While I was hunting around for the next Saturday Book Discussion topic, calico_reaction provided me with one in her review of Mystery of the Tempest. Specifically, her comments on the cover:
We're just hangin' at the pool after our Bible Studies meeting...
Apparently, Mystery of the Tempest is actually a gay YA romance novel. I am the most non-graphically designing non-graphic designer who should never design graphics, and I can tell that the graphic design for this cover sucks. calico_reaction is exactly right, it looks like it's targeted at grade schoolers. In Sunday school. Except someone thought a cute blonde hanging onto a bare-chested hunk would go well on the cover of a Bible Studies book for grade schoolers who want to read gay YA romance. Whoever designed this should have her Mac and her Photoshop license ritually burned and scattered in the ocean.
I totally judge books by their covers. That is, I will often make a decision to buy or not buy a book based on the cover.
Yes, yes, I know, authors have little to no control over the covers (often they don't even get to choose the book's title). And the cover usually has nothing to do with what's inside (sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it's a terrible shame), let alone the quality of the writing. But I'm still a sucker for good marketing in the form of graphic design when it comes to books: if a cover catches my eye and makes me think "Hey, that looks pretty cool," I will at least check the book out. And for those who think covers don't matter, just remember that publishers have spent plenty of money studying what works and what doesn't and concluded differently.
This is especially an issue with ebooks. Gorgeous Michael Whelan covers that work well at catching the eye on a bookshelf do not work so well in an online bookstore where people are browsing a screen full of 115×115 pixel images. At that size, a painting of a fantasy landscape with dragons and horses and stuff becomes a smudge of color. So ebooks have to have covers that are sharp and eye-catching but not too crowded and still look good when reduced to postage stamp sizes.
The iconic Hunger Games covers are a good example. Simple graphic art, but an immediately identifiable style and imagery:
I hate Twilight as much as any other literate sapient, but let's face it, the cover is brilliant: simple, evocative, moody, and stylish.
There are also covers that immediately grab the target audience:
Obviously for fans of extensively researched literary historical fiction with a particular interest in the political evolution of Great Britain.
I mean, let's face it, nobody really cares about the story in these books, but the cover tells you everything you need to know about what you're gonna get, and therefore serves its purpose.
What the hell is this book about? My first thought is that it's retelling Carrie as a YA romance. Obviously, I am not the target audience, but the visual imagery is strong and eye-catching.
Bow before my prom dress, bitches!
Then there are those that just plain fail to appeal to anyone except a very narrow target audience. I have heard that Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon series is supposed to be pretty good and not at all like the squeeful Harry/Draco slashfic she used to write, but these covers are the reason why I, as a non-squeeing, non-slashfic-reading straight male, will never, ever read these books:
I don't care what you say about "bountiful thunder," Scott Westerfield, all I see is a pretty boy with soft kissable lips.
Okay, seriously? You couldn't do better than a Photoshopped chick in a nightgown dancing in Photoshopped blue flames?
Books lucky enough to be printed (and reprinted, and reprinted) get a new cover each time, which means it can be fun sorting through different editions on Goodreads to see all the different covers that exist for a classic book.
One of my favorite books, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, has had a ton of covers printed over the years. None of them really tell you much about the book (but then, no cover could).
The first edition of John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale is, let's face it, a boring, bland, generic sci-fi cover. Check out the first edition, below, and then the more recent one, and tell me which one actually looks interesting?
Covers around the world
Books printed in other countries get different covers. Presumably the local publisher has an idea of what sort of covers work for that country. You can see an extensive list of international Harry Potter covers here. I particularly like the Swedish and Danish ones.
Here are the US and German editions of John Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation:
The Polish edition of The Crying of Lot 49. Still no clue.
And here you can find the top ten foreign Pride and Prejudice covers.
Bad covers! Bad!
No round-up of book covers could be complete without a sampling of really, really bad covers. Check the links below for some horrendous examples. (Warning: Some may require eye bleach after viewing!)
The best place to start (and by "best," of course I mean, "...if you want to get sucked into following link after link down an endless rabbit-hole") is always, of course, TVTropes: Contemptible Covers.
(And though it's for a roleplaying game, my vote for most contemptible cover ever is this. (Warning: What has been seen cannot be unseen!)
Finding bad SF and fantasy covers is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, especially when you look at the psychedelic 60s, but Good Show Sir definitely deserves a bookmark for bringing the best of the worst.
Judge a Book By its Cover is a blog devoted to book cover snarking. (Unfortunately, she seems to have stopped updating.)
20 Bad Book Covers That Should Be Movies
Unfortunate Book Covers.
Mega-Bad Book Covers.
Good book covers.
And now to undo some of the damage, here are a few of my favorite book covers.
Poll #1796330 Book covers
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 63
Do book covers matter to you?
|I don't pay attention to book covers at all|
|They don't affect me much unless the cover is so awful I'd be embarrassed to be seen with it in public|
|I have been known to buy (or avoid) a book because of its cover|
|Covers will make or break a book for me: if the cover doesn't appeal, I'm probably not going to read it|
Previous Saturday Book Discussions.