SF Book Cover Carnival

Tech guru and fellow SF fan Shawn tweeted last week about how his taste in SF is sometimes influenced by cover art and sometimes not. I thought that was a great subject for a blog post!

What influences me most? Either an author whose work I know and like, or the recommendation of a friend with similar reading taste. If I’m browsing online, I’ll take a look at the book description and read random reviews. If I’m in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I’ll read the cover blurb, flip through the book and read a sample paragraph or two, and then finally look at the cover art.

Good cover art can make me pick up a book, and bad cover art can cause me to leave it on the shelf, visit after visit. I realize good and bad are subjective, but I tend to avoid overly cliched or prurient cover art, excessively romantic art, and am annoyed by covers where the author’s name is bigger than the book title. I also pretty much avoid books where the publisher thinks the author is too special to print a blurb on the back anymore.

Here are some random examples of books I have picked up because the art was excellent – and books I have not picked up because the art is so unappealing or downright annoying.

Books I’d Buy Books I Wouldn’t

by Gregory Maguire
Cutout-style graphics are striking, colorful, bold and related to the story – subtitle use is excellent.
White as Snow

by Tanith Lee
She’s a good author who I haven’t read in quite some time, but this cover seems insipid, pale & florid.
Red Mars

by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Mars series has one of the best hard SF cover designs I’ve seen. I admit; bought the books because of it. Nice use of black and color, great font choices & sizes.
Winds of Fate

by Mercedes Lackey
This cover tells me it’s a hyper-cliched sword and sorcery romantic fantasy, with bonus pretty ponies! Plus the swirly purple background is annoying.

by Jay Lake
Great thematic cover art, the unconventional upside down warrior woman is compelling, and the cover shouts “adventure” at the reader.

by Lynn Viehl
Neither toned pecs & abs, Fabio hair, nor mesmerizing eye closeups do much to sell a novel to me. (Although Ms. Viehl writes a heckuva blog: Paperback Writer.)
A Fistful of Sky

by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Utterly lovely color art that’s relevant to the story, great font choices, very compelling title – very innovative contemporary fantasy cover.
Midnight’s Daughter

by Karen Chance
Enough with the butt shots of paranormal fantasy heroines – this is only one of many such. Plus, the author’s name overshadows title.
Sunrise Lands

by SM Stirling
I’m a total sucker for the iconic hero or heroine riding off into the sunset. This cover executes it well. Yes, the author’s name is too large. :(
Game of Thrones

by George RR Martin
This cover is plain to the point of being blah. I will admit: I own and enjoyed this book, it’s Martin!

Click over to Cracked.com for a really hilarious read on bad fantasy and science fiction book covers; most of the art is badly dated but the commentary is priceless.

7 Responses to “SF Book Cover Carnival”

  1. Random Michelle Says:

    I disagree with you only on the Tanith Lee cover.

    I have a lot of covers done by that particular artist, and I love them all. When I see a similar cover it’s usually for a book based on folklore or fairy tales, and those are some of my favorites.

    And the Nina Kiriki Hoffman “Fistful of Sky” book is one of my favorites. Might even be better than the cover, which is fabulous.

  2. Shawn Powers Says:

    It still bothers me how much I’m influenced by cover art. Really. The part that really bothers me is how little choice authors have on the art.

    Also, the hot chick in tight pants with a gun may be going for a different demographic. Just sayin. :)

  3. Ilya Says:

    I can’t say I ever stop to register the cover art when I’m browsing. Reading the blurbs on the back – definitely. Checking what’s pictured – not at all. Then again, I rarely pick up a book without a prior endorsement from a friend, so the rest is pretty secondary.

    I suppose I can claim to live by the cliche’d adage of “not judging the cover by the book”.

  4. Ilya Says:

    Above is what happens when someone asks you an important business question while you type away…

    “the book by the cover”, obviously.

    Oy… :roll:

  5. WendyB_09 Says:

    I much prefer cover art to be art, not photos of some jaded hunk or hunkette hasbeen.

    That said, I’m not influenced by covers all that much when I’m purchasing. As I’m reading the book, I do check the cover from time to time. When I’m done with the book, I expect the cover to have supported & matched some aspect of the book, not wonder what the artist was thinking or if they’d even read the book!

  6. Dr. Phil Says:

    I hate it when I get a book home and decide the cover artist has never read the damn book. (grin) As much as you use your mind’s eye when you are reading, you can be strongly influenced by a really good (or conversely a really bad) cover.

    I think the cover for Green is one of the most striking I’ve seen in years.

    Nina Kiriki Hoffman was our Week 1 instructor at the 2004 Clarion workshop, and she’s also a WOTF Judge. But the cover reminds me of Touched By An Angel-inspired inspiration art. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  7. Beast Mom Says:

    I’m laughing at the pretty pony remark. :)

    The only covers I absolutely hate on books are when a movie version has been made and they put the actor/actresses on the front. I especially despise this if I loved the book and the movie version was terrible. I even hate it when the movie version was good, come to think of it. I just don’t want to see actors on book covers. They have movie posters for that.

    I agree w/ your other commenter about authors having no control re covers. I don’t think it’s right that they don’t even get a say. I would feel really pissed if I spent 3-10 yrs writing a novel and then the cover was something I absolutely despised.