Appreciating book cover art is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a writer. Teachers who say not to judge books by their covers can shove it; I love judging books by their cover art. But with the possible exception of Romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy traditionally have the worst book covers in the industry. Somehow speculative fiction always gets the cheese-fest treatment: idealized illustrations of the protagonists (often not at all accurate to how the book describes them); glowing photos of models looking battle-ready and slightly pornographic; watercolor paintings of boring old planets swirling around with a bold, all caps title.
Of course, I’d imagine that in most cases the authors have no say on the cover art (this post is specifically NOT about ebooks), so the covers are almost never a reflection on the quality of the book. It seems cruel for publishers to saddle an author with a particularly bad cover, but, according to publishers, the covers do their job: genre readers are easily able to spot “their type of book,” make their purchases, and leave the store happy. This helps the reader, which helps the book seller, which helps the publisher, which helps the author…so admittedly, there is a method behind the cheese-fest galore madness.
Nevertheless, a particularly terrible cover certainly makes me less inclined to purchase a certain novel. For example, a college professor once recommended this book, but I could never bring myself to read it…the cover art is just too bizarre.
This series of posts on fantasy (and Sci-fi) book cover art will be tracking new releases and awarding best cover and worst cover status to those that are worthy. [Read more…]