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Cover Art Poll

On another discussion list I frequent, authors were discussing what makes good genre cover art. We realize that individual opinions vary widely, and that any questions are inherently "squishy". Nevertheless, I figured I'd take a pass at making a poll. If you're reading this on Facebook or MySpace, please click through to the actual poll to answer!

Many thanks - and don't be afraid to make observations or ask questions in a comment below!

Poll #1371053 Book Cover Art Poll

For fantasy readers: What is the one thing you MOST like to see on the cover of a new book?

Scene from the book
Face of a character
Symbolic object related to the story
Other, I'll tell you in comments

For fantasy readers: What is the one thing you LEAST like to see on the cover of a new book?

Scene from the book
Face of a character
Symbolic object related to the story
Other, I'll tell you in comments

For romance readers: What is the one thing you MOST like to see on the cover of a new book?

Scene from the book
Face of a character
Symbolic object related to the story
Other, I'll tell you in comments

For romance readers: What is the one thing you LEAST like to see on the cover of a new book?

Scene from the book
Face of a character
Symbolic object related to the story
Other, I'll tell you in comments

For science fiction readers: What is the one thing you MOST like to see on the cover of a new book?

Scene from the book
Face of a character
Symbolic object related to the story
Other, I'll tell you in comments

For science fiction readers: What is the one thing you LEAST like to see on the cover of a new book?

Scene from the book
Face of a character
Symbolic object related to the story
Other, I'll tell you in comments

Name three colors (separated by commas) that ATTRACT you to a book cover.

Name three colors (separated by commas) that REPEL you from a book cover.

What book has the BEST cover you've ever seen (regardless of the content of the book)?

What book has the WORST cover you've ever seen (regardless of the content of the book)?


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 24th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
The thing that repels me from any book, is an over-sexualized, underdressed, unrealistic woman - especially if she's in peril or in chains. My inner feminist starts to growl, and I just can't have that crap in my house. You know, like the John Norman Gor covers that used to litter used book stores, with a woman in chains, maybe being fed to a monster, huge gravity-defying bosom and miniscule waist. I also made a decision long ago that I'd never buy a book if, on the cover, she's mostly naked, and he's mostly dressed.
Mar. 24th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this is what turns me off a book as well. (In fact, my son and I like to play a game in bookstores that makes fun of this.)

The only exception to this rule has been the Sime/Gen books by Lichtenberg and Lorrah. Those covers were cheesey fun, but it was the 80's. Many exceptions are made for the 80's. ;-)
(no subject) - j_cheney - Mar. 25th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chrisondra - Mar. 26th, 2009 08:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chrisondra - Mar. 26th, 2009 08:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - doriscrockford2 - Mar. 26th, 2009 11:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
I tend to like the cartoony fun covers especially for romance or women's fiction. I tend to dislike real people on the cover unless their features are obscured or blurred. I dislike too much of a particular character--I want to imagine what they look like; seeing a face takes away from most covers/titles and directs the attention on a real person.

I like scenes, my favorite those that are "painted" so the people aren't real. If the people are real, I like a lot left to the imagination--someone half shadowed so you aren't quite sure what they look like. Maybe a weapon, but no details overdone like the more common tatooed look that is so popular these days.
Mar. 24th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
I don't like photographic covers. I much prefer artwork, whether painted or iconic. That said, I hate seeing bad artwork. Some covers have terrible proportion- arms too long, legs too short, things like that. I also like some of the very iconic or symbolic covers, like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

I agree with hilleviw; I don't like an over-sexualized cover. I am waiting to read Saturn's Children in a format that doesn't have the sexy lady cover. I understand that it relates to the story, I just don't like it.
Mar. 24th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
For pretty much any fiction genre, the thing I least like to see on a book cover is bad art. I don't mean "art that is not photo-realistic" or "art that is somewhat non-representational"; I mean ArtFail of various sorts, such as attempts to be realistic that aren't, attempts to be representational that aren't, and covers that appear to me to have been created by someone who's had lots of training in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop but none at all in art or design of any kind.

Actually what I really hate on book covers is what looks like a scene from the book but actually isn't, or what is supposed to be a character from the book but looks nothing like him or her (e.g., character is dark-haired and dark-skinned and slim and wears motorcycle leathers, illustration is of well-endowed blonde in string bikini). But I'm guessing that here you want to know how people react to the covers of books they haven't read yet ;).
Mar. 24th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Cover Art Poll
If the character on the cover is too clearly defined, and I can't identify with him/her, I'm not going to buy the book. Symbolic imagery (formulas, alien alphabets, etc.) or a fantastic landscape/cityscape is always a draw - the picture has to be as evocative as the story it's promoting. I want to be invited into the mystery!
Mar. 24th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
The thing that makes me craziest is bad photomontage. I think errors of scale and lighting hit the uncanny valley for me much more than for most people.

I want the cover to be clear images with a coherent color scheme.

In general, I prefer paintings over photographs.

I have a weird preference for paintings which are predominantly gray, though that certainly isn't anything I insist on.

One more random thing....if the book is set in a grim world, please don't have a bright, cheerfully oolored cover. I never would have known about this preference if I hadn't read Hines' The Stepsister Scheme.
Mar. 24th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
Mindy-- What I like least in science fiction and fantasy is a fantasy cover that looks like it's science fiction, and vice versa. I don't mind it so much if it's a sci-fi story reads like a fantasy or the other way around, but sometimes they art work is very deceptive of the tone of the story.

And ditto the comment on women in chains. Gack!

Edited at 2009-03-24 07:58 pm (UTC)
Mar. 24th, 2009 09:30 pm (UTC)
I honestly usually prefer to be able to imagine characters, so just a character portrait usually irritates me. If the character is part of a scene on the cover that relates to the book, I love it.

As far as symbolism goes, I don't like it. For an educated reader, a symbol is likely to give away the whole book. For example, the American version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had a bit of art on the first page before the title page even, of a dog going out a door. For me and my friends this told us exactly what was going to happen, and it ruined the book as surely as the leaks on the internet ruined book 7 for some people.
Mar. 24th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
I don't like the paranormal romance/urban fantasy books that have nearly naked people. I'm not a big fan of dorsal nudity. I love Kelley Armstrong's books, but the women on the cover were progressively undressed on each successive book to the point where I was embarrassed to read them on the subway on the way to work. In at least one case, I'm pretty sure they had to add extra vertebrae so as not to show the buttcrack.

I dislike covers wit red lettering. For whatever reason (possibly relating to my astigmatism) red letters of a certain shade do not sit still on the cover when I look at them. It is really disconcerting to look at a book cover and see the letters wiggling. As a little kid I had one of the Ant & Bee alphabet books that had a light blue background and the title in red letters and they just would not sit still. It was disconcerting and gave me a headache.
Apr. 1st, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
That effect, with the colours, is called a discord. It is something that is deliberately used in advertising art to draw your eye. You take complementary colours from the opposite side of the colour wheel, tint one or the other with white so that they are the same shade, and voila - you have wriggly patches of colour. And it gives me a headache too. :-[
Mar. 24th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
The one thing that makes me crazy is when there is a picture of the protagonist on the cover--that bears no resemblence to the character as described by the author in the book.
Mar. 26th, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
Yes! I know the artists don't always get to read the books before creating the cover, but in that case they should stay away from character depictions. It just annoys the reader.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 24th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
I'm attracted to quality jacket design. I don't mind what scenes, characters or objects are featured so long as the design is good and no messy, ridiculous fonts are used.

Also, I'm getting very bored of headless women on book covers.
Mar. 24th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
I don't want to see faces. This is my imagination, dammit, not theirs!
Mar. 24th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC)
I quite like books without cover art.
Mar. 25th, 2009 01:23 am (UTC)
I really hate books where the art or models on the cover look(s) absolutely NOTHING like the main character(s).
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