On the Forums: What Makes a Terrible Book Cover?

Random close-ups of body parts? Too much text? Not enough color? Head over to the forums to chat about the don’ts of cover design. Join the discussion by Tuesday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m ET and get entered to win a prize pack with four great new books from Hyperion!

We’ll feature our favorite answers later this week!

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22 thoughts on “On the Forums: What Makes a Terrible Book Cover?

  1. What makes a terrible cover? Adding too many elements, making it destracting and so descriptive and graphic that it gives the reader too much of a glimpse into the book itself. A cover should remain classy, understated, but still hold enough mystery to peak interest.

  2. Do-

    Grotesque figures
    Inappropriate language/gestures
    Offensive terms (i.e dike, faggot, etc)

  3. I think it’s a terrible book cover when it has absolutely nothing to do with the book. The cover is what draws in most readers so if the cover is plain, or boring, or has nothing to do with the plot line then the reader will either be a)uninterested b)confused c)upset d) the reader’s head explodes.

  4. Awkward pictures, pictures of SUPPOSED characters that dont match their descriptions, weird symbolic/metaphorical crap, cheesy themes (like with B.A.D. special effects depicted). Those always ward me off.

  5. When ever I see anybody half naked on a book cover I get out my jet pack because I have nothing to do there. In fact it even annoys me if their’s a picture of the character and they’re well clothed because I don’t need any help visualizing what this character looks like.

  6. Having someone on the cover be the MC, who looks nothing as the MC is described.
    Too much stuffed into one cover.
    Something that doesn’t portray the book correctly.

  7. The title cover is always the reason I choose what to read. I read what catches me eye.
    Little text
    Innocent pictures
    Too much text

  8. I think what makes a terrible cover is if it is too busy. Words on top of elements of the picture. I prefer a simple cover that either takes a symbol from the book or goes all out and seems to express the theme of the book. I hate covers that don’t have anything to do with representing the book. They just throw the reader off into thinking that something else is going to happen.

  9. I think haveing a person on the cover, who symbolizes the main character in the book, but looks nothing alike her or him, could confuse the reader. a picture of something too close up, like a huge eye that takes up the whole entire book cover (especiall if it’s a big book. Somebody who is just smiling in the most boring way, just a boring smile. And definatly don’t be too obvious, I mean don’t put a picture on their that tells the reader what the whole plot it, and the ending without even opening the book. I would put it down right away.
    You should:
    Make the book cover look pecuilar to cath more peoples eyes. Be different, try putting something that dosen’t realate totally to the book, but something small about it. Thehunger games cover is a great example.

  10. The only book covers I really despise are the ones with people on it. Readers should be able to imagine what the characters look like, I think, and quite frankly, no matter how you do the picture, it always looks dumb and odd and etc. Same goes for the covers of published books, imo.

  11. I think what makes a terrible cover is the picture or drawing of whatever you use…if that looks bad then I won’t read the book. I don’t like up close face pictures, of boring blank covers.

  12. In my opinion, a good book cover is pretty (you want the designers to get paid for something, yeah?), simple, and maybe a little mysterious or special-effecty. One of the books I’m reading now, Hereafter, has a really cool cover. It’s about a ghost, and on the cover there’s a girl whose head is perfectly visible but as your eyes travel downward her body completely disappears into the river in front of her.
    Even something as simple as one of the covers for Beastly, the black one with the thorns, would draw me in. In the end however, it’s how the persuasive bit on the back is written that really draws me in.

  13. Simple. To make a good book cover, all you have to do is think of what would draw your attention enough to open it and create that. This means not giving too much about the book away just by the picture on the cover.
    And I personally walk right past a book when it has a picture of the main character on the front. I don’t know why, it just bothers me.

  14. Shadows (unless it’s for a creepy book)

    Black and White

    Busy pictures, where there is too much text over the pictures

    Abstract photos that do not correspond with the synopsis or description. They MUST tie into each other in order to attract.

  15. Covers that have/are extremely provocative, busy, or blood & guts make horrible covers that make me flinch. And if the main character is blonde, than why should a burnette be on the front cover?! And if the book is about cats, why is there a dog on the cover? The cover photographs should be relevant to the story. And sure, sunsets are all pretty and stuff, but about 90% of the time that I see them on a cover they’re only there to fill space and the main characters doesn’t care about sunsets AT. ALL. It would humiliate me to carry around a book with girly (or overly decorative font in general) writing on the cover. The cover should be brief, make a point, and move on. Title and author. Picture. The end. Lucy

  16. I remember reading a very good book once with a cover that looked rather like someone had photoshopped several google images on to it, and then put some kind of rainbow-colored filter on top of everything. The resulting picture vaguely had something to do with the story’s subject matter, but it was hard to see a lot of it clearly, it didn’t tell a coherent story, and none of the pictures really resembled any of the characters.

    So… don’t do that, I guess. The cover needs to be coherent and relevant. As long as that’s kept in mind it should be alright. Second opinions are always useful, too.

  17. I hate to judge books by their cover, but almost everybody does it. Let’s face it, and enticing book cover makes you wonder just as equally about the intrigue that the book itself may hold.

    When I choose my book covers, I make sure it’s intriguing. I’ve recieve several comments on them, and many people follow me just because of the covers! I choose fractals that an artist has allowed me to use. I think fractals are amazing, beautiful, and mysterious. They almost defy science. I choose an appropriate work of fractal-art to go along with the theme and feel of any of my works.

    What turns me off in a book cover is lack of appeal, such as being plain (there’s a difference between being artistic and minimalistic and being plain), being too crowded, but also being cliche. For example, if you have a close-up of a girl’s eye and the back of the book tells you it’s about a girl’s struggle to fiind love, I automatically think, “Oh, been there, done that.” That kind of reaction is not good! Make sure no one else has a cover quite like yours. If you’re gonna do a close-up eye, okay, but perhaps photoshop it to make it mysterious and gorgeous. Boom, instant distinction!

    That’s all I really have to say. Keep in mind that I don’t really care for romance or realistic fiction, so of course covers that have that look to them don’t really appeal to me. And like I think someone already said, always get a second opinion! When people are asking you about your covers, you know you’re doing a good job.


  18. I hate when the author’s name is bigger than the title. It just seems really arrogant to me. The title should be obvious and easy to read and the author should be smaller and not the most distinctive feature of the cover.

  19. Dont’s –
    1. Don’ have the author’s name bigger than the title, or in a more attention-grabbing font/color.
    2. Don’t have the title in some script/symbol/whatever font or bright color that makes it hard to read.
    3. If it’s a book that has been made into a movie, don’t have the movie cast on the front, or the ‘now a major motion picture!’ sticker.
    4. Don’t have a picture of people making out or shirtless guys or whatever. (Specifically, don’t do what Richelle Mead did for Vampire Academy.)
    5. Don’t have too many colors. In fact, black and white and one other color are usually good for attention. (Like… *shudder* the Twilight books… they may be horrid but they do have great covers.)
    6. Don’t have something super bizarre or symbolic.
    7. Don’t make it boring.
    8. Don’t have a picture that would be classified as ‘girly’ or ‘boyish’. Try keeping it gender-neutral. Granted, this may not be possible with some books, but try it.

    DO’s –
    1. Keep it simple and recognizable. (Think “The Hunger Games” covers, with the running theme of a mockingjay on a solid colored background, or “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin, with the title, an image, and the author’s name, all on a solid-colored background. ((Not counting the first one, “A GAme of Thrones”, some versions have Sean Bean, from the TV show on HBO, on the cover.)
    2. Have a clear, easy-to-read title. Extra points for having it raised.
    3. Make sure your colors match. Don’t have the background be gold and the writing silver, or something.
    4. Make it interesting.
    5. If it has a movie or a Broadway show made after it, include some of the famous icons. (Examples: Wicked: the cover is the same as the marquee of the musical. Phantom of the Opera: the mask and rose on a black background could be used as a cover design. Les Miserables: the picture of young Cosette can be used. The Last Song: DO NOT PUT MILEY CYRUS. Instead, just have a picture of the piano or something. The Shining by Stephen King: have “REDRUM” on it, or an axe, or a hotel.)

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