Cover Art, Critique

Bad Book Covers

When you are studying book covers while you plot to create your next Indie book…

Don’t do ANYTHING you see on this site.

Lousy Book Covers

Go on, go have a giggle, stare in horror… and then come back and we’ll talk about some bad examples in more detail.

I asked for contributions of bad covers, and was given some vintage examples to talk about.

Methuselah's Children
Um… I don’t even…

Well, you have to admit it’s eye-catching. I’m not sure in a good way, and I don’t think I’d want it where my kids could see it in the house. Plus, all that vivid pink… *shudders* However, you can see the evolution of the Author’s name being prominent here, he was a well-known author already, and this was supposed to sell on the weight of that, and the promised sex from that cover art. It wouldn’t work for a modern cover, the thumbnail size would obscure the art details and make it into a pink-and-yellow blur, with an unreadable title. But the author’s name would still be enough. Also, it’s very vintage. Unless you plan to sell your book based on how it resembles vintage pulp-fiction, this isn’t a style you want to emulate.

The other cover isn’t necessarily bad, but… odd. Not sure what the art is conveying, if you didn’t already know something about the book. But in the time it appeared, it would have strongly cued SF to potential readers. Again, the art isn’t something you could use now. And the flat, plain fonts for the author and title would look cheap and off on a modern cover, because our eyes are trained to nice typography.


I think this lesson is: what used to work isn’t going to work NOW. In order to keep up with trends, you need to be looking at the top sellers in your genre… not overall, but specific to what you are trying to convey. Just because an old cover appeals doesn’t mean it will sell now, and if you are attracted to the vintage covers, stop and think about what it it. What elements draw your eye? What is it you like looking at? You might be able to take a single element and incorporate it without making your whole cover look, well, OLD.

I’ll return to this train of thought in a few days, with some really good covers, and talk about why they work, and why you have to ignore some bestselling covers altogether.


11 thoughts on “Bad Book Covers

  1. heehee look at the prices. I had both those covers.

    I dread trying to figure out covers, but at the rate I’m going it may never be a problem.

  2. I had that copy of Methusalah’s Children, but it didn’t make it into a box when I moved last year. The cover is funky, but you’re right that it wouldn’t work today.

    And wow, those covers at Lousy Book Covers are really really scary.

  3. Still got to wonder if C.S. Lewis would have sold more copies if the cover had shown a nude green woman. (Even a much more demure green woman than the one in the Heinlein cover.)

    The nude green woman was in the book, unlike whatever was supposed to be represented on the cover.

  4. Sorry if you’ve heard me say this the last 10 times I’ve said this. Google “Ender’s Game” and look at its covers dating back the last 30 years. You’ll see trends in typeface design as well as differences between marketing a book in a drugstore turning paperback rack versus marketing on Amazon.

  5. I’ll visit the site of course, but can we all agree upfront that any study of bad book covers that does not include the Michael Jackson-as-Honor Harrington cover for…

    Field of Dishonor is…


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