I Try to Cover It All

After covering what covers what would make us want to buy a book by its cover, we approach what would turn us off of a book, by its cover.

This is hard.

Purchasing ability aside, (because I have had a lot of ‘sticker shock’ in bookstores), I mentioned last week that bodice rippers with over-filled bodices and over-ripped torsos just don’t get my attention.

I’ll pick up books of almost any genre and flip through them or look at the synopsis. I am up-to-here with books and movies about ‘post-apocalyptic’ societies. If a sci-fi or fantasy book has names of people and places that are all consonants, or ask for too many changes, giving the readers nothing to which they  can relate, they lose me before we start. The reason Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and many other have been so very successful is the ability for the readers/audience to relate to the characters and situations. Even the ‘driods and elves think and behave like humans.

If I find that an axe-murderer or the like is the sympathetic character in a story, it isn’t going home with me. Nor is any murder mystery with too much gore, inside or outside of the cover.

As for non-fiction works, if a serious study/exposé / informative book is too blood-splattered or conversely, too cutesy or if it tries too hard to look avant garde on the cover I won’t take it seriously; I won’t take it at all.

As for novels, generally people looking straight at me from the cover are a bit off-putting.

As I do some mind-searching, I came up with this quick, non-all-inclusive list of other cover pictures that repulse me:

If a book has an Anime-look about it, it probably won’t get opened by me to even check what is inside.|

Knives, bloody ones, (Why do so many murder mysteries have these on the cover?)

War battles, (although I became very interested in books about women in wars, especially WWII and Viet Nam. There is great heartbreak in these stories)

Pictures featuring cars

Two people looking down on a third perso (This is very common and I have no idea why)

The backside of a woman (Even in the most pristine, truly romantic cozy novels there is a tendency to show the rear-end of a bustle looking into a garden. Unless I know the author or have an interesting synopsis of the story, I won’t pick up one of these.)
Some completely incomprehensible on the cover. (Jagged lines, squares and triangles in tangles, blotches…if they can’t tell a picture with a picture, how are they going to tell it in words?)

Dead or abused animals. (There was a time before I was born and all the time I was a kid where “Family Story/Family Movie” meant that some animal was going to be killed or abused, and many of these are considered ‘classics’; i.e., Black Beauty, Bambi, Greyfriars Bobby, This Dog of Flanders, Old Yeller, The Incredible Journey, The Yearling. (The movie of The Yearling totally traumatized me as a child.)

Thank Heaven we seem to have slipped away from that for our children and grandchildren. In fact, I am terribly amused and moved by many Children’s and Young Adult books out in recent years. Between having homeschooled my sons for years, then working with the reading programs and in the school libraries of my grandchildren, I have had access to many children’s and now, YA books.

One point I will bring up, speaking of covers, is that there is a series of books based on Captain Jack Sparrow in upper elementary-level reading. These are Capt. Jack as a kid and although I never read any, I did mention to the school librarian that I thought the covers were sometimes a bit “much” for the youngsters, (over-flowing bodices again). She told me that she noticed and tried to put the necessary stickers, (bar codes, etc.), over ‘those’ parts. I said that I was very surprised. Author Mary Janice Davidson was approached by the FBI as “a Person of Interest”, because the covers to her “Undead” series, [Betsy, the Vampire Queen], were done in a cartoony style and were seen as “pandering to children.” (They were drawings of people, houses and the like.)The “Undead” books, although not erotica, are definitely not for children. In fact, she and her husband, Anthony Alongi, purposely wrote a YA series, the “ Jennifer Scales” books, because Mary Janice wanted to give an alternative to youngsters to keep them from reading all of her series,(she has several series and many short stories to her credit.) Mary Janice and her publisher dutifully changed the covers to her series to something more sophisticated. But I miss the old ones.

The newer cover version of the Undead series

The newer cover version of the Undead series

An original cover from MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series

An original cover from MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series

So, although I am sure the content in the books are not ‘adult’ in content, I still wonder why the publishers of the Jack Sparrow books have gotten away with their covers when they ARE pandering to children?

Since we have asked the question about what does and doesn’t attract you to a book for the last two weeks, can you offer any other examples of book covers in questionable taste or suitability?


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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8 Responses to I Try to Cover It All

  1. jeff7salter says:

    pretty comprehensive list, Tonette.
    I agree with several.
    I’m not familiar with the author you cited who changed her covers. It makes me curious to see what the originals looked like.


  2. I’ll try to amend the post to contain examples, Jeff.If not,I will send them to you.


    • jeff7salter says:

      I see what they meant about the first (illus) cover seeming very YA-aimed.
      The second cover is fine for the material you described.


      • The problem to me is the credibility of the powers-that-be. They need to take a look at the other covers and CONTENT. MJ’s work isn’t hardcore, but she has always been concerned for the children. I have read some pretty strong stuff in the books my grandson has to read for school.


  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Thanks for posting the MJD covers. You’re right, the cartoony ones are misleading. And though my kids had to read some scary stuff in junior high (I shuddered when my daughter had to read Lovely Bones for school), I like to know what I’m buying. Or at least have an idea.


  4. You misunderstood me;I don’t find the original covers misleading. You can’t just pick up a book and not read at all what it is about, and they are not in the YA sections.
    I find many of the books that they had my grandson read in 5th grade to be quite ugly and graphic in it.


  5. I never thought of adult type covers on books for children. It is not something that I have seen but that would be very off-putting.
    I agree with the bloody knife covers. I do not even bother to look at a title if I see that on a cover.
    I really enjoyed your insights on this topic. You mentioned things I had not thought of, or would have thought of.


    • Mission accomplished, Angie! The idea of each day we hear another take on a subject from each person’s view should open our eyes. I didn’t even considered the effect my mood had on a purchase until I read your post this week.


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