Feb 17 2012 8:44am

Worst Covers Ever? We Want to Know!

The Endless Knot by Stephen LawheadWe’ve all had those moments when we’ve looked at the cover of the book we’re reading and groaned—inwardly, at least. Because that whole ’judge a book by its cover’ thing is totally true, especially if the judging person is sitting next to you on the subway.

So we’d like to take a moment and let all the romance readers know that egregious covers are not the exclusive purview of romance; take a look at this SF/F one, found by the awesome folks at Good Show Sir.

And then, in comments, offer your nomination for the worst romance cover ever. We’ll do a round-up of suggestions later on.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
It's kind of like fish in a barrel, but I just found this one at Master of Craighill.
2. KateNagy
I nominate The Duck Shack Agreement:

I seem to recall a trend in the 80s of book covers with heroes with their long hair blowing in one direction and their kilts in another, but I can't think of any specific examples offhand.

Finally, I realize that the following opinion places me in a very small minority -- possibly a minority of one -- but the cover of Kresley Cole's Lothaire made me laugh and laugh and laugh. With that frosted fringe and those red-rimmed eyes, poor Lothaire is more 80s than the 80s; he looks like he just stumbled out of Dieter's Dance Party at 3 a.m. and is all "Um, dudes? Where's my cocaine?" That's probably just me, though.
3. Sharon A. Redfern
The original cover for Suzanne Brockmann's Get Lucky. The hero is supposed to be a hunky Navy Seal- the cover looks like a cross between a pig and a human being. Totally ruined the visual of the guy. Here's the link to the picture.
4. Mary Ellen Quigley
There are so many bad covers. I used to do a weekly meme on my blog called, "Sunday Cover Snark."

Here are two personal favorites:

Fire in the Dark by Susan Macias
Bitten Again by Kate Hill
Pamela Webb-Elliott
5. Spaz
Kate Klebanski
6. kklebanski
Sharon and Mary Ellen - thank you for the best laugh I have had all day. Man, those are REALLY bad!
Vanessa Ouadi
7. Lafka
ROTFL, thank you for the laugh! Is it me, or the man's head on Fire in the Dark cover doesn't fit at all with his body? Hahahaha!

All the covers wich seem to be made out of screen captures from a (bad) video game are pretty awful. I can't think of a specific title here, but I've read quite a lot published by Ellora's Cave or Siren Publishings.
Marian DeVol
8. ladyengineer
Most eBook covers.

For the most part, they don't match the print versions' covers, and if you thought the paperback covers were embarassing to be seen reading, we are VERY lucky that no one can see our eBook's cover! ;->
Glass Slipper
9. GlassSlipper
The one for "Bitten Again" is terrifying! He's got a snake under there!
10. The Wife
My nomination goes to "Troubled Heritage" by Jeanne Wilson. Supposedly a romance about the "unquenched embers of smoldering desire." Insead it's... actually rather sick.
11. The Wife
Mary Ellen Quigley, I'm LOLing at your post of "Fire in the Dark" -- that picture is the exact scan that I made of that book. Bitten Again is terrible -- and just another in a long line of amputee covers.
Vanessa Ouadi
12. Lafka
@The Wife : I actually think that "Troubled Heritage"'s cover is better than the book itself, lol! Thank you so much for the amputee covers link, it was a real delight!
13. The Wife
For some reason I cant seem to log in. Anyway, the fact that the cover is better than the book is frightening! I don't know about the content -- the cover was a reader submission. But the whole "Plantation Romance" genre is disturbing. It's so completely bizarre to me that people would find blatant racism erotic. *shudder*
14. CherylC
Yowza! Is it just me or does that Twice Bitten cover give the impression that he has a snake under that toga. Ha ha ha ha ha these are great!
Mary Lynne Nielsen
15. emmel
There's an annual cover contest where one category is "worst." If you'd like to see ten years worth of terrible covers, go here: I particularly "like" Athena Force: Breathless. But it's great fun to read the comments on all the nominated covers. Then there's the infamous three-handed woman cover on Christina Dodd's Castles in the Air:
16. The Wife
emmel, I know it's just the grammar nerd in me, but... "SHACKLED BY THE COWBOY DRIFTER came in seventh place. Many of the voters were baffled by the hero, including Cover Cafe's Cindy: "This cowboy is so emancipated that you want to feed him instead of romance him."" Emancipated? Really? lol
17. Cait2
Why are all ebook covers yuckey? The latest Christine Feehan SPIRIT BOUND PB has that ebook look, all kinda fuzzy just wierd. None of her other book covers look like that.
As to the 3 armed woman, the cover's pretty, just will live forever in the annals of ignorant publishers and editors. And it's been re-issued (the old one being highly collectable). Who painted it? At that time, painters were used for alot of covers (see John Desalvo, of the flowing locks and ripped body) I believe the SF/F cover at the beginning of the article is he. He has very distinctive ribcage.
Debra Mowatt
18. harridan
My gosh, you guys are killing me! I'm sitting here laughing so hard at these truly hideous covers. More, please!
19. MandaBC
I think the Bitten Again dude and the three fisted lady have the potential to be VERY happy together! These are HILARIOUS! Thanks so much for the laugh!
20. The Wife
This is one of my favorites. It's not that the cover itself is so bad -- it's that it's ILLUSTRATED!

Or how about this one? He really does look like he's wearing a diaper!

Speaking of CGI covers, this one is just... disturbing. The veiled reference to menstruation is bad enough. But the man is just plain ugly!

Now this guy is just sad. It's George McFly!

Speaking of ugly, there's this guy.

This one has a darned ugly woman.

Sci-fi sometimes branches into the romance genre. This man has the most deformed stomache!

And, of course, you can't have bad covers without a Fabio mention. He's... bisected. BTW, the contest for that one is still open. ;)

Harridan, is that enough for you for a while? lol
22. arenrayn
How about cover of almost (partialy/non-partially) cover hero or heroin... i get dirty stare in the train while reading pleasure for pleasure by eloisa james... and i though " does i forget to zip my pant?"
FYI, i love the cover of that book.. it so romantic and beautiful..i dont think that kind of cover was bad cover...
23. The Wife
arenrayn, The cover of Pleasure For Pleasure isn't terrible. But the instep is pretty bad. :-P
24. _Kate_
I think I would have to say Johanna Lindsay in her Fabio period I mean Man of My dreams he is standing naked and she is placed just so and has her skirt hiked up or Captive of my Desire the ship is sinking they are in the middle of a storm yet he is lashed to the mast and she is in her nightgown and they are kissing . I do not know about others but if that was me I woul be more interested in getting to safety. But that could just be me.
25. The Wife
Fabio in Uggs. Fabio in a lightning storm. Fabio from "Dude, Where's My Car?". Fabio naked AND in a... very compromising position. Naked Fabio. But it's not just Fabio. Naked... someone. Naked guy who looks eerily like my little brother, which is very weird. Naked guy who is, like, literally twice her size. Sex in a SWAMP??? And, though it's not Johanna Lindsey, it's probably one of the ugliest pictures ever.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
26. tnh
Cait2 @17, I've commissioned art for book covers, and I edited comic books for a while, and I tell you: extra appendages are one of those errors that are way too easy to make. When a penciller brings in a new batch of comic book pages, one of the first things you check for is extra hands, feet, fingers, and other body parts.

If you don't believe me, check out Breughel's The Peasant Wedding, c. 1568. See the board over on the right that has all the plates of food on it? There are four feet visible below it. The upper leftmost of the feet belongs to the guy in the red hat who's helping himself to one of the dishes. The other three feet belong to the guy in the red jacket. You've heard of people with two left feet? There he is.

There are two additional errors you have to check for on book covers. One is making sure that fancy decorative title type actually says what it's supposed to. I've seen BLOODWIND turn into BLOODWINO, and an edition of THE FORGE OF GOD whose cover says THE FORGE OF GOO.

The other thing you have to check for, especially on SF, fantasy, or horror covers, and double especially if they have a monster or an alien on them, is what the thing on the cover actually looks like. It's easy to miss an unfortunate resemblance if you know what the cover painting is supposed to depict.

Which brings us to the subject of

My favorite bad cover, even though
it's on a Conan novel, rather than
a romance:

Conan the Indomitable, first edition.

Take a second look at that large pink area. The original painting was worse, in that it looked even more like a hoohah with teeth.

I had final responsibility for that cover. It came out while I was Managing Editor at Tor. Not one of the people involved -- editor, artist, cover designer, publisher, three-person production department -- spotted the problem. We had embarrassingly clean minds. It wasn't until a visitor to the office got a look at the cover mechanical, let out a choking noise, and asked whether the head of the company had seen and approved it (yes), that I realized what we had. It was far too late to change it.

The funny thing was that it didn't affect sales in either direction. Conan the Indomitable sold through at the same rate as all the other titles in that series.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
27. tnh
The Wife @20:
This one has a darned ugly woman. ...
I think that's an embossed cover. If so, she probably looked better in the original illustration. Embossing faces is a mistake. If the embossing die is off-register by a tiny fraction of an inch, the people will have lumps and hollows in the wrong places, and will look ghastly.
28. The Wife
tnh, Yes, it's embossed. And I definitely hope that she looked better. lol Her mullet certainly doesn't help anything, unfortunately! Regarding the font/text, so true! One popped immediately to mind, and it's just so silly -- not dirty or anything, just odd.

Wow... that Conan cover is truly bad. Vagina Dentata! I think it says a lot about those of you working on the cover that, to you, it wasn't dirty. Innocent minds! :)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
29. tnh
OMG, they're right. That cover says A Love So Bolo.

Glad you liked the C. the Indomitable cover.

Since Murphy is a merciless git, it's inevitable that when you've got a monster with a major case of Vagina Dentata, you're also going to have Conan pointing his big ol' sword at it, and a woman's body from the waist up extending out of the top of the monster, and all those proud little stalactites sticking up from the floor (because of course the whole thing's taking place inside a dark and vaguely tube-shaped cave); and furthermore, it's going to occur on a book whose front-cover sell line is "In the belly of the world, death lies waiting."
30. fitzkash
Any cover with bared muscles and/or ripped bodices is a turn-off to readers because we have to carry it out of the store or library, and possibly read it around others. These illustraotions are not onluy embarrassing but reduce the great plots and characters to idiocy.

Please, authors, consider your story - your great, intricate plot and illustrious characters, and think about a clever and descriptive way to reflect those aspects other than

showing some muscle hunk's upper body or some female's cleavage.
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