Nothing raises groans like a discussion of book cover artwork – especially in genre fiction, where authors and readers alike have frequently found themselves with a great story bound up in an awful jacket. Things are far better than they used to be, though – at least at the cutting edges of fantasy and science fiction, where decent budgets and experienced editors are making wise choices. Indeed, an informal survey of the ARCs and proof copies that cross my desk suggests that explosive growth in tacky book jackets is currently ensconced in the urban-fantasy/vampire-boffing market. There’s probably at least one graphic design guy who makes a living purely from photoshopping vaguely tribal tattoo designs onto the lower backs of scantily-clad weapon-toting women…
But as pointed out by Brian James over at Tor.com, trashy cover art is usually a calculated marketing move intended to broaden a book’s potential appeal. They’re not really designed for those of us die-hard readers who already know what we want; they’re meant to snare the casual browser into making a purchase. Which is all well and good, but it doesn’t feel like much compensation for those of us who read genre fiction on public transport.
But carping aside, why don’t we share a few favourites – examples of great cover art that sold you a great book you’d otherwise not have bought, or examples of cover art so risible you were tempted to rip it off permanently to avoid the shame? The categories can overlap: I remember being quite attracted to the paperback Elric reissues with the Michael Whelan covers as a teenager, but I also remember the ridicule that accompanied reading them in front of my peers.
How about you – got a love/hate relationship with the jacket of a favourite book? Name and shame!