First impressions are everything. This is especially important with book covers. I know, I know. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Name me a blogger/reviewer/avid reader that doesn’t and I’ll start eating pages from my copy of Twilight. We all do it because aside from the blurb, it’s the first thing that where a reader can get an idea on what the book is about. Put an awesome cover on a book and just sit back and watch bloggers/reviewers drool over it for months before the release. Case and point, Jay Kristoff’s debut novel, Stormdancer, had a little over 1,000 “adds” before the cover was revealed. Afterwards, the number practically doubled in a very short amount of time. There is just something about seeing a badass cover that screams, “Read me!” What’s found in those beautifully crafted covers, well… that’s another story.
Recently, I read an article that questioned the popularity of YA book covers, which I found grossly over generalized YA bloggers. Now, I realize that not all authors have the privilege of giving input on how their covers come out and that by itself sucks. But not all of us are drawn to the same old “I’m a pretty white girl in a gown. Love me!” cover. So that got me thinking a bit. What really makes me say, “AWW YEAH!” or “AWW HELL NAW!” when I look at a cover? I know my standards for novels are pretty high, but I think I’m easy to please when it comes to covers. Unfortunately, we can’t all be winners. Sometimes we lose before we even begin. In my not-so-professional opinion here are my five reasons why I think your cover sucks:
*Please note: The awful covers shown are not real and were created using a few stock photos by Kat.
I really hate to say this, but there are some covers that just make me wonder what the hell went wrong in Photoshop. I mean, come on! If you or the marketing department couldn’t even attempt to make it look nice and smooth or at least non-creepy, why should I spend my hard-earned cash money on it? A cover should look aesthetically pleasing to the eye and have a clear message. It should NOT make me cringe and scream, “Kill it with fire!”
*Image source found here.
2. Haven’t I seen this before?
Copycats. Nobody likes them, but they’re all around us. This is a more recent pet-peeve of mine, but it’s becoming incredibly annoying! This doesn’t necessarily mean the cover looks bad, however, I just find it kinda lazy and cheap when I see a book published by a big publishing house with a cover that is eerily similar to another book. I’m talking about them using the same stock image. Really? Really?! No one could check and make sure the photo hadn’t already been used?
*Image source found here.
3. Cover Fraud!
I don’t know how everyone else feels about this one, but I absolutely hate when a cover has tricked me into believing the book is going to be about one thing, but it’s almost the exact opposite. I know that most of the time the person who is in charge of the cover generally has not read the book. Really, I get it. But can it please be in the ball park? Can you please not feature a kick-ass, warrior girl on the cover, yet she’s nothing but a damsel in distress? Do not give her a sword when all she does his hide and wait for the bad guys to go away. Again, this doesn’t mean it’s a terrible cover design-wise (though it can be), but it is false advertisement. Couldn’t they have simply asked the author, “Hey before we go throwing random stuff on your cover, is it even in the book?” Why waste a reader’s time and money? Do you want an angry review?
Or how about when the cover is completely over-sexualized–when it already had a previous (better) cover–just in hopes to sell more copies to young girls. When a girl is supposed to be depicted as a strong female, why do we have to “sex her up?” Do marketing execs think a girl on the cover of a novel can’t sell unless she is objectified in some way? Can she not hold her own without her sexuality being flaunted in my face?
4. Just another pretty girl in a dress. I hate dresses.
This is a huge one for me and kind of goes hand in hand with reason number three. I’m just so tired of seeing girl after girl (in a dress) on the cover of almost every YA novel (even adult) I read. Yes, they are pretty, but can we get creative? Can the cover symbolize something like a metaphor found in the book? Or perhaps even a scene from the book? It’s not an issue of sales because two of the biggest YA series out right now both feature metaphorical covers.
The article I mentioned earlier accused bloggers of contributing to the issue of spreading unattainable society expectations by loving covers with pretty girls. This is a bit unfair. Readers are not vain, shallow people whose minds can’t wrap around a cover that would make you go, “Hmmm…” Just by looking at both The Hunger Games’ and Twilight’s cover I can remember not having any clue as to why those covers were chosen. It drew me in because I wanted to find out for myself what it stood for. With a pretty girl in a dress, sure it may look really beautiful, but it’s not really saying anything to me about the story other than, “Hey, hey! Look at me! I’m desperate for attention!” As much as I hate Twilight’s story, I can’t deny that I love that cover. Not because it’s the most beautiful, but because it’s interesting. I would love for more publishers to trust a reader’s own discernment instead of relying on her own insecurities to sell books.
I don’t think there is any other reason that annoys me more than white washing. You know what I mean. Skinny, Caucasian girl on the cover and a Black/Asian/Latino/ect. in the pages. Don’t tell me it’s better marketing. Don’t tell me this is what will sell better. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. It’s a slap in the face and it’s down right insulting. A minority finally makes it into a traditionally published, YA novel as the heroine and we can’t even show it on the cover? What’s the issue? You couldn’t find a minority for the photo shoot, so you “cultured” a Caucasian girl?
I know everyone was shocked at the outcry for Amandla Stenberg’s backlash as being cast for Rue in The Hunger Games movie, but color me not surprised. People were appalled to learn their beloved Rue was indeed a Black girl. It’s not hard to have predicted that when the books that actually have people featured on the covers are more than likely Caucasian. There have been a few examples over the years that include two blunders by Bloomsbury: Liar by Justine Larbalestier and Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore. In both of those instances, after enough protesting, the original covers that depicted a Caucasian girl was changed to a Black girl. (I’d also like to point out that whenever a Black girl does happen to grace a cover, she is almost always portrayed with a lighter brown complexion and finer hair.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there because both Across the Universe by Beth Revis (explained here) and The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (protagonist is of Japanese descent) suffer from this.
So, no. I don’t always like the pretty little covers, with their pretty little girls, in their pretty little dresses, going to their pretty little tea parties. Sometimes my reasons for loving a cover go deeper than that because I am a critical and analytical thinker. So if you wonder why a reader couldn’t grasp the brilliance behind your “unique” cover, they probably have their reasons. The simplest one being: