Beware Bad Covers


We’re taught at a young age not to judge a person based on their appearance or a book by its cover. I hate to admit, when it comes to men and books, I prefer the ones with good faces. It’s not that I wouldn’t date an ugly man or read an ugly book, but I’m more drawn to the ones that are appealing. Before you judge me or worse, unfollow me, ask yourself, have you ever judged a book because of an ugly cover? What about a reader or an author? Do you think that people who read ugly books have bad taste, or that authors who write books with bad covers are bad writers?

Look, I’m sure the ugly books are full of personality, but I just don’t notice them because of their competition. I’ll admit I’ve picked up some books based on cover alone: “The Prince of Thorns” series, for example.

Are we too quick to defend ugly books? Is a bad book cover ever indicative of a bad book. The long and short of it is YES. A bad cover could be the result of an author cutting cost. If they cut corners on the cover, they most likely cut corners on rewrites and editing as well. In that case, what you see is what you get. Not to say there aren’t writers who cut corners on everything BUT the cover, thus tricking you into buying their book only to discover that it has all the quality of a cheap chocolate bar: pretty foil wrapping on the outside, waxy plastic-tasting chocolate on the inside.

Before you brand me as a book bigot, I’ve read some ugly books. In middleschool I read “Kris’s War” which was about a resistance group in Denmark during the second World War. It was a great book, but the cover was hideous. When I read it, I held it low so people would not see because it looked like a cheezy sci fi from the 70’s. Anyone who saw it made a face or a comment. They asked “What are you reading?” in the same tone one might say “Dear God, what is that thing!”

Just to prove I’m not biased, I’m currently reading another book with a bad cover (bad is a generous word). Terry Pratchett’s books don’t typically have great covers to start with; however, “Guards, Guards” has got to be the worst. It’s too colorful and confusing, and the characters look terrible (I don’t even know which characters they are supposed to be).

While we’re on the topic of bad covers, don’t underestimate the power of a bad title. For example, what automatically comes to mind when you read “Cooking with Pooh.” I hope it was the Disney character.

What’s the worst cover you’ve ever seen? Hopefully it’s not the cover of your own book. Here are a few I found on the web or (for shame) on my bookshelf.

Every book in the “Wheel of Time” series. Sorry, Robert Jordan.

This is why I hid this book from the light of day: I hate covers with floating heads.

time-ninja-cover1 paperbackyes paperback10 paperback07 hwn_merlinsr guards-guards-2 dsc03783 glad be      bad-book-cover-design-example




9 thoughts on “Beware Bad Covers

  1. I’ve definitely judged books by the cover. If a cover is tacky, I assume the text is unprofessional as well. As you pointed out, the opposite can be true. I’ve seen some gorgeous covers and downloaded a book based on the pretty packaging, only to discover the writing is amateurish.

    Great post.

  2. =Tamar

    I have learned to ignore the covers entirely, partly because most of my favorite authors have had terrible covers since in the publishing world, the publisher picks the cover, not the writer. I am a fast reader so I can read part of a book standing up in the store and decide from the content whether I want to buy it. By the way, that cover you showed for Guards! Guards! shows Carrot, Nobby, Lady Sybil, and a random wizard who shouldn’t have been there because wizards in general are not involved in the story.

    • I thought that might be Carrot. Not how I imagine him at all. Have you read anything from Terry Pratchett? My sister and I are big fans, though his covers are notoriously bad. Thanks for commenting.

      • =Tamar

        I’m also a serious Pratchett fan, I’ve read them all several times. I think I’ve changed my mind, by the way; because of the puffed pants, I’m now leaning to the idea that the man in the armor is supposed to be the fancy “prince” character. The red hair is a typical mistake by the artist.

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