Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Cover Pet Peeves

Brand New Post AWE YEA!!

After I realized I was no longer chained to my notebook and my adaptions of Pride and Prejudice, I racked my brain for a new random topic to discuss and this one came to me. I was thinking about the bookshelf scavenger hunt and how so many people had problems finding books with just words on the cover and how millions of others had no trouble finding multiples of books with girls on the cover.

Naturally that led me to what I hate most about book covers and the assumptions that get made about the "particular audience" of a certain book. Now so many of us have heard the adage "Don't judge a book by its cover." While a delightful adage when putting it in the context of not judging people by their appearance, it's not necessarily correct when talking about actual books.

I will admit here and now that there have been some books with awful covers that I have fallen in love with and will probably reference later on in this post, but I do judge books by their covers hardcore.

The reason I never seem to follow this rule is because I am a book browser. Any chance I get to go to Barnes and Nobles you can usually find me circling the Teen books section like a vulture. While I do have a few books in my mind that I plan on buying I tend to pick up books whose covers catch my eye. Granted I read the blurb after that, but it is the cover that always attracts or repulses me. That's why I have so many pet peeves about book covers and I bet you share some of these.

The first cover mistake that seems to annoy me the most is covers that have no relation to the actual content of the book. Lets say the cover of a book has a picture of two lovers in a passionate embrace wearing period clothing. From that image I'm likely to assume that this book is an erotic romance novel that takes place in the 1900s...and it's a trashy Harlequin that I will have no enjoyment in reading. In an ideal world my assumption would be correct, but nowadays that could turn out to be the cover of a YA paranormal romance, which brings me to my next pet peeve.

Covers that have girls in long, dramatic, sometimes period dresses despite the fact that the story takes place in today's time period and there is not an instance in the book where the main female character wears such a dress.

 I don't know why or when this became a thing, but as the saying goes I was already in the middle of it before I realized what had happened...or something like that. All I know is that I am so tired of these random girls and I want beautiful, inventive covers. What happened to the days when there was actually cover art rather than the same picture taken over and over with a different dress. The only great thing to come out of this mishap is that the books without these stupid girls stand out on the shelf and I usually pick them up and buy those instead.

 How about we continue on in this same vein of book covers that lack art but seem to focus on the photography of women. My next pet peeve is the overuse of the random girl head who is either giving you the stare down or looking away wistfully.

This really has no relation to the book whatsoever, but she is pretty so that must mean book sales right? NO!

My next book cover pet peeve may not bother some people, but I seem to find it incredibly annoying. Do you remember a few posts back where I discussed the fact that my love of reading started when I realized that I could imagine the characters and how the story plays out in my mind? This ability is what makes books such a different medium from movies. Every reader is going to have their own visions about what the characters in the book look like and that is part of the fun in reading. I hate when book covers have pictures of actual people on them. Right from the beginning I'm presented with this image of what the main character could look like and that ends up being the image that I'm stuck with. What's even worse is when they decide not to use the same models in the covers. One AMAZING series that has this sucky cover problem is The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.

Here is the first book in the series with the aforementioned girl. Once the readers discover that the main character, Rose, is a kick ass girl with brunette hair, it becomes hard not to associate this cover model with Rose. If that problem wasn't enough the models seem to change.

This is the cover of the last book in the series with a completely different brunette model. Inevitably I end up wondering if this is a different character in the series or if this is still Rose. It must be Rose because the story is completely centered on her, but who knows because the covers lack consistency. I would rather this series have some beautiful cover art to reflect that awesomeness of the text inside. Let the readers do the imagining and you will never have to worry about hiring models.

Oh, but don't worry, the publishing industry also has a solution to the girl face problem and that is covers where the model's head is missing a huge piece.

It's like somebody had a cropping accident when they were trying to fit the picture to the cover. I find this to be just as tacky and repulsive as the covers that use the entire person in the cover.

My next pet peeve is something that I know for a fact many readers hate, but for some reason it still happens and that is covers of books that have been changed to the movie poster. I don't know if this is some scheme to try to draw more people into reading the book that the movie they just saw was based off of, but I'd like to know if that actually works. In many cases the movie turns out to be a sucky adaption and that new cover replaced some awesome cover art. It's also not something that I would be proud to display on my bookshelf.

This next cover trend that has recently popped up has caused me to have a few rage incidents is modernizing the covers of classic novels. It really pisses me off when publishers recover a classic novel with the current book cover trends or base it on the cover of the book that is currently popular. I REALLY REALLY hate when they take a book with a beautifully complex narrative and make it look trivial and YA genre friendly with a girly cover. Like this:
THIS MAKES ME SO ANGRY!!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!! The Bell Jar is such an important complex book and here it makes it look like a shoddy teen romance. This does nothing for anyone. The girl that picks this book up based on the cover will be sorely disappointed to find it isn't a light romantic read and diehard Plath fans like myself are just filled with disgust.

Do you know what fills me with me rage and anger? When publishers figured they could cash in on the Twilight craze by repackaging classic novels to look like them. Do you know what books they chose to ruin?

THE BRONTES!! The Bronte novels are something that I hold sacred. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are my favorite classic authors and I can't stand to have their wonderful works bound in the shittiest fashion. I am all for making sure that today's teens willingly read these great works. This is just the worst way to do it. Not to mention the fact that those "ugly cover" books released by Barnes and Nobles or other distinguished publishing houses have incredibly helpful footnotes that make it easy to read the texts on your own. I read my Barnes and Nobles classics copy of Jane Eyre on my own and I understood it better than people who have actually read it in a classroom. In a game of who can imitate the "it book" the best, everyone loses.

The last book cover pet peeve was actually brought to my attention when the lovely author Maureen Johnson talked about it on her twitter...and I found that I completely agreed with her and it is gendered book covers. I have a pretty big problem with this because it indicates that the audience has already been determined by the publishers and they gear the covers towards them. Somebody somewhere determined that YA fiction is only for girls, so the covers became girlier and became a girls only club. The reality is that there are guys that love YA fiction and even YA romance as much as the next girl. In the same token sci-fi book covers are gendered as well. They are made to look manlier because the assumption is that only guys like science fiction. I HATE gender stereotypes in real life, so why would I ever want them attached to my books.

The funny thing is when a book has a gender neutral cover, they tend to sell more and capture the attention of both genders. Take for instance The Hunger Games.

This is the perfect example of a well executed cover. It has cover art rather than a photographed model. The art is symbolic of the actual text and it's gender neutral. When this book first came out I saw tons of guys and girls reading it and enjoying it, even though the protagonist is a female and it deals with a love triangle. This could have easily got a girly cover because it's YA fiction and I bet it would have been less successful and alienated plenty of potential readers.

How about another example.

This delightful remake of Beauty and the Beast by Alex Flinn has a beautiful but decidedly girly cover, which sends out the message that it is a book for girls. The interesting thing about this book is that it's narrated by Kyle and it follows his struggles with his self image and how he treats other people. Had this been a gender neutral cover I bet it would have attracted a stronger male audience, especially when the narrator is someone who they can identify with. Can't we all agree that stereotypes suck and move on with our lives and our culture? PLEASE!

Those are the book cover pet peeves that I have currently, but I bet some new cover trend will be dreamed up that could rival some of the ones that I've pointed out. Were there any others that I missed that annoy you?