Via John C. Wright’s blog, here’s a nice writeup of what to look for in good cover art. I don’t know why I personally find stuff like this so interesting, because (a) I’m not a writer (no, this blog really doesn’t count); (b) I don’t really intend to become a writer or a cover artist; and (c) the real kicker: I’m one of the Reader X types. I’m shallow, and you bet I judge a book by its cover. Even the Kindle books.
There is one exception, however, that proves that not all books with hideous cover art are bad. I really enjoy Kate Paulk’s Con series, which is basically humorous urban fantasy set at conventions, mysteries solved by a (good guy) vampire so that The Sci-Fi Convention Will Go On. As anime conventions were the closest I got to partying in college, I have fond memories of conventions filled with socially-awkward costumed nerds. (I haven’t been to any in a while, though.) But the first book? Its cover art is… well… I’m sorry, but you have to go look at it to understand. And if you like conventions, fantasy creatures, and/or mysteries, buy it while you’re there. ;)
You looked, right? It’s a good thing Kindle books don’t display the cover while you’re reading, because otherwise I’d’ve had to hide in shame while reading it. And it’s a great story! I bet my college anime-fan friends would like it! But there’s one little problem: they’re all artists. I can barely admit to having read and liked this thing sort-of-anonymously online. If I went around recommending it to people in person, they’d probably take one look at that cover and never pay attention to anything I recommend again. I mean, as fanart, that cover is great artwork. Captures the main character, his werewolf sidekick/friend, and two major supporting characters. As cover art? Augh, my eyes! Couldn’t you have picked something vaguely Dresden-Files-ish, Kate? Just swap backgrounds from “gritty and dark Chicago alley” to “hotel lobby with convention banner.” (I’m not an artist, unfortunately, or I’d take a stab at it myself. This makes everything I say armchair criticism, so anyone offended by my shallowness is certainly allowed to disregard everything I’ve complained about. But the genre convention for urban fantasy, as seen on the Amazon bestseller lists, is to have one person on the cover. You can have no people; at most, two people. I vote for vampire + werewolf sidekick.)
I should be wary of criticizing the art, actually, as Hoyt’s Huns might come over here and smack me with fish for disrespecting my elders and betters – I don’t recall if I ever read who painted the Amazon version of the cover, but it seems to be based on a similar cover that Sarah Hoyt herself did back in 2011. But since Sarah herself has been re-doing older covers, I think she’ll forgive the criticism (if she ever finds out about it; I’m only a lowly peon reader, after all). I hope.