My Book Cover Pet Peeves

22/09/2017 Discussions, Reading 22

My Book Cover Pet Peeves

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.

My Book Cover Pet Peeve

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.
My Book Cover Pet Peeves

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? 


22 Responses to “My Book Cover Pet Peeves”

  1. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I think I’m the only bookish person in the universe who doesn’t mind movie tie-in covers. I guess if I haven’t read the book before the movie comes out, I don’t care if the people on the cover match the movie. Oh, and speaking of that, I don’t mind people on my covers—even close-ups. Maybe because my brain doesn’t paint me a clear picture of the characters anyway—I don’t mind the help! 🙂

    • Laura

      Well, it’s definitely personal preference, if you like the movie tie-ins and photo covers. I’m sure there must be plenty of other people who do because they keep on making them! 🙂
      I can’t quite pinpoint exactly why I dislike them so much myself, as it seems fairly illogical (aside from the ‘showing me what the characters look like’ thing).

  2. Angela

    Shirtless men is something that doesn’t appeal to me on a cover – I don’t read much romance anyway, and I would feel awkward if someone saw me reading a book with a cover like that!

    • Laura

      I’m glad it’s not just me who would find that embarrassing! I don’t read much romance myself either, but I wish they would stop trying to put that sort of stuff on fantasy these days. It really doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the genre!

  3. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    YES to all of these! I really don’t like photos of people on covers. I read a book where the narrator was described as overweight with frizzy hair. The model on the cover was stick-thin with straight hair. Did the cover designer even read the book? Shouldn’t the designer at least ask what the character looks like?

    • Laura

      Oh, I hate that so much too! I mean, if they must insist on putting a photo on the cover, at least have it look like the character is supposed to look. I totally agree with you!

  4. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Totally with you on cover designs changing partway through a series. Even if the new design is better, I wish they would still stick with the old one to complete the series — maybe then do a total redesign. Probably that doesn’t make sense to the publisher financially, but it would make me feel better!

  5. Greg

    Shirtless men- totally agree. lol I’m not a fan of dreary covers either, the muted color tones really need to serve some purpose otherwise the cover can be very unappealing. And I couldn’t agree more about movie/ tie-in covers, I almost always hate those.

    • Laura

      Yeah, you wonder what goes through their mind when they decide to make a book cover really dull for no reason. It’s like, why are you purposefully making this book look boring? I don’t get it!

  6. Karolina

    OMFG the STICKERS! I hate those ugly things so much! Like why would you do this to me!? I also dislike actual photos of people (or parts of them) on the cover. I would prefer just a blank cover to a photo-cover. And the changing of covers, mid-series is the worst thing ever! I have a series of 7 books and they friggin don’t match! Not only did I have to get the last 3 books from a different publisher splitting the series into two seizes, but the covers change after book three so book 4 is the odd one out.

    • Laura

      Those stickers really are so ugly! I really don’t get why they insist on putting those on 🙁
      And yeah, I’m not overly keen on photographs of people on covers full stop. I don’t know what exactly my objection is to them, but I’d much prefer a blank cover too over a photo cover.
      And that sounds so annoying! I really hate when they do that and you end up with non-matching sets! Especially when it’s a longer series like the one you’re talking about and it takes up quite a lot of your shelf. Then it’s really obvious that they don’t match too 🙁

  7. Lys @ The Mad Reader

    I completely agree about covers with shirtless men. I think romance books deserve better. There are so many options to choose from ! And they should at least put something directly linked to the book.

    • Laura

      I agree, it would definitely make way more sense to have something directly linked to the book on the cover, instead of just a random shirtless man!

  8. Victoria

    I agree with all of these, but none more so than movie tie-ins. I suppose that’s because there’s usually a photograph on the cover, which I really dislike. I would rather see art work of some sort, though I must admit that edition of ‘Victoria’ looks quite appealing for a photographic cover (false sticker aside, of course!)

    • Laura

      Yeah, as far as tie-in covers go, this copy of Victoria isn’t terrible, but I think that’s probably because she’s far enough in the distance that it isn’t obviously a tie-in (although that sticker really gives it away, as well as being super ugly!), and there isn’t too much made of it being a photograph of a person.

  9. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    UGH the shirtless men covers are the WORST. I cannot take a book seriously at all if it has one of those covers. Because honestly, who even ARE these men who frolic about topless? I do not see them on the streets. I don’t like the close up face ones either. Like.. why? And the gazing ones UGH so gross, and so unnecessary. The stickers-that-aren’t-stickers are simply rude. Movie tie ins.. I can go either way. I mean, I don’t *hate* them, but I also don’t buy them, I guess? This is an awesome post!

    • Laura

      That is a really good question! Who are all these guys who happen to hang around topless! I never see them either, and if I did I’d probably be like ‘Seriously, it’s cold out! Why are you not wearing a shirt?!’
      I don’t really get what my deal is with the movie tie-in hate really. I think it’s probably the photograph thing! I’m glad you liked the post! 🙂

  10. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I have a lot of cover pet peeves too. I read a whole heap of romance so shirtless men and the compromising positions seen on romance covers is annoying because it means a lot of blushing on the bus. I am definitely glad to own a Kindle for those books. Stickers that aren’t stickers (and stickers on covers in general) annoy the heck out of me. Surely it costs more to get that non-sticker sticker on the cover than just putting an actual sticker on. And people hate them. I don’t know a single person who likes covers like that. And tie in editions are ridiculous, it’s when you order a book online without looking at the cover when it annoys me as you get surprised. I was really annoyed to see some Kindle books of mine getting updated with the tie in cover and that annoyed me, it really did.

    • Laura

      Kindles are really good like that, so at least if the cover is a little embarrassing people can’t see. Although why they don’t just make none embarrassing covers that people would be OK with reading on a bus is beyond me!
      And you’re totally right about the stickers – everyone hates them, and it isn’t like people are going to leave the removable ones on, so why would you put one on that people can’t remove? No one likes that!
      I hate when you get surprised too with online book covers. It’s annoying when you weren’t expecting a tie-in edition, but I also hate when you buy a second-hand copy with a modern cover on the advert, and then when arrives it’s a really old-fashioned, ugly looking cover. That has happened to me so many times 🙁

  11. Emma

    I am always judging books by covers and have had to ban myself from the ones with a girl / woman walking away from me. It used to be these were a sure fire hit, now they are hit or miss (mainly miss). I can’t say I have pet peeves beyond that, if it even counts as a peeve but books that scream romance tend to be ones that I shy away from.

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