to get to the best teat under his mum’s arm, I could see he was a fighter. Praying for his survival as I left, I felt a familiar nudge, “Don’t judge by outward appearances.” So I didn’t, and Tarka has never looked back.
A convenient analogy for not making hasty decisions based on initial impressions alone? Very probably. But can this theory be applied when deciding on what book to buy? Probably not. Well not with me anyway because I am always attracted to a book by its cover. Then I take a quick glance at the book’s title. If they both work for me I will then take the book off the shelf (or click over if it’s an e-book) to check out the back cover. If I’m not already scanning the rest of the shelf by then, I will select a random page to see if I can engage easily with the writer’s style. It has been a practiced approach which has proved a useful guideline when it came to getting my own book ready for publishing.
It would be a flippant observer that would say choosing a book is like choosing a dog because what you see isn’t always what you are going to get. But putting some effort into making a good first impression will usually result in a sale. It certainly worked in Tarka’s case anyway.