Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

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Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby FK7 » 21 Feb 2010, 11:42

I was having a blast reading your comments on TWILIGHT. I've been lurking around here for weeks now, I thought it would be finally appropriate to subscribe, to be polite and say hello! :) I've been posting on a few writing forums, and the common denominator seems to be that in all of these places, you'll always find an obnoxious and self-righteous writer that stinks of arrogance, and that snobbery can be extremely annoying to me. I have only began writing my first novel on Dec 9 2009 and prior to 12/09, I had no idea how the publishing world worked. Thanks to many of you and the numerous fantastic blogs, I know a lot more.

What struck me me most here is that I haven't seen that snobbery I see every where else (maybe I haven't looked hard enough, but I doubt it!). Mr. Bransford is a very down to earth kind of person, perhaps this is why. In any case, it's been a tremendous pleasure to read all of you, and also to see you guys take so much of your time to help critique other people's works. It shows courage for them to post it, and generosity to critique it... it's inspiring!

I thought I could ask you what you guys think of what construes a craptastic cover? I've been a website and graphic designer since I was 12 years old, and been a semi-professional photographer (meaning I do paid shoots and contracts throughout the year but it is not my full-time job, I'm still an university student!) for the last 4 years. I am a very visual person, and have a very critical eye for most graphical things I can feast upon. I've been through many forums and blogs, and also occasionally browse Amazon to see some of their covers... and I'm dying to know, what makes a cover inherently bad, according to you?

My cover pet peeves:
-Any cover using bare-chested man with the six-pack of abs, wearing some leather clothing and perhaps holding a sword. Or using ridiculously sexy women (who actually look like bimbos) fresh out of silicon valley with the big boobs and the leather suit, trying to be all sexy on the cover. THIS IS NOT 1980 PEOPLE!!! It is so cheesy and corny, some actually manage to make me puke a little... you do NOT need that crap on a cover because you wrote romance.

-Any use of real human photography that isn't groundbreaking. Using a beautiful girl or a beautiful boy on the front of your cover to represent your protagonist really irks me. Most of the photos are lazy and underdeveloped artistically. The couple kissing in front of a house with the fresh white snow that just covered the ground... cliché. Anything that tries to imitate the GHOST movie poster and call it an homage... shredder!

-Last but not least... any fantasy novels sporting a castle and a dragon with some sort of knight trying to look courageous and strong... this is not 1990 people. Try to be a bit more original!

Don't judge a book by its cover? Sorry, everyone does. It's proven scientifically. It might not prevent them from buying said book, but the first impression counts. Whether the book is hardcover or paperback, the colors that were used, the design of the jacket, the fonts that were used, all of it has an unconscious effect on your mind that will lead to your decision to like the book enough or not to entice you in buying it.

It is unfortunate that authors don't have more of a say in their covers, but I'm sure if one hates it, the publisher won't go ahead. Then again, if publishers hired people really invested in their work, scandals like it happened to 'Liar, Liar' would NEVER happen. What kind of self-respecting graphic artist would think to put a white girl on the cover of a book where the protagonist is black? The mind wonders! I do think though if you bring your OWN cover to the publisher and it is fantastic (or you hired an artist to do yours and have the proper release papers) they'll be inclined to use it. I heard publishing houses have contracts that force them to use their own artists, no matter how much they suck. In this case, I'd simply say "use my illustration and kindly change a few things, I'll sign release papers for you to use them".

What are your pet peeves when it comes to book covers? Nudity? Bright colors? The overuse of funky fonts? Busy backgrounds? Cheap looking 3D renders of human being trying to look cool in a spaceship?

I'm dying to know :D
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby taylormillgirl » 21 Feb 2010, 12:52

I do not appreciate cover art or the hard work that goes into a good cover, but I know I'm in the minority. When browsing for books, I hardly notice the art and flip right to the back to read the "hook."

Out of the hundreds of books I've read, there is only one cover that irked me, and it was a romance novel with a little cartoon protagonist on the cover holding a baseball-sized engagement ring. Had I seen that book in stores, I never would have purchased it; the cartoon woman seemed juvenile and a little silly. My neighbor loaned me the book, and because of the ridiculous cover, I waited a long time to read it. Boy, was I shocked to discover the story was fantastic!

But, like I said, that's the only exception. I'm much more swayed by a catchy back-cover hook than anything else.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby maybegenius » 21 Feb 2010, 13:05

I'm not overly fond of cartoon-y covers - the sort with the really exaggerated people with overlarge heads and eyes. Not manga/anime, which I actually like, but the more simplistic line drawings filled in with solid color on a bright background - know what I mean? They just don't appeal to me at all.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby dementedtinkerbell » 21 Feb 2010, 13:09

It isn't usually any one thing that grabs my attention, just the overall look of the thing. I'm a dark fantasy fan so I like the covers to reflect that genre. After that, I'll check out the first page and if it grabs me, I'll buy it. The only thing that truly annoys me about cover art, is when it's completely out of context like having two people trying to suck the face off each other on the front of a book about a medieval style world that is busy finding out how religion can dominate people. Not that I've seen that, it's just an example.

Just my two cents :)
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby aspiring_x » 24 Feb 2010, 19:33

got to second the all-wise demented fairy.
i hate cover art that doesn't reflect what's inbetween the pages.
also,
not big on obviously staged photography.
and the general romance fabio style covers.
give us something symbolic of the story, or a scene from the book, or something unique to the book.
i don't know, it seems like there is an overabundance of truly gifted artists (anyone visit deviantart.com). i just do not understand why so many covers are so "craptastic."
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby PaulWoodlin » 24 Feb 2010, 20:25

How Honor Harrington looked less Asian with each cover.

How Kitty Norvel seemed to be wearing less clothing with each cover (for the first few books).

How the backs of fantasy novels make all their plots sound the same.

How the heroines of my novels are mostly athletic/martial artists and I just know how they will appear on the cover if I ever get published.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby Scott » 25 Feb 2010, 11:11

maybegenius wrote:I'm not overly fond of cartoon-y covers - the sort with the really exaggerated people with overlarge heads and eyes. Not manga/anime, which I actually like, but the more simplistic line drawings filled in with solid color on a bright background - know what I mean? They just don't appeal to me at all.

Same here. Noisy covers with annoyingly bright colors and obnoxiously cutesy art drive me far, far away. I like simple with depth. Artful and handsome. I've seen busy covers work, but rarely. And for the most part, loud books mean loud writing and not in a good way.

Interesting remarks from FK7 about people on the cover. I agree, and find only YA to be agreeable to this. Simple marketing, that. And I seriously cringe to think someone would give my work a crap cover. Stuff of nightmares. As someone who has designed and creatively directed professionally for many years, I don't mind opening to new ideas, but I would never stand for a design that wasn't well up to snuff.

That said, sometimes faces work:

Image

I barely saw her in my head when I was reading the story. Could be the type partially obscuring her. Could also be the rather generic prettiness.

Great topic. Cheers, FK7.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby Holly » 25 Feb 2010, 19:59

Scott wrote:
That said, sometimes faces work:

Image

I barely saw her in my head when I was reading the story. Could be the type partially obscuring her. Could also be the rather generic prettiness.

Great topic. Cheers, FK7.


Looks like somebody Photoshopped that face.

The eyes are, uh, about the twice the size of normal eyes. You can see it if you put your hand over the face below the eyes and then take your hand away.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby aspiring_x » 25 Feb 2010, 20:34

Holly wrote:
Looks like somebody Photoshopped that face.

The eyes are, uh, about the twice the size of normal eyes. You can see it if you put your hand over the face below the eyes and then take your hand away.


While I don't doubt the hand of photoshop. I believe it's a child's face. Children's eyes seem disproportional to they're faces because they are already full grown. Our eyes do not grow as we age. Instead, our faces grow around them, making them seem smaller. Noses and ears continue to grow by tiny incriments all our lives. Isn't aging great!
But then again, I'm unfamiliar with the book. If it's an adult's face... well, then it's just weird. pretty, but weird.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby abc » 26 Feb 2010, 09:45

I'm bored with covers of girl's or women's legs and shoes. So done. I roll my eyes at the Twilight inspired cover: black and white with something overly red. I don't like it when beautiful girls in a generic pose are used on covers. I always think something more interesting could have been done. There are so many talented artists out there: photographers, and illustrators, and graphic designers--I really hate it when a cover is blah or cliche. And I feel bad for the writer.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby maybegenius » 26 Feb 2010, 10:35

There is a cost game involved in cover art, if my understanding is correct. Going for stock or paid-use photography for cover art is usually vastly cheaper than commissioning an artist for a custom cover. If a publisher is investing that kind of money on the cover, they're probably reasonably confident the book will sell well. I think that's why we see so many "generic photograph" covers.

Though if I'm totally off base there, someone please correct me! :)
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby FK7 » 26 Feb 2010, 12:01

I designed my own cover myself and hired a 3D Argentinian artist I found on www.3dtotals.com to make a render of an image I wanted (which I drew on paper and scanned first). It cost me 400$. This is the same method J.J. Abrams used to find the artist that designed the Fringe opening credits, as well as Star Trek title sequence (the rotating emblem). The same artist also did the animated "under the sea island" animation in this season's Lost first episode (though to be honest, it wasn't his best work). The internet is FILLED with talented artist (see also devianart.com) that will work for cheaper than most agencies.

According to Kristin Nelson's blog, she recently posted what the budget of a publisher looked like, and do you know what sum was allotted to the cover design?

4000$!

I'm sure this is arbitrary and variates from publisher to publisher, but this is ten times more expansive than what I had to pay, and judging by how crappy some covers can be, this is criminal.

What I heard the problem is, is that publishers are under contractual obligations to deal with their own artists no matter how much they suck, even if Leonardo Da Vinci resurrected and offered them an original cover of his own for free, they'd still pay the artist 4000$ to make his cover.

It's a bit depressing when you come to think of it...
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby BlancheKing » 26 Feb 2010, 12:56

Badly photoshop-ed covers. Bleh...

When I buy a book, I like to be able to appreciate its cover, which means it should look like it's done by a professional. Anything I could duplicate in CS2 in 30 minutes is a "no", and whoever used the generic swirly brushes downloaded off of deviantart on that lady's series (with the girl's face) needs to stay away from book covers in general.
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby Pete » 26 Feb 2010, 19:45

I hand-picked and commissioned the artist for mine, then directed her on the artwork and design. It wasn't terribly expensive and it's been worth every penny. I joke with her that her artwork has sold more copies of my book than my writing.

Image

Pet Peeve: I'm sick of seeing people only from the neck down or shots of the knees to the neck. Nine times out of ten I can't stand seeing a photo of a person on the cover, period. There are exceptions of course but as a rule, seeing the protagonist on the cover is a bad idea (made worse if they are in any sort of bad-ass stance, looking sexy, or holding a weapon).
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Re: Craptastic covers... what are your pet peeves?

Postby FK7 » 26 Feb 2010, 20:47

Pete, that is an awesome cover.

I assume you are published - how did your publisher take it when you told them you had already hired your own artist for your cover?
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