The Super-Mega-Awesome Book Cover: A 21st Century Phenomenon

Let’s face it, the easier it is to publish your own work without the need of agents and publishers, the easier it is to put out crap and call it art. Just because you’ve written a story doesn’t mean it should be published, and just because your best friend knows how to fiddle around with Photoshop doesn’t mean you should hire them as your cover designer. Allowing your pal or, quite frankly, anyone you hold anything other than a professional relationship with, is a bad idea. Not only will your opinion be swayed by not wanting to hurt their feelings, but the both of you may very well have awful taste.

I present to you, Exhibit A.

Dear Laurence Shames, what the hell were you thinking? Honestly, I can’t figure out if this book is about a fluffy kitten trapped inside a burning building or if it’s all bad sexual innuendo. I mean, I guess it could be worse. Mr. Kitten could be stuffed into a black lace nightie giving the reader a ‘come hither’ look…

I’m going to take a wild guess and say Virgin Heat is supposed to be a naughty tale of naughtiness. If that’s the case, what does putting a fluffy kitten on the cover convey, exactly? Either Laurence has an amazing sense of humor, or he’s too afraid to go all out and make the cover as dirty as the book. Maybe he’s worried that his grandmother will get a hold of a copy and, well, what will happen to all those awkward family holidays?

Then again, I’ll bet twenty bucks ‘Laurence Shames’ is a pseudonym. Shames? Are you serious? Look at this cover, Laurence! Shames on you.

Note: I’ve been alerted to the fact that Laurence Shames is a humor author (and a successful one at that). I still stand by my opinion that the cover is ridiculous, but take that with a grain of salt since it’s obviously supposed to be bad.

Exhibit B…

Look at that bunny’s face. Look at it. That rabbit has had one too many at the local bunny pub. His wife will be so disappointed when she finds out he’s been at the bar instead of tending to his eighty-seven kids. Those AA pins were all a sham. The nerve!

And Mr. Raccoon is having a Nosferatu moment. I’m not really getting ‘zombie’ from his performance. It’s more on the vampire side, and honestly, if you’re going to be on the cover of a book called Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies, at least put some effort into your depiction of the undead. There are different kinds, Mr. Raccoon. You can’t just pull out the crazy eyes and call it a day.

And are the zombie raccoons and killer bunnies pals? Mortal enemies? Was this cover seriously sent to a printer and slapped onto the front of a book about… zombie raccoons and killer bunnies? Is this horror? Comedy? Give me a genre… any genre. And also, why wasn’t this optioned as a movie? Who do I speak with to issue my complaint?

The point: if you’re going to spend the time and effort writing a book, why give it a terrible cover? The covers above are hilarious… but this is the classic case of ‘they’re laughing at you, not with you.’ Yes, hiring a professional cover designer costs money, but as my dear old dad would say, “you’ve got to spend money to make money.” And even if you don’t have the dough, all it takes is a quick stroll over to DeviantArt to locate someone who’s work you like, and commissioning them to do the cover for you. A majority of these artists are thrilled to take on commissions, and many of them will do it for very little cash.

It’s just one of the many phenomenons we face with the self-publishing boom. Times are a-changin’… and while we’re allowed to hop over the gatekeepers of the publishing world, we must now become our own gatekeepers. And as your own gatekeeper, you should listen to that little voice inside your head. Hire a professional, it whispers. They’re all going to laugh at you.

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19 thoughts on “The Super-Mega-Awesome Book Cover: A 21st Century Phenomenon

  1. i love both of those covers! they would tempt me to buy the books. the second one especially grabs me. of course, i love troma films so i’ll admit to having questionable tastes.

  2. I’ve been known to buy books thanks to the cover alone. In fact I just went to Amazon to buy something I’d read about and sounded like fun and just COULDN’T do it, the art was too awful. It’s the book’s public face! You gotta put on some concealer at least!

    Thanks for the giggle.
    Pav

    • Despite the age old adage of ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover’, I think it applies more to people than actual books, funny as that is. I agree with you completely. If the art is horrid, I’ll keep away… because if they allowed their book to be represented in such a way, do they even care about their work?

  3. No way. I don’t believe those are real covers OH MY GOODNESS THOSE ARE REAL COVERS. That’s hilarious and … but I don’t know, I can see those appealing to certain people, the 4chan crowd, SA Goons possibly, that whole ‘tastelessness is cool’ demographic. There may be method to this madness! And yet still, those are terrible covers.

    • I agree, 4Chan would probably go gaga over these babies, but… do you really want to write for the 4Chan crowd? I mean, really? :D

      • I was going to write something snarky, but then I remembered “John Dies At The End”–not my personal cup of tea, but it’s highly regarded by a lot of decent people, and it’s pretty squarely aimed at 4channers/Goons/etc. Of course, that particular book actually has a decent cover. So now I’m not sure what to say, except those covers haven’t gotten any better after a second viewing.

  4. Shames is a humor writer, Ania :) Virgin Heat was his fifth book.

    Here’s what one five star Amazon review says of Virgin Heat: “I loved this book; the voice was original, the characters engaging, the language wonderful. It’s satirical without being snide, and it is a great balancing act of humor and realism. He captures the crazy essence of Key West. I’ll read more by this author in hopes he can keep up to this standard. ”

    He has 10 Amazon reviews for this book with average of 3.5/5 stars.

    Shames original cover for the paperback version of Virgin Heat has a silhouette of a woman sunning in the tropics. Looked more erotic (as you suggested) than humor.

    He’s got another book with a dog on it called Sunburn.

    • Well thank god for that! However, humor or no… the cover is still laughably poor (and yes, I realize that was probably the goal.) I don’t feel that humor has a free pass when it comes to covers. If that was the case, I’d have to count out the entire genres of romance and horror… horror being the genre I write in. And maybe that’s my problem right there… because I’m tied to a genre that’s notorious not only for bad covers but also bad writing, I’m sensitive to the subject. Kudos to Shames on the name, though. It really is hilarious.

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