Submitted by glister_and_gold t3_123jhaf in books

I’m very much the type of person who judges a book by it’s cover. Book cover design is also a career I’m interested in entering at some point, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a great cover.

My answer to this would be the covers of Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Duet. Two of my favorite books of all time, with covers by people who appear not even to have read the summaries. I am referring specifically to the covers that are half views of womens’ faces.



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MorriganJade t1_jduub6o wrote

Most of Lolita's covers are maybe not ugly but just not good for the story, with a young girl on the cover which Nabokov explicitly said he didn't want (there's even one of a girl biting an apple, like the forbidden fruit, happily, which is so not the point of the book), or there's the Everymans library one with a fairly ugly picture of Nabokov on the cover which, without knowing makes you think that's Humbert. I managed to find one with a plain blue cover


glister_and_gold OP t1_jduw65e wrote

“I want pure colors, melting clouds, accurately drawn details, a sunburst above a receding road with the light reflected in furrows and ruts, after rain. And no girls.” His description of the cover he wanted was so eloquent. I really wish someone had done that.

I think my favorite existing cover was the one with a man’s shoe stepping in discarded bubblegum, by Yuko Shimizu. It gave me instant insight into the book’s themes.


MorriganJade t1_jduxjne wrote

I haven't seen that one but I've seen a concept one that was never made with a lollipop smashed on the ground that was really good


SmolPandas t1_je9jnt6 wrote

this is how the prose of lolita feels to me. i would love that cover


Ayjayyyx t1_jdvbtpp wrote

Yep, I just have the orange penguin cover. It only has lettering which is best for this type of book.


stone_and_fury t1_jdya80u wrote

The Lolita podcast by Jamie Loftus features an episode that goes into detail about all the various covers. The podcast as a whole is excellent.


Nithuir t1_jdutp01 wrote

I swear it's a rule, if the main character is a woman, that's what goes on the cover and she has to be sexy and look nothing like the author's description. If the MC is a man, the cover gets to be something plot related, an action scene or a dragon or something.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jduuuea wrote

It drives me nuts. I love fantasy and romance novels and I can’t tell you how many feminist works are hidden behind poorly done photoshops of sexy women. Most authors don’t get a say in the cover design, unfortunately.

My illustration class in college visited a man who did book covers for fantasy works and it was just awful. He said he refused to read any part of the book (it would get in the way of his “creativity”), only begrudgingly read the summary they sent him, and never asked questions about things like the appearance of the protagonist, the setting, or anything else. He was super proud of this and told us that he did what he wanted and they just had to deal with it.

Unsurprisingly, all of his work was, while highly technically accomplished, extremely bland and lacked anything unique about the books he was painting for. It was basically generic fantasy background, generic fantasy man, or generic fantasy woman.


AverageTurky t1_jdv3em5 wrote

Good lord. He sounds exceptionally arrogant for someone only doing the bare minimum to keep being commissioned.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdv6ixs wrote

He was awful, which tracks because that professor was a similar kind of awful and they were friends. We did a book cover design project for that class and she complimented someone for not making the black people she drew too dark skinned. (Yep, she got reported by a lot of people.)


GeorgeBarretWriter t1_jdyqh4g wrote

I agree. I think an author should have more say about the cover.

Such as my book, “The Sanguine Elf”, in which I worked with the cover artist in order to get the leading lady of the story to be as accurate as possible. As far as the sexy factor, I’m not sure if there is that because the expression on her face is so sullen and sad and full of resentment of her fate.

If you’d like, I can show it to you.


yallscrazy t1_jdw0b6z wrote

It can't possibly have anything to do with women being more social than men and men being more object oriented.....


Dida_D t1_jduvk33 wrote

Rebecca is incredible and has literally never been widely published with a suitably incredible cover. It looks like a cheesy romance novel. 😞


glister_and_gold OP t1_jduwzl9 wrote

I’ll have to read this! The cover on the wikipedia page is so ugly. I’m not seeing much that’s better in google images.


dgtssc t1_jdvlghk wrote

Every great book that gets adapted to a movie/series and then they use the posters from the adaptations as book covers.


Narge1 t1_jdw62l5 wrote

I specifically ordered a copy of I Am Legend without Will Smith on the cover. Guess who was on the cover of the copy I received.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdvmlbd wrote

One of my great pet peeves as a child was when the book I was reading had the movie cover, because then you just knew in the center of the book was a bunch of spoiler filled glossy screencaps from the movie. Also, those were always the ugliest covers.


mooimafish33 t1_jdv907w wrote

The Expanse book covers are almost like too zoomed in. They just kind of look like vaguely sci fi nothing.

Like I've read the first 4 books so far and I'm still not exactly sure what the covers of each are supposed to be.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdvbdua wrote

After looking at the covers, all I can tell you is that these books involve spaceships. Possibly even space battles.


Painting_Agency t1_jdvlqf9 wrote

Incredibly vague spacey cover art is an SF staple, unfortunately. Even if it's a painting by one of the great SF illustrators, you get something like this:

That does not tell me much, no.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdvmdwk wrote

I honestly believe covers should be like a vibe synopsis, if that makes sense. The summary on the back tells you what the book is about, but you should be able to look at a cover and identify the zeitgeist of the book.


Autarch_Kade t1_jdzztyp wrote

The covers are why I put off reading them for years. I thought anyone who hates colorblind people that much as to make their titles almost unreadable doesn't deserve my dollar.


Pnkrkg6644 t1_jdvr0iu wrote

I recently read and LOVED Lessons in Chemistry. But the cover was such a turn off I almost didn’t- it looks like an awful chick-lit beach read, and it’s actually an excellent and well written book full of outstanding characters, humor, lots of science and a great plot. I’ve been recommending it to others, but always feel I have to give a warning about the cover and not to judge by it. One of the most egregious graphic design fails I’ve seen I think.


carolina_on_my_mind t1_jdy5gnt wrote

This is exactly what I thought of! I do judge books by their covers and held off reading that one for a while because of the cover. The cover is eye-catching, but it does not reflect the substance of the story. Plus Elizabeth’s whole thing was that she didn’t want to be written off for being a woman, and to me, it feels like the cover reduces her to her physical attractiveness.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdvy7d2 wrote

I just went to look that up, and it’s now on my reading list. The nyt article is cracking me up - apparently Garmus actually got hatemail by readers who were expecting a romance novel.


Pnkrkg6644 t1_jdyhqdk wrote

That’s amazing. I hate tidy romance stories so this book was great for me, but I can absolutely see why it would make someone expecting that furious 😂 Also… I really love this question and that it could directly impact your career. What a nice way to crowdsource something that most of us never think about.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdzmy77 wrote

I love trash romance (my only flaw) but I would never be upset if I thought I was reading romance and it turned out to be a hidden feminist gem.


timtamsforbreakfast t1_jdxp1cs wrote

The peach-coloured cover is so hideous. It looks like clip-art, and so you'd expect a poor quality book. Fortunately my local library has the multicoloured version instead.


Romoreau t1_jdyy68v wrote

It reminds me of corporate website clip art. A lot of newer US romance covers are like that and its so ugly and uninspired.


Electrical-Aside3023 t1_jdyfpuc wrote

Look at the UK cover. It's GORGEOUS. No idea why the US version is so awful.


Pnkrkg6644 t1_jdygo9t wrote

Just looked. Still feels annoyingly “girly” to me, but a HUGE leap better than the shit US cover.


Electrical-Aside3023 t1_jdyh31o wrote

I should mention that I haven't actually read this book (literally because I want to wait until I can purchase a copy with the alternate cover), so I can't speak too much on its relevance/if the tone is proper, I just really enjoy that cover.


ItsBoughtnotBrought t1_jdvpmnz wrote

The first edition of the American publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. Tolkien was not amused. The artist didn't read the book.


batikfins t1_jdwrfx0 wrote

I love that cover! It is so colourful, fantastical and fun. Emus? The goofy little snakes? The frog! Amazing.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdvx3xh wrote

It’s so bad, i’m actually laughing. I can’t imagine NOT wanting to read the books i’m designing covers for. That’s half the fun!


bros402 t1_jdwebsm wrote

what the... what the fuck is that cover


omicron7e t1_jdv2yo1 wrote

Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings series. Great books. Bad covers and titles.


BlacktailJack t1_jdwpg9t wrote

The original, heavily illustrated covers are perhaps the most generally attractive of the various editions (YMMV of course), in that they have fun color use and that old school 80's-90's paperback illustration vibe, but god they're so wildly inaccurate.

That blond white boy on the cover of all three books of the Fitz trilogy sure the hell isn't Fitz, who is described along with most of his family (>!excepting his mother!<) as having some shade of brown skin and dark hair. Nor is it the Fool, whom at that point has skin and hair that are literally white, and would be a thematically weird character to include on the cover with Nighteyes or Chade anyway (the latter is looking awfully pale himself, while we're at it.)


Reshutenit t1_jdwbfw8 wrote

I waited years to read them because the cover and title of the first one made me think it was generic YA. I've never been more wrong.


bros402 t1_jdwe7em wrote

yeah, I read them all in 2020 and holy crap were those books and titles bad


Ayjayyyx t1_jdz6926 wrote

Huh? The UK covers are absolutely gorgeous.


omicron7e t1_jdzun9e wrote

I would post some links, but Goodreads did a redesign that I can't figure out.


Glarbluk t1_jdv9zdv wrote

A lot of covers of Wheel of Time fit this description, but most particularly Lord of Chaos. It looks like the cover of a romance novel not some fantasy epic 6 books deep


yallscrazy t1_jdw0njm wrote

Is that the one with Rand in a Puffy white shirt that shows his whole chest and one of his harem next to him?


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdvbq4b wrote

A lot of classic fantasy covers are so beautiful and detailed, but then you read the book and they have nothing to do with the actual content. It’s a little funny.


bros402 t1_jdwehzj wrote

yesss Lord of Chaos's cover made me laugh my ass off when I saw it the first time


Painting_Agency t1_jdvl5hh wrote

"Saturn's Children" by Charles Stross. The cover isn't totally non-topical, but it really does not do the book justice. Stross himself has expressed frustration about it.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdvlzw7 wrote

It looks like a screencap from one of those sims 4 movies that teenagers love to make.


batikfins t1_jdwrvfq wrote

omg this is SO bad. I feel sorry for the author.


[deleted] t1_jdwbmy9 wrote

My brilliant friend series. Some of the best books I’ve ever read… and I recommend them with such sincerity when I talk to someone about books. But if they see the terrible cover, bam! I know they’re thinking something sappy/cheesy, like a bad romance novel. These books deserve better.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdwjp8u wrote

The default cover design for uncreative designers seems to be “cheesy romance novels”, based on the comments I’m seeing here. The actual genre does not appear to matter to them.


sukikov t1_jdz5p66 wrote

I used to hate them too but they’ve kind of grown on me. It’s like a little secret that the misleading cover contains within it. What do you think of the newer covers? I think they’re nice, trendy and eye catching. I love the little girl on the cover of MBF bc she actually looks like my childhood best friend.


[deleted] t1_jdz6yl6 wrote

Yes, so much better but I thought those covers are only for the Australian editions, I could be wrong. I like the cover based on the HBO series too… and I think the girls who played Lila and Elena on the show are great. It’s how I would have imagined them. I do recommend the show.


sukikov t1_jdz7hlx wrote

Oh! I thought they were everywhere, I’m in Europe and that’s what’s on the shelves. I haven’t seen the HBO tie in editions in the shops where I am though I think they are quite nice. I love the show!! Elena and Lila’s casting is beautiful you even forgive them for looking way too young in season 3 bc they are that good. Eagerly awaiting the next season!!


[deleted] t1_je1uecw wrote

I agree! I have so much to say about these books lol but hardly anyone to discuss it with :( And me too, the 4th book is probably my fav so I can’t wait to see it on screen.


BuckNutley t1_jdv82xs wrote

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Any copy I've seen looks like a romance novel, featuring two characters staring into each other's eyes.

In reality it's a Science Fiction book about human evolution and the government trying to weaponize it.

EDIT: My memory was a bit off. They aren't staring into each other's eyes...the man is behind the woman in a spooning kind of pose, and they both have their eyes closed as if they're about to start making out. It was worse than I remembered.

The book is like a far out, sci-fi action movie with depth and meaning and is great.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdv9fkd wrote

If it’s the one I’m thinking of, it’s bad even if it WAS for a romance novel.


deevulture t1_jdx4s6x wrote

A lot of scifi/fantasy or romance from the Aughts/early 10s had these cheap photoshop of generic pictures of hot people usually women and some other poor photoshoped plot important object thrown in for measure. Looked like it took all in all max 20 minutes to do. Chuck Tingle's book covers seem to riff on this trend


textmewhenyougethome t1_jdvm34a wrote

The original Throne of Glass series covers are atrocious. I was so glad they rereleased with new beautiful covers before I invested in the series.


Rose_Red2022 t1_jdw3okl wrote

Bimbos of the Death Sun, by Sharyn McCrumb. It's actually a murder mystery set at a local sci-fi convention. An engineering professor at the local university writes a novel as a thought experiment dealing with the effect sunspots have on a certain kind of computer circuit, which also has the unfortunate effect of destroying the intellects of the women on the station.

The author, Jay Omega, ends up selling it to a cheap paperback publishing house, who rename it Bimbos of the Death Sun, and the cover is as lurid as the name.

He spends the entire novel trying to keep his students from finding out he wrote it, and praying the Women in Engineering chapter on campus doesn't come after him for it.


Mad_Coffee_Party t1_jdxejju wrote

I mean, the cover varies depending on the publishing houses, right? My biggest surprise was East of Eden. Borrowed it from the central library about two years ago, it has a guy nonchalantly smoking a cigarette on its cover, I really didn't think it would become my fav book of all times back then. So the old saying " don't judge a book by its cover" holds true in this case


NebulaDragon32 t1_jduturd wrote

I wouldn't say terrible, but I'm not fond of the Shadow and Bone series's original covers. The new ones look SO much better. The only other book that comes to mind is The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and my only bone to pick with it is the yellow text on blue background.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jduveab wrote

Just went to look at both of those. The marbled look on the new Shadow and Bone designs are really pleasing, though I kind of like both of the designs. I agree on The Inexplicable Logic on My Life - i think maybe orange would have suited it better.


Mokamochamucca t1_jdvhusf wrote

I love to collect vintage/antique books and my favorite terrible cover that I own is for a copy of The Road Through The Wall by Shirley Jackson. It's about an upper middle class neighborhood where people are upset that a wall separating them from lower class homes will be torn down. There's also a mystery about a missing child. The cover shows a couple embracing with a tantalizing tag line "A married woman prowls the back streets!" It has almost nothing to do with the actual book and I fear anyone who picked it up based on the cover will believe it's some sort of romance when it definitely isn't.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdviwbt wrote

I just looked it up and if you told me the publisher accidentally sent the designer the wrong summary, I would believe you. That’s hilarious. It absolutely looks like a trashy novel about a cheating wife.


SFF_mello_99 t1_jdvwj9x wrote

I really love The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, but I don't like any of the covers it has been published with. The 2008 covers make the book look like it was bound in the 90s.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdzn91i wrote

I can’t even parse those covers, they’re so weird looking. Why are they neon green???


Dry-Establishment329 t1_jdzlm14 wrote

The Harry Potter books in Finnish. Some of the ugliest covers I have ever seen.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdznhkz wrote

They’re ugly, but I actually kind of like them. Very unique art style.


downtownfishies t1_jdzn84t wrote

When I saw the headline, my first thought was Tamora Pierce! The older (80s-90s) covers are good, and I like some of the most recent covers, but in the 00s & early 10s they went through an ugly photoshop phase, with the worst offender being Mastiff, the 3rd Beka Cooper book, where the cover model looks like her spine must be broken to be in that pose.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdznlgv wrote

Oh man, the Beka Cooper books. I love that series but I’d blocked the covers out of my memory.


nyki t1_jdv2h6g wrote

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of my favorite books but I refuse to own a copy because all three cover options are terrible. Particularly the one that's just an outline of a hand with words. It's ugly and it doesn't remind me of the story at all.

I think I'm also just really sensitive to certain color combinations. I don't mind the artwork on A Court of Silver Flames, but I didn't buy a copy until B&N came out with the black edition. Gray and orange, with traffic-cone orange under dust jacket is just nauseating and I didn't want to see it on my shelves day after day.

The Kate Daniels covers are also pretty bad and put me off reading that series for a while. They used at least three different models for Kate, none of which look like her, and the art itself is like a bad photoshop job. They're not just tacky but dated snd I don't get why they never got a redesign. The French editions have beautiful artwork that fits the series so well. I'd buy English editions with those covers in a heartbeat.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdv7hvz wrote

The hand cover looks like a library card. I don’t know how else to describe it.

I love A Court of Silver Flames, so thanks for mentioning that one. Now I know which edition to get when I buy a physical copy.

I haven’t read the Kate Daniels series, but you weren’t kidding. I guess you could order a hardcover of each version and switch the dust jackets??


Autarch_Kade t1_je00rae wrote

The Claw of the Conciliator is a good one. It's got a couple main covers, but they're all pretty special. You've got your weirdly tall horses in a canyon with some huge dude in a wall overlooking them, or some apemen blinded by the light in spooky man's hand.


Ealinguser t1_je1g6s5 wrote

Lanark by Alasdair Gray. Haven't been able to face reading it so far.


Asleep_Yesterday t1_je1szt1 wrote

The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon and Perfume by Patrick Süskind…I thought both were going to be trashy romance novels, but I was pleasantly surprised otherwise.


anachronic t1_je7digg wrote

Douglas E Richards is one author I can think of.

I really enjoy his books (I'm reading one right now), but the covers all kinda look like Dianetics LOL.


csrmann t1_je7m3a8 wrote

I just generally dislike the pinkish colors typical of "rainbow frappuccino" book covers. They seem to scream, "Hey ladies [only], looka me!"


South_Honey2705 t1_je80src wrote

I hate all the USA romantic comedy book covers they all look the same


SeaAnything8 t1_je8p3lb wrote

I’m sure there’s great contemporary literature and modern romance out there, but why do the covers all have flat, vector-shaped people? They look like paper craft dolls. It looks juvenile on the cover when the story is borderline eroticism.

Lookin at you, Emily Henry!


XvoyagezX t1_jdvp4li wrote

die Bibliothekarin von auschwitz


juchska t1_je4ftpu wrote

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and almost all of the Neapolitan novels.


owlinspector t1_jdv4fen wrote

Heh. Most I'd say. I find cover art usually goes from bad to absolutely horrible. Books should only be bound in black leather with the title and author in gold lettering on the front.


glister_and_gold OP t1_jdv63yf wrote

Lmao, that would mess me up so bad. I would never find anything on my bookshelves. but it’s hilarious imagining the really trashy stuff bound so elegantly.

Since you don’t like most stuff, is there a book cover design you DO like that isn’t just a plain cover? I find leather bound with pressed foil or engraved designs can be really elegant. I love that look for historical nonfiction.


mooimafish33 t1_jdx2vit wrote

So books should only be like $50-100+?


owlinspector t1_jdx7pwk wrote

Sarcasm. Tongue in cheek. Joke. Exaggregation for comedic effect. Jeez....

And honestly, nowadays it hardly matters as 99% of all books I buy are ebooks.