Thursday 23 August 2012

A Thursday Rant On Book Covers...

We've all done it.  We've all judged a book by its cover.  It's hard not to.  When you're shopping for a book, the cover is the first thing you see.  It's what makes you reach out, take it off the shelf and read the blurb to see if the story is for you.  The cover sells the book.

This is I why think the front cover for any book is important.  It needs to be stunning; it needs to catch the eye, and it needs to capture the essence of the story that lies behind it. 

Since I've been designing front covers, this fact has started screaming at me, and I find myself taking note of other book covers, studying the detail and the message they portray - and there is some stunning cover art out there.   

However, I've also found I'm now rather critical when it comes to this subject too.  I can't help it.  I find myself looking at a mediocre book cover and shaking my head, tutting and thinking 'I wouldn't have done it like that', or 'it would have worked better if...'.  Does this make me a bad person?  No, it's just my opinion, and I know my covers are far from perfect but it nerks me when someone is presented with a huge opportunity to do something great and spectacular, but instead comes away with a 'that'll do' attitude.  What a waste.

I have a little example here that's been bugging me.  Prepare yourselves for a little rant: 

I'm currently reading 'The Emperor's Knife' by Mazarkis Williams.  It's the first book of a new fantasy series and I have to say I'm enjoying every word.  And what made me find this book?  Why, the cover of course.  It's stunning, it really is.  It speaks of mystery, of hidden secrets and dark shadows.  It really does stand out from its genre and was the reason why I picked it up in the first place.

Then I got it home and I studied the cover.  I'm being VERY picky here (that's actually an understatement), but here's a copy of the cover.  See if you can see where I'm coming from.

Do you see it?  I think this little detail may be hidden by the cover's overall magnificence.  So let me point it out to you.

There, now you see it?  A saggy chin.  A god-damn saggy chin!  The hooded figure should resemble a man of mystery, a man who is dangerous and full of adventures.  For any romantic they should be tall, muscular and strong, handsome and rugged - not someone with a double chin.  This isn't how the character is portrayed in the story.  He's someone who's battled their way across desert, forest and city to fulfil his role as an assassin.  These people are lean and fit.  They wouldn't have saggy chins.  

Here's another version of the cliched hooded figure.  This version is from Jon Sprunk's first instalment, Shadow's Son.  Now this is a man of fantasy.  He's handsome, rugged, dangerous - and LEAN!  

So to all you book cover designers out there, come on!!!  You have a chance to create something spectacular.  Why ruin it with a 'make do' attitude and let the whole thing down by a tiny detail that could have easily been remedied (photoshop works wonders lol ).  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with saggy chins, but when the picture on the front inaccurately describes the character from the story, it deserves a rant.

This is just a little thing that has bugged me since picking up this book and thought it needed to be aired.  This is in no way a review of the book itself.  So far, in my opinion, it's making for a fantastic read that I'm finding hard to put down.  This is Williams' debut novel and he's an author who has made it on to my 'look out for' list.  He doesn't mess aorund with his use of writing, which is good and I will be sure to check out his next instalment.  In fact, both the books mentioned here are worth your attention.  Go check them out if you haven't already.

Rant over.

That is all...


  1. Brilliant rant. Maybe the first guy was the tea boy, a student, an indulgent artist's son, or someone on Jobseekers. Your point on covers is so valid. They can and should be works of art. One of life's great pleasures is browsing through pulp cover art of the interwar years and 1950s.

    1. Ah the joys of pulp cover art...

      I agree with you that it looks like they've just grabbed the nearest available person for the job here. It's such a shame because the rest of the cover is stunning. Oh, and I've seen the cover for the next installment to this series. It's just as eyecatching. I haven't had a chance to get my claws thoroughly into it yet

  2. I guess I don't have issue with this particular cover, but I DEFINITELY judge a book by the cover. I have found that I tend to like covers without people on them. Why? No idea. Maybe its because I don't want anyone showing me what I can create in my mind.

    Although... I really do like both of these covers so... I guess I need to take each one as they come.

    1. When I design covers, I try to steer away from having a person on the front - unless the author specifically wants that design. I agree that it portrays how the character looks in the story and doesn't allow you to imagine them yourself - which takes the fun out of reading. This is probably why I moaned about this cover, because the person on the front doesn't match the character I'm imagining as I read.

      Other than this little point, the rest really makes for a stunning front cover... :)

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