Terrible Book Covers: The Return

I have no words this week due to Extreme Writing of Book, so here are some pictures: a few of my all time favourite book covers, lovingly curated for you.

It’s very hard to make a good book cover, and very easy to mock a bad one. Sometimes a group of talented people with the best intentions can produce a disastrous cover more or less by committee. And then there’s the other reasons covers go wrong…

Mistakes happen.

This one is deservedly famous. Go on, have a look, see if you can spot what’s wrong with it. I’ll leave a space for scrolling:

Image

Count her hands.

***

This one…I don’t know how this one happened. It looks OK at first glance, but just try to work out how the lion’s leg got there. Then try to find its body:

Image

Sometimes people fail to think through the implications.

Yes, yes, the title probably didn’t mean that to most people back in the day. Although, the impressively phallic lighthouse suggests the cover artist was, at least, channelling Freud.

Image

***

This is just obviously wrong:

Image

***

And this is just obviously even wronger:

Image

(Yes, I look at a lot of Tarzan pulp covers. Your point?)

Sometimes the whole project is … poorly conceived.

I really want to do a movie updating of this. We could call it Dude, Where’s My Skull?

Image

The tagline really helps this. ‘The Man They Couldn’t Kill’ plus ‘Lady, That’s My Skull’ adds up to an incredible Clive Barker horror of a revenant PI with an unpleasantly floppy head, determined to retrieve his own cranium before his brain falls out. Sadly, this is not actually the plot.

***

OK, you need to brace for the next one, this is weird. Assume crash position. Even better, assume foetal position.

Ready?

 Image

Yeeeeeeeah.

And sometimes it was the 70s.

Image

Enough said.

Got any favourite covers to add? Share them in the comments!

Advertisements

How bad book covers happen: the sordid truth

Needless to say, publishers, editors and cover designers want each cover to be a thing of beauty that will delight the author and sell enough copies to rebuild the Great Wall of China. A lot of work and passion goes into these. People really do try to get it right, and much of the time, they do. Nevertheless…

This is what the author wants:

Image

This is what Sales thinks will sell:

Image

This is the designer’s artistic vision:

Image

And this is what the budget allows:

Image

Keeping all these different needs and expectations in mind, you rough out a concept and design that really works for the book and balances author feedback, budget and editorial judgement… and then you take it to a committee of fifteen people.

Cover meeting

Editor: So this book is about a football match between Allied prisoners of war and Nazi soldiers. We’ve gone for a football with a swastika on it.

Marketing: The swastika looks Nazi.

Editor: It’s about Nazis.

Publicity: We don’t want it to look Nazi.

Editor: This isn’t a pro-Nazi book. If this book was any less pro-Nazi it would be Simon Wiesenthal. It’s about Nazis.

Marketing: It’s got a swastika on it. It looks Nazi. Do something else.

Second cover meeting

Editor: So this is the book about a football match between Allied prisoners of war and Nazi soldiers, again. We’ve gone for an old-fashioned footballing image with some barbed wire superimposed over it.

Marketing: That just doesn’t say ‘Second World War’ strongly enough. It needs some sort of iconic Second World War thing, some sort of image that sums up the period…

Designer [very quietly]: Like a swastika?

Publicity: I don’t like those football shorts, they look silly, and it’s very old-fashioned. Isn’t there a sexier image?

Sales: Oooh. Can we use modern footballers, and do a sort of Instagram photo treatment to make it look old?

Editor and designer, in chorus: NO.

High-up person: Why don’t we do a photoshoot with a modern footballer, like David Beckham, in Second World War gear?

Editor: Because you gave me a budget of £250.

Publicity: Let’s see some other options.

Fourth cover meeting

Editor, slumped in chair: It’s the Nazi football book again.

[Chorus of groans]

Designer: I’ve done nineteen alternative treatments this time. This one has a montage of searchlights and barbed wire, these ones have every photo of a 1940s footballer available for free off Shutterstock, this one is entirely typographic, this is Wayne Rooney photoshopped onto the trenches of Ypres –

Editor, through teeth: Wrong war.

Designer: This one is a picture of a rose for some symbolic reason that the editor told me about, this one is a football exploding when it’s shot, this is a bullet being kicked into a goal…

High-up person: I like the rose.

Sales [carefully]: I don’t think a rose says ‘Nazis playing football’.

Editor: It has a thematic meaning in the context of the book.

High-up person: We should have the rose.

[All salespeople glare at editor.]

Publicity: The rose is pretty. It would look great on the shelf.

Marketing, desperately: What if we use the rose but put a football behind it? And maybe barbed wire over the top?

[Editor slumps further down into chair. Designer bites back a sob.]

Author phone call

Editor: I know… yeah, yeah… well, the rose has a thematic meaning in the context – No. No. Well, that’s what the cover meeting said. Right. I’m sorry you feel that way.

One year later

Marketing: This book hasn’t sold at all. Why did we use a rose on the cover? Surely it should have been much simpler. Something like… a football with a swastika on it.