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Bad book-covers revisited

An irregular feature of the original 52 Books blog was Bad Book-covers, where I would pick an ugly, inappropriate or badly designed book-cover and criticise it to pieces. I think I will make this a feature of this blog as well, although it can not be a regular one as sometimes I don't come across a noteworthy bad book-cover for weeks on end. Mostly they just tend to be dull and uninspired, which makes it hard to say anything catty about them, but occasionally I come across a real doozy, which is when I start sharpening my claws...

As a life-long reader I feel that I and other readers deserve books with good covers. The cover is one of the selling points of a book, and is one of four features I consider when making an uninformed book-buying decision (to use marketing jargon). The title is another one, the back-cover introductory blurb a third, and a sample read is the fourth and final feature I consider (I only consider authors as a selling point if I'm familiar with them). If the cover is dull, bland, cheesy, salacious, garish or just plain ugly when it shouldn't be, I will think twice about buying the book. Sometimes, of course, I don't discover that the cover is bad until after I have finished reading the book. This is when it first becomes apparent whether a cover is appropriate or not.

Today's cover is a mixture of "already thought it was bad" and "didn't think it was that bad".



This is the cover for Sister Carol Anne O'Marie's first Sister Mary Helen mystery. As it describes sinister goings-on, the dark, broody background with its bad-weather colours and swirling dark clouds is quite appropriate, as is the ornate, manuscript-like lettering of the title. The woman on the cover, however, also looks decidedly sinister, with her red suit and that "I'm-going-to-hurt-you" expression combined with those almost diabolical eyes. She looks, in fact, like a psychotic Jessica Fletcher. This would be fine if the villain of the story were a nun, a fake nun or a psychotic religious type (or indeed a woman), which is what I thought when I first looked at the picture. But this is supposed to be Sister Mary Helen herself, which brings me to the "didn't think it was that bad" aspect of the picture. What makes it so bad, in the "inappropriate" sense, is that she is wearing a wine-red suit. First of all, who ever heard of a nun wearing red? Secondly, Sister Mary Helen wears a navy-blue suit. It is mentioned a couple of times in this book, and in the other book I have read in the series as well. Obviously the cover artist either didn't read the book and didn't get very accurate information to go on, or they decided to take an artist's licence with the colour of the suit because navy-blue would have made the cover too gloomy and the nun nearly invisible. Whatever the reason, this cover gets a thumbs-down from me.

Comments

Maxine Clarke said…
Good posting. Have linked to it on Petrona at:
http://petrona.typepad.com/petrona/2006/06/cover_stories.html
Love that nun!
Anonymous said…
Please don't blame the author, or even the artist, for inaccurate covers. The editor sends instructions to the artist, who has probably never read the book. If it says red suit, that's what the artist has to paint. Unless you're Stephen King, or some other very, very, big shot, you the author have no say at all in the cover.
Bibliophile said…
Anon, do you see me blaming the author or artist? If the sentence "Obviously the cover artist either didn't read the book and didn't get very accurate information to go on, or they decided to take an artist's licence with the colour of the suit because navy-blue would have made the cover too gloomy and the nun nearly invisible." has offended you, read it again, especially the first part and I think you will see that I am merely discussing why the artist might have made the error.

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