Thursday, February 7, 2013

Covers that make you cry (and not in a good way)

On the whole, we ex-Avalon authors have been very happy with our covers. Many of them were stunning, and our hearts skipped a beat with pride and happiness when we finally held the glossy hardcovers in our hands.

However, there were also a few that went spectacularly wrong, and we silently shed tears about them. When we recently had a good yarn together about the ups and downs of being a writer, ugly covers were a major topic (next to hurtful rejections and non-appearing royalty checks). We shared them, shrieked out loud in horror, and finally, we were able to laugh about them, which is obviously the best we can do when we have no other option.

Now, we have pre-selected the five worst covers (and the author's reasons why) so you can join the fun. Please vote the worst cover and tell us why you think it's so bad. On Valentine's Day, we'll select five random winners from those who comment, and you'll get one of the featured novels for free.

That doesn't sound like much of an incentive? 
Don't worry.
We promise you, the content is much better than it seems!

 1. Nobody's Darling by Gina Ardito 


What I wanted was a lone Adirondack chair against a backdrop of an autumnal mountain scene. This is what I got instead. To me, this cover screams 1950's "I Love Lucy." Between the cartoon television (complete with rabbit ears!) to the pumpkin striped wallpaper, it's all wrong, all old-fashioned, and just plain goofy. Nothing about it reflects the story inside, which is about two people at odds who discover they've allowed themselves to become victims of their circumstances. My characters in Nobody's Darling are spending thirty days in a "Big Brother" style cabin in the Adirondack mountains as part of a talk show's experiment. The title comes from my heroine's feelings of inadequacy. She has one sister who was her father's darling, the other sister was her mother's. And there isn't a chocolate conveyor belt or grape-stomping scene anywhere.

 2. The Gift by Mona Ingram


I was devastated when I saw this cover! Although it's difficult to tell, this is a romance. It takes place in a beautiful area of British Columbia, and the heroine runs a houseboat company. I had visualized sparkling water, setting sun, sandy coves; anything other than what you see here. Such a disappointment, because it's a delightful story. Sigh.
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I hated the cover for PUT OUT THE LIGHT the first time I saw it. The bright red color and the silhouetted figure suggested pornography. I was afraid it would be misleading to potential readers, disappointing those looking for a sexy read and off-putting to those who enjoy a light, traditional mystery. The silhouetted figure is obviously a woman; the actor in my book is an 84-year-old man and is not the main character, though he is one of my favorites. The main character is Jennie Connors, who works in a retirement community and champions the residents. When one of them is murdered and another falsely accused, Jennie puts her life on the line to find out out what really happened. I'm not sure what I pictured. That may be the problem. I didn't really give the designer anything to go on. I thought he or she was the professional designer and trusted them to get it right. This was my first book and I've since learned that no one else cares about my book like I do. I still don't like the cover, but have to admit, when I look at my author page on Amazon, this cover is the one that pops. 

4. The Twisted Trail by L.W. Rogers

The Twisted Trail was my first published novel. Not only is the cover overly orange, but the "stick figure" cowboys are wearing pith helments instead of Stetsons and riding mules instead of horses. My disappointment was esculated when, at my very first booksigning, a woman picked up the book and declared it was the ugliest book cover she had ever seen. Not only was I embarrassed, I also wanted to cry.
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 I feel funny complaining because I love my cover to look at, but I hate that it has nothing to do with the story!  First off, the "beach" where my story takes place is not in tropical Florida but by a lake in Ohio, with nary a palm tree to be found!  And second, the protagonist is a large woman with bad knees.  Look at those shoes--they are those a tall, lithe, athletic woman would wear.  But on the bright side, the colors are awesome and I get a lot of compliments on it.

So, now it's up to you - do you agree with us or are we being too critical of our babies?

51 comments:

Heidi said...

Would it make Loretta feel better or worse to win this competition? Because that's the one that has my vote.

Beate Boeker said...

Good question! Grin.
But my vote goes to Gina's cover. If I found that in a library, I would think they've forgotten to clear up their inventory since the fifties.
And I love Gina's books!

The Hostess with the Mostest said...

Where's mine? Does that mean mine is better??

The Hostess with the Mostest said...

You mean mine is better?

Lavinia KEnt said...

What fun! I am not sure which is the worst. I am not sure that I would have picked any of them up if I saw them on a sales table. Some time you just want to scream.

Jayne... said...

Sandy, I did not even see the sexy silhouette until you pointed it out! Unfortunately readers DO judge a book by it's cover, though!

Sandy Cody said...

I have to go with Loretta's. Cowboys in pith helments!

Beate Boeker said...

Actually, I really like Sarah's cover, and I know I would have picked it up from a table (I'm helpless when it comes to palm trees!). But she's right - it has nothing at all to do with the story, and while I was reading this truly entertaining mystery, on a sub-conscious level, my mind kept wondering about those high heels and the palm trees. Lovely things - but wrong for this book.

Sofie Couch said...

Mona's THE GIFT wins my vote. (Sorry, Mona.) I mean, first of all, the photograph is unidentifiable, there's no "human" element, and your name is positively lost amidst the wood grain. Bummer. On the flip side, I'm off to check out your book so I can re-imagine the cover. :)

Anonymous said...

Loretta's is even worse than mine. I vote for hers!

Gina Ardito said...

I like Sarah's cover for the same reason. I remember when the book came out thinking, "THAT is a great cover!" But when it doesn't represent the story inside, the nicest cover will translate into negative reviews from readers expecting something different from what they get. That's Sandy's issue too. Pith helmets? Sheesh!

Kate Eileen Shannon said...

I have to say Loretta's cover. I haven't read the book so I went to Amazon to read the blurb and they should have been able to do wonderful things with the cover just from that!

Paula Petty said...

I vote for "Put Out the Light." It does look like a book with porn.

Sandy Cody said...

One more quick comment: I like Sarah/Jayne's cover too, but have to agree that it doesn't represent the story. As for my cover, that book is the one that sells the most. Hmmm.

Beate Boeker said...

There you go, Sandy - Sex sells. ;-)

Linda Acaster said...

Nobody's Darling. I cringed, sorry.

But you are not alone. My first novel, a mediaeval histrom set in 1066, had a derelict 19th century windmill prominent on the cover.

Judy Alter said...

I vote for Nobody's Darling as the most misleading ugliest, with Twisted Trail a close second. My first novel was about Libbie Custer and she looked like Madonna in nineteenth century dress, along with a lot of other historical errors. These days she has a new cover.

Cara Marsi said...

I vote for Nobody's Darling. I am an ex-Avalon author and I hate my cover. My heroine is a caterer. They put a really bizarre-looking hand in black and white holding a tray of pastries. The background colors are good though. I have the digital rights and published the book myself last year. I was so happy to get a new cover. My Avalon book is called A Catered Affair by Carolyn Matkowsky and is on sale at Amazon. You can see the old cover. I don't have the print rights. My new version is A Catered Romance by Cara Marsi. The cover and the book are much sexier. Thanks for a great blog.

carolyn4books@aol.com

Judy Alter said...

I vote for Nobody's Darling as the most misleading and dated, with Twisted Trail a close second. My earlier novel about Libbie Custer had an awful cover--she looked like Madonna in 19th-century dress, and there were many historical inaccuracies.

Sandy said...

I liked Nobody's Darling, although all of the covers made me laugh!! Great post.

Joanne Guidoccio said...

My vote goes to Mona's cover. There are so many possibilities for beautiful British Columbia. It is beyond belief that someone would come up with this amateurish cover downplaying the waterfront theme. It looks like something you would find in a child's scrapbook.

Michele said...

Mona's, The Gift, gets my vote. I had to look closely to see what the photo was, and even then wasn't sure!

Patg said...

I don't know what the author meant by a 'houseboat company' but seeing that cover garnered a 'yew' from me. I live on a floating home.
Patg

Roni Denholtz said...

I think "The Gift" has the worst cover--it's unappealing (sorry).

Yves Fey said...

I vote against Noboby's Darling. A couple of others were uglier, but it seemed the most utterly misleading.

Peg Nichols said...

Twisted Trails might be the worst, pith helmets and all, but of the group, I've seen much, much worse. What I do not like are the "cookie cutter" covers of mystery series.
Peg Nichols (aka Emilye Yancey)

Nancy said...

I'd love to read The Blond Leading the Blond as I'm a large woman with bad knees and the cover is so pretty. Having grown up near Lake Ontario I know there aren't any palm trees nearby. Still, they are lovely.
For downright ugliness and blurry to boot, I'd have to pick the cover for The Gift.

Nancy said...

I am not a robot, yet my comment didn't take.

I choose The Gift as the worst and ugliest cover. Better luck next time, Mona Ingram.

Beate Boeker said...

Hi Nancy, I just approved both your comments. This is a moderated loop, and we have to approve the comments before they appear. That's why they first seem to disappear into space! Irritating, and it would be better if you got an automatic reply that told you so, but we can't set this up. Thank you for your patience, and for trying again! You're in for the lucky draw!

Alicia said...

I think that these covers are maybe a little simple or bland, but not nesicarally ugly. I have seen covers that are FAR WORSE. There are a lot of horror stories with authors and their book covers, and mainly I think that you should go in with an idea of what you want it to look like, but be prepared for something completely different. That doesn't mean it won't be ugly it's just you are going to have realize not every one is out to make your book a shining star!

That is why I would reccomend that as an author look into some cover artists that you like, and see how their work progresses over the years, and contact them before you decide to pay them for your services.

But of course I don't really know much about this topic cause I haven't published my book yet. But I have had to deal with the fact that not everyone's covers are going to look like Nora Roberts books, or some of the other really popular authors.

The one thing to remember is every author started out where you are and I'm sure they got their fair share of off Kilter covers, but they still found a way for their books to shine!

bn100 said...

I'd go with The Gift because I thought it was some type of biography or thriller.

bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

HAHAHAHA! I love this so much!! Where has this site been??? Um, I vote for the red curtain sillhouette. Definitely screams porn. SOOO glad Avalon passed on my story!

Alice V said...

I'm afraid I have to vote for "Nobody's Darling" as the worst cover. Not only is it ugly (sorry) but it is the farthest away from representing the story inside. Glad you can all laugh.

Norma Huss said...

I think Nobody's Darling is pretty bad - doesn't fit and dated and doesn't seem to mean anything! Jeez!

Kuzlin said...

I vote for "Put Out the Light." The red cover and female silhouette screams bordello to me! (Sorry)

Beate Boeker said...

Virginia, not to give you the wrong impression - Avalon Books did make many wonderful covers, really brilliant, and we loved so many of them. These are just the odd exceptions. But if it's your own book, it doesn't help much that it's an exception, of course! :-)

Alicia, if you are published by a traditional house, you can usually give the editor an idea of what you'd like on the cover and you can even recommend an artist, but the final result is 100% in the hands of the publishing house. The author has no influence whatsoever, even if she hates it and knows that her target reader will never pick it up. That's why it's such a big issue.

Ellis Vidler said...

This was a fun blog. Covers are so important, and they mean so much to the author who sees all the work that went into the story almost wasted. I sympathize. I had a hard time deciding between The Gift and Nobody's Darling, with Twisted Trail a close third. I wouldn't have picked up any of the three. Put out the Lights and Blond Leading the Blonde are attractive covers even if misleading. Good luck with the books. The descriptions are interesting!

Joan Kane Nichols said...

Nobody's Darling. Definitely the ugliest. Has anyone looked to see whether the same designer was responsible for all of these?

Marilyn Shank said...

Mona, I choose The Gift as well. Sorry and hope we're still friends. :) Like you, I would have chosen sparkling water, setting sun, and sandy coves. Most of our Avalon covers were wonderful -- sorry this one disappointed you.

Beate Boeker said...

Joan, as far as I know, the names of the designers were never mentioned, at least not in our novels. However, I wouldn't put the blame on them exclusively. They had a briefing, and someone had to approve them, so it was obviously a decision that was taken by more than one person.

Gina Ardito said...

I do know that Nobody's Darling was designed by a friend of the editor. But since our books were probably released through different editors, I'd guess no one else in this group had my cover artist.

Lola said...

I like the Jayne Ormerod cover. I'd pick it up even though it doesn't match the book. I'll vote for Gina's cover - it's way off base and the colors don't appeal to me. sorry but what a fun contest!

Sandy Cody said...

Virginia, don't be misled. Most of our Avalon covers were great. And, even with the few bad covers, we were glad to be published by Avalon. Speaking for myself, the people I dealt with couldn't have been nicer. One thing I loved about working with them was that when I called, the phone was answered by a real person and, when I told them my name, they knew who I was and the title of at least my latest book. No voice-mail runaround - I like that.

Rachel Rossano said...

I am going to have to go with "The Gift" as the worst cover. Everything about it makes me want to look away at something else. Though, "The Twisted Trail" and "Put Out the Lights" come in close second. I hope you can acquire better covers for your books someday. It is a shame for such great sounding stories to be hiding behind such bad representation. :(

Meg said...

Oh, definitely Gina's book -- agree about the I Love Lucy bit, and uuuuuuuuugly background, and it just screams OLD. Sounds good inside, though!

Jaclyn said...

The Gift, definitely. The print is hard to read, and it just looks really old.

Couple confessions:
As a theatre AND mystery buff, I'd actually pick up Put Out the Light based on that cover. The font is off-putting (too thin so, with the shadow, a bit hard to read), but otherwise, not bad.

And The Nobody's Darling cover makes me think of a light-hearted romantic comedy (so I guess the I Love Lucy comparison makes sense) and so might make me pick it up. Sorry it doesn't reflect the story inside, but I don't really think it looks old-fashioned. A brighter colour palette and perhaps a change in font could make a great cover! (for a different type of romance, granted)

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Thanks to all of you who disliked the cover of The Twisted Trail. I feel vindicated. WooHoo!

Avalon had wonderful editors. I thoroughly enjoyed being an Avaloner. It was the graphic artists that needed improving.

The comments were fun to read.

Popple said...

The twisted trail has to be it. The illustrator must have been daydreaming about his or her balloons. I've had some terrible covers, bad enough to make me cry.
Popple

Charlottemacaw said...

This is rampant in the industry and painful for authors who have visual ideas of their covers throughout the writing process. It reflects on publishers who demand so much from their writers, yet pay cover designers to crop and paste inappropriate and misleading graphics with no oversite.

Sandy Cody said...

Hi Popple. Good to see you here - balloons and all.

Beate Boeker said...

You want to know who won?
Check out today's post! It reveals all the winners, and maybe you were lucky today!