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Let’s Talk About This Book Cover

I have seen a terrible book cover, and it is Snow Crash.

What is up with this thing?

I know it was 1992, but was graphics software really that bad? This is a book about advanced technology and the internet, and this is the best we can do with a cover?

A cover that looks like something I might have made in my 10th grade graphic arts class?

Let’s examine. There’s a real guy, not a graphic from what I can tell, running down a hall of some sort toward a light, an open doorway. He’s surrounded by some sort of programming code. How fancy.

Now, maybe I’m missing something here. Since Snow Crash is a kind-of over-the-top parody of the cyberpunk science fiction genre, maybe this cover is a little bit of a parody in itself. Maybe it’s purposefully bad?

But why would a publisher do that? Most readers won’t have any idea of what the book’s about, so this cover would be their first impression. Would they get it? Am I not getting it?

Am I like the Chinese paper that thought this article from The Onion about Kim Jon-Un being named the world’s sexiest man was actually true? I love The Onion. Please tell me I’m not misunderstanding The Onion?

And why am I asking so many questions?

Was this cover inspired by the Six Million Dollar Man?

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Maybe I’m exaggerating here. But when I look at Snow Crash’s cover, I’m reminded of other book covers. Like this:

215

Or maybe this:

145

But not a novel that is included on a 100 greatest list.

Why are there so many bad covers on science fiction novels? Why do a lot of these things look like the author just learned Photoshop yesterday and tried to keep the budget low by creating his own cover? Or that he outsourced the cover design to his sixth-grade nephew?

Do publishing companies really put this little effort into the appearance of their novels? Don’t they understand that “judging a book by its cover” isn’t just a joke–it’s a reality?

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. You not going to understand it because you are thinking from white person stand point you was lock up in 1975 if you was you would been on your knees every hour know if you want talk talk about white boys Texas chain saw masacre the white boy that was eating people mit ate few family member.

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    February 12, 2013
  2. Andy G #

    It is my experience that science fiction covers are often absurd or outlandish because the books themselves are about things that do not exist, so rather than representing those things symbolically they are illustrated literally. Furthermore, science fiction readers do not want a symbolic representation of what they are reading since the whole point (in my opinion) of science fiction is to examine humanity vis a vis the most exceptional of circumstances. That could not be done if the impossible were not concrete.

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    February 12, 2013
    • That makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is the quality. They might be literal but they also look low budget. That’s what I don’t get.

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      February 12, 2013
      • I feel there’s a sense of residual pulp-magazine flare that science fiction publishers tend to lean towards to distinguish themselves from “literary” brands. It’s inexcusable, but a possibility nonetheless that sci-fi publishers stick to pride and tradition over aesthetics.

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        February 12, 2013
  3. I wasn’t familiar with this novel until you posted it. My initial thought was that it’s a romance novel. I think it’s that deep shade of blue and the typography.

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    February 12, 2013
  4. onsiu #

    Your description reminds me of the poster of a movie called Source Code. Of course, the poster is much cooler than the book cover.

    Like

    February 12, 2013
  5. Sam P. #

    Try the cover for A Street Car Named Desire. I’m reading that for my AP Lit class right now and it is not fun to carry around.

    Like

    February 12, 2013
  6. So, Robert, is the post a parody of a parody? Hard to tell. And you’ve had some similar comments about the covers of “literary” fiction, as I recall.

    Anyway, serious answer. While it’s good that the author name and book title are clearly readable (so many are not), you’re right in that the rest of the cover–and the title, for that matter–give me no clue as to what the book’s about. Those are failures. Beyond that, though, I think it’s unfair, unless you were just being snarky, to criticize all non-literary-genre book covers. Their designs, at least if professionally done, have specific purposes in mind. If they’re still bad, well, there are probably reasons.

    If you really want to know what makes a good or bad book cover, mosey on over to Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer blog (www.thebookdesigner.com). Every month he posts all of the sample covers that have been submitted, with commentary on why he thinks some succeeded or didn’t. His latest review came out a few days ago. (Disclaimer: I’m getting nothing for this reference.)

    Like

    February 12, 2013
    • Cool. Great tip on the website. I’ll check that out. I’m criticizing the science fiction genre, not all in the non-literary world. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I feel like if you’ve seen one Sci-Fi cover, you’ve seen them all. I shelved books at B&N for a few years and I always thought, and still do, that those covers were just terribly unoriginal.

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      February 12, 2013
      • Thanks! I’ll be interested to know what you think after taking a look at Joel’s submissions (which, of course, don’t represent all SF books being published). Maybe when you were working at B&N wasn’t a golden age of SF covers, either. Or maybe it was typical. Anyway, you’re right: it’s best to have the best cover you can.

        Like

        February 13, 2013
  7. And by way this book here James Demouchette vs.the state of Texas is not science fiction it non fiction and 100 percent real.

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    February 12, 2013
  8. If only science fiction covers r done by the cover artists from mills & boons and other romance cover illustrators.

    Like

    February 13, 2013
  9. Reblogged this on Inspiring a World of Listeners.

    Like

    February 14, 2013

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