We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s be real here: we all do it. However much you tell yourself that it’s the story and characters that are important, there are certain things that we see on book covers that really turn us off, and make us much less likely to buy or read a book.
And these things differ from person to person. Whilst there are some covers out there that are just plain bad – as in, terribly designed, hard to read etc., – there are some technically good, professional looking covers out there that we may not like because of some personal pet peeve we have… So I thought I’d do a post all about my own personal ‘book cover pet peeves’, and I’d love to know yours!
My Book Cover Pet Peeves
- Shirtless men.
It’s not that shirtless men are, er, visually unappealing, I just find them super cringy on books covers! The idea of sitting on a bus reading a book plastered with some random guy’s chiseled abs is just so awkward to me (although good for you, if you wouldn’t find that embarrassing!), and thinking of it just sitting around on the coffee table when your mum comes round to visit… Just no!
This is mainly the arena of romance novels, which I guess is understandable, but this has even started to become a thing on fantasy books which I just don’t get (the one that always sticks in my mind is City of Bones by Cassandra Clare)… Can’t we have dragons and castles and cool stuff on the cover instead of some headless Adonis with his anonymous abs (why are their faces always missing by the way?)?
- Close-up photos of faces.
I don’t know what it is with me and photographs on covers, but I just don’t like it! Close-ups of faces, in particular, bother me, partly because it just seems a little cheesy, but also because it shows you how to picture the character.
Yes, authors usually give you some description of the central character, but the way you picture that character with black hair and grey eyes will be completely different to the way someone else does, and I love that! So why spoil that by literally being like, ‘here’s what the character looks like’? Especially if what they look like is a supermodel, gazing moodily into the far distance.
Another type of facial close-up I hate is the side-on romantic kiss/almost kiss/gazing into each other’s eyes… You get this a lot on movie posters too, and it really does just make me cringe.
- Dreary colour schemes.
I’m not saying that all books have to be eye-poppingly bright or vivid, in fact, there are tonnes of super effective book covers out there with very muted colour palettes… I’m more thinking of those historical fiction books with really dreary covers in browns and beiges, or old fantasy books with dull, paint-effect artwork that just leaves you feeling uninspired and disinterested.
In fact, I personally think that if you’re going to make a book cover as boring a colour as brown or beige you’d better have a damn good reason for it. Joe Abercrombie’s Last Argument of King’s, for example, is going for the parchment effect, so that’s fair enough, but what’s Philippa Gregory’s excuse for this dull early copy of The Other Boleyn Girl (which is a fantastic book that deserves a much better cover!)? Even with the purple, it just looks dreary, in my opinion.
- Stickers that aren’t stickers.
As far as I’m concerned, stickers on books are a big enough crime in themselves, but I understand the necessity: the bookseller needs to identify that it’s on a specific deal, or costs a certain amount. And at least I can remove an actual sticker, even if I can’t bear the feel of that disgusting, sticky residue…
But those stickers that aren’t actually stickers, but are actually embedded in the book cover itself (see the accompanying picture of this crime against books!)…they’re the absolute worst! What’s the point in designing a cover that’s supposed to be visually appealing to potential readers and then defacing it with little circles claiming inane things that I don’t care about, such as ‘by the author of…’? Especially seen as I often read books that are by an author whose books I’ve already enjoyed or who I’ve already heard a lot about, and so I usually know what other books they’ve written.
I guess this isn’t specifically a design flaw, it’s more of a marketing ploy by the publishers, but I really wish they would stop. If you’re going to pepper the cover with crap, at least make it removable!
- Movie/TV tie-in editions.
I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t stand movie tie-in editions of books. Maybe it’s because I always try to read the book version of everything before I see the on-screen adaptation, and so I don’t want to commit to buying merchandise for the adaptation before I know if it’s good or not, or maybe it’s just because of my general aversion to photographic covers (which is often what tie-in versions are).
The annoying thing is that generally, movie tie-ins are pretty cheap and easy to get hold of around the time of the adaptation coming out, making it a great way to pick up an inexpensive copy. Hence why I have so many tie-in books, despite my universal hatred of them (example – the above copy of Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria which I got for £3.55 from the local supermarket…and still haven’t read!).
- Book covers that change halfway through a series.
Us bookworms are very proud of our book collections and like to have all matching editions, so having the publisher change the cover style part way through a series is unbelievably annoying! Even if they rerelease the first books with updated covers, it then means you have to repurchase them if you want a matching set.
So do you share any of my book cover pet peeves, or are you OK with them? What are some of your own?