Best Book Covers of 2013 — And How Much Do Covers Matter?

I wanted to share a cool post from Stainless Steel Droppings on some of the best science fiction and fantasy covers of 2013.  Most of these aren’t books I’ve read, but on the covers alone I now want to read The Misfortune Cookie, Love Minus Eighty, and A Natural History of Dragons.  The name that jumped out at me was Jon Dos Santos, who creates the Mercy Thompson covers for one of my favorite series by Patricia Briggs.

frost burned

Science fiction and fantasy series tend to have, in my opinion, pretty bad covers that scream “genre fiction.”  They are either overly aimed at the guys, or hyper-sexualized, which for some reason is supposed to appeal to women.  No guy is reading these books that feature women in super-tight leather corsets holding bad-ass weapons (in stilletos of course, if you get to see that far down).

The Mercy Thompson covers, while they don’t always get every detail of the books, don’t have to.  They feature Mercy as tough, not overly gorgeous and not hyper-sexual.  And usually the pictures have something to do with her being an auto mechanic, not a super-ninja.

Sadly, there’s controversy brewing about the next Mercy cover on Night Broken, out in March.  Mercy is not only prettied-up, she’s umm… inflated?  As my husband would say (and did), those boobs are definitely not natural.  And then there’s the overload of tattoos and the faux Native American earrings, and she looks oddly elvish (she’s not).  Briggs’ husband Mike comments on Amazon that they had little to do with the publisher’s decision (though also noting he enjoys this cover).  night broken

Then I went back and looked at the Mercy covers, and I will say that 1 and 2 (still Dos Santos) are pretty horrible, but that was before most of us were reading.  I remember recommending this series to a few people at work and having someone tell me that based on the cover, there’s no way they could read it.

I like Book 3 and most of the ones that come after it (except River Marked was a little lame).  And again, I’m talking about these covers relative to the dreck that is most urban fantasy covers.

I’ve talked about this before, but it made me think about the role of book covers when most of us are e-reading.  Do covers still matter?  I think so – a cheesy cover will influence whether I buy a book, even if it’s an e-book.  True, I don’t have to worry about what people on the Metro will think, but then I didn’t worry about that much anyway.  It does make a difference whether I choose to buy a book in the first place.  Even knowing an author doesn’t have much say about how a book is published, it still tells me something about the book (see my upcoming review of Labor Day).   Most of the time.

I will say to the new and indie-published authors out there, covers do make a difference when I’m deciding whether to review a book.  So many self-published books have really cheesy looking covers.  I know you don’t have the graphics resources of big publishers, but it’s not a question of polish, just presentation.

ocean at the endSome of my favorite covers of the year?  Most of the books I read had pretty uninteresting covers, although I did like The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Maya’s Notebook.  One of my favorite covers would be Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, since this stuffed mouse actually features prominently in this book (and because the book is damn funny). lawsonmaya

What do you think?  Do covers matter?  What about a cover will make you look at a book, or make you NOT buy a book?

  8 comments for “Best Book Covers of 2013 — And How Much Do Covers Matter?

  1. January 12, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I think book covers matter a great deal, especially for visual persons. The books I pick up, the abstracts I read, the ones I purchase are all influenced by a glance, a moment. If the cover is deemed unacceptable, I move on. If I am intrigued by it, I give it a few moments.

    The cover is the initial glance, the opening statement. if that fails, I don’t even bother.

    • January 12, 2014 at 11:04 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I usually come to a book based on someone’s recommendation, so I try to go by more than the cover. But it makes a big difference when people are asking me to review their books.

  2. January 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    If anything the cover is the most important part. I know we’re told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but that’s easier said than done. A good cover will, like you say, capture a major theme in the book and present it in a professional and attractive way. The cover to Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood is one of my favourite covers right now, and it’s one of the main reasons I bought the book (only to be slightly let down :D)
    Great post.

    • January 12, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      Thanks for commenting! It’s a shame when a book with a great cover lets you down. That’s the problem with the list of books with great covers, you don’t know if the cover matches the quality. It’s interesting that we don’t talk more about book covers.

  3. January 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I totally think covers matter. I’m new to the UK and i find the covers over here less appealing than North American covers. I guess this means I have also some how been culturally brainwashed. Slowly, i am starting to see covers over here I like, but often my favorite books in the UK have covers that would make me never pick them up.

  4. StefanieH
    January 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I buy books mainly on recommendations but I also find a lot of books I like based simply on the cover. Good covers/spines make me want to read the blurb. My favourite covers usually have some sort of unique typography on them. I like well executed vector images too. I adore the Penguin English Library editions.

  5. June 4, 2015 at 6:41 am

    I would never have picked up these books if I had seen the cover first. I know that how the title character is portrayed doesn’t bother the author (from reading other bits on the interwebs), but I find the covers really … horrible.

    Not because of lack of skill – they are beautifully painted – but because they don’t seem to represent the character at all.

    I think the much plainer covers from Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series manage to do the job of representing a kick-ass heroine far better.

  6. Peter
    May 27, 2017 at 10:54 am

    It has been known for many many years that the phychology of book buying says, at least 50% of the book buying decision comes from the cover. Unless your attracted to the cover then you do not even get to first base as they say.You also know if a publisher has good faith or only little faith in a book by the effort they put into the book design. I collected Sciuence Fiction and Fantasy books for over 50 years, plus selling books for over 25 years. I can say, even today, this premise holds true!! (For male and female!!)

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