Yes, we have another article from the illustrious Anonymous Author.
By crikey! We begin with a mystery! Does the writer refer to sites about crappy book covers? or to crappy sites about book covers?! Let us sally forth and see.
Art is art and taste is taste, and one person’s musical masterpiece is another’s cacophony. But when it comes to critics of book covers I first bear in mind an age old brand spanking new adage which begins by paraphrasing Gurdjieff, then steals a common cliché and concludes with spot of spice:
S/He who can love can be. S/He who can be can do. S/He who can do is ~ and does. S/He who can’t do teaches. S/He who can’t teach becomes a critic. And s/he who lacks wit and is too psychologically dysfunctional to become a critic becomes a troll.
I won’t take this age old brand spanking new adage further as it either ends in a restraining order, a prison sentence or suicide.
Ooo, no! Let’s keep this light.
When it comes to the aesthetics of book cover design my subjective view is quite bland: book covers are packaging and 75%+ of book covers I see are … well, they’re just book covers. I see them as neither good nor bad but as ‘same old same old’. Bearing in mind that there are currently over 10 million books on sale worldwide there’s inevitably going to be everything from utterly atrocious covers to the rarer truly artistic ~ and the same also applies to LP, CD and DVD covers ~ but for me the vast majority are pretty much … well, ‘same old same old’. However, it does make a rich and all too easy pond for trolls to fish in. All one has to do is cast a net into an Amazon site and there’s enough prey there to inflate the ego’s dark side in any maladjusted troll. All the troll has to do is get an intelligent friend to set up a website for it and Snarlsnabob’s your balrog uncle.
So let’s have a look at some sites dedicated to shooting at easy targets, though I’ll start with the good and thereafter descend in careful steps into the very dustbin of purgatory!
I’d give this first one a 5 Star rating had it not been for the page title: “40 Worst Covers and Titles Ever”. To qualify “Ever” one would have to have access to every book since the beginning of print; and then how does one qualify “worst”? I’ve seen far, far worse covers all over the place, but for me most are just … well they’re just book covers … while a few are actually good. Also, very many titles and/or images here are clearly intended to be funny, and some are absolutely hilarious:
This next one ~ “26 Hilariously Bad Book Covers” ~ gets a 3 Star rating from me as although most of the covers really are dire, there’s very little hilarious about them compared to those on the previous site; but then as a pro, there’s no trollish running commentary from the poster. But there are still two covers in the list which I can’t see any point in having included:
Next, “Kindle Cover Disasters” gets a 1 Star rating, partly as there are occasional pointless comments from the poster, but mostly as it includes too many covers which are very standard of either their era or genre. I was particularly surprised to see the cover of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan ~ which is a paperback cover and not a Kindle ~ and the commentary: “Great to see Scooby and Shaggy striking out on their own for a change.” The resemblance to Scooby and Shaggy is minimal at best, so no points for wit there; while it also goes to show that anyone can make a cynical comment about anything should the negative will be there:
Finally here’s the very dustbin of purgatory which in my rating system gets 2 Moons (the equivalent of -2 Stars):
“Lousy Book Covers” (link above) is a lousy site and the troll behind it can’t stop itself from continuously posting. ’40 Lousy Covers’ isn’t enough for it, and the dated nightly posts show that it must spend hours and hours every night searching for something to trash. I say “nightly” and “night” as trolls fear the day as they turn into a useful commodity ~ stone ~ the very thought of which is anathema to them! Yes, there are many bad, poor or weak covers among the 120ish shown, but there are also some which are just average packaging, plus a few I just can’t see any problem with. For example, there’s a book called Chief: An American Novel by Cole Strider re which the too often niggling troll writes: “Chief: An American Novel Because the two most American things ever are cultural appropriation and Comics Sans.” By “cultural appropriation” I assume the troll’s referring to the cleverly imaged lettering in “Chief”; then only the words “An American Novel” are in Comic Sans and it looks fine. As if the average book browser is going to know Comic Sans from any other font. The cover isn’t a work of genius, but neither are 99.9% of all other covers, and I can’t find any fault with it at all. I’d even say that it’s a better than average book cover as far as packaging goes. It’s certainly effective enough to make particularly American browsers pause to find out what the book is about.
The “Lousy Book Covers” site gives links by each trashed cover to the troll’s WordPress pages where there are even more covers which can be viewed with other “pseudo-human” loathing trolls’ inane comments (a baffler in itself as trolls are pseudo-humans!), but I have to wonder about the state of the psyches of all. Is pointless negativity the only thing they have to live for?
Finally, here are three links to ‘good book cover’ sites, which I post as for me most covers are just … well, they’re just book covers … while there are a few I really don’t like and wouldn’t personally class as “good”. But as said at the beginning: Art is art and taste is taste, and one person’s musical masterpiece is another’s cacophony. I doubt there’s ever been a book cover ~ or any artwork ever ~ which someone somewhere hasn’t liked.
I.I. Capn (author of Hang ‘Em from the Yardarm!)
PS: regarding Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, check out this page of alternative covers, seven of which are to me far less good than the criticised paperback ‘Kindle’ cover above. Then bear in mind that publishing houses hire professional artists. Very, very many self-publishers create better covers than some of these: