Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Monday, January 28, 2013

You Do Judge A Book By Its Cover

Your book cover makes a huge impression - so huge it could affect your sales. An ugly cover could kill your sales because the idea is that if you don't care enough about your book to cough up the cash for a spiffy cover, what does that say about the content of your book? Ugly covers are unprofessional. They make you look like a noob.

That said, there are some covers so bad they defy imagination. What were these people thinking? I'm bringing this up because I had a truly fugly cover for my short sweet romance "The Storm". The publisher closed shop before the story was published so I was saved the embarrassment of seeing this cover in public. Here is it, in all its hideous glory:

Isn't that simply dreadful? The faces look like they were tacked on, and the edges have not been smoothed. You can't even see the ship. At least the title and my name are clearly visible, although they are in a nauseating puke green. I guess that's to symbolize seasickness. The cover is also very dark - hard to see. You can't even tell what the story is about judging by this terrible cover. It's a muddy, unclear mess. My story is a bittersweet romantic comedy with pirates. You'd never know from the cover.

Your cover is your entry into your potential reader's mind. It had better stick, and in a good way. The images should be crisp, clean, and light. Not muddy. Print should be clear enough to read in a thumbnail. If you can't see your cover well when it's in thumbnail you need a new cover. Remember that sites like Amazon display your covers in thumbnail format so it's important your cover be legible and attractive when small.

Here are some examples of bad covers:

There are more colors in this cover than a bag of Jelly Bellies. Plus why does the woman look like a Real Doll? She looks plastic - literally. I wonder if she has a vibrating cachet?

Where is her right arm? Why does she look like she's grabbing him by the 'nads or giving his ass a squeeze? Also, it looks like he's going to wrap the lasso around her neck. Not very sexy unless you're into auto-erotic asphyxiation.

There is so much wrong with this cover. Dull, muddy colors. Images of people that look tacked on without adequate blending or shading. Why aren't there any shadows below them? He looks like he's floating in mid-air. And why is her butt blacked out?

The following covers made me laugh so hard I spewed iced tea all over my monitor. Watch your titles for double-entendres. No further comment necessary.

Here is my favorite strange and unfortunate book cover. Wow! Imagine the content! Are these lesbians on horseback or lesbian horses?

Oh, about that terrible cover for my short story "The Storm"? I found an artist who painted a watercolor for me for that short story, which is now available for free on my web site. This is one of my favorite covers. It's beautiful. You may read the story on my web site at this link.

About Elizabeth Black

Elizabeth Black writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, and horror. She also enjoys writing erotic retellings of classic fairy tales. Born and bred in Baltimore, she grew up under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Her erotic fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. Her horror fiction has appeared in "Kizuna: Fiction For Japan", "Stupefying Stories", and "Mirages: Tales From Authors Of The Macabre". An accomplished essayist, she was the sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine nuts4chic (also U. K.) until it folded in 2008. Her articles about sex, erotica, and relationships have appeared in Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet, CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Sexis Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama Magazine, and Circlet blog. She also writes sex toys reviews for several sex toys companies.

In addition to writing, she has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and make-up artist (including prosthetics) for movies, television, stage, and concerts. She worked as a gaffer for "Die Hard With A Vengeance" and "12 Monkeys". She did make-up, including prosthetics, for "Homicide: Life On The Street". She is especially proud of the gunshot wound to the head she had created with makeup for that particular episode. She also worked as a prosthetic makeup artist specializing in cyanotic blue, bruises, and buckets of blood for a test of Maryland's fire departments at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport plane crash simulation test. Yes, her jobs are fun.  ;)

She lives in Lovecraft country on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. The ocean calls her every day, and she always listens. She has yet to run into Cthulhu.

Visit her web site at
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  1. Elizabeth- oh dear! Those covers. You're so right about how important they are.

  2. You're right, your new cover is much better than the old one, Elizabeth. However, are you aware that it's completely the wrong size for most online publishers? Book covers should be 2:3, whereas your cover is so elongated it's practically 1:2. At least your old publisher did not make THAT mistake. :-)

    Also, the reason why the lady's bottom was blacked out on one of the covers is presumably because Amazon doesn't allow naked butts on covers and will either refuse them upload them or filter them.

  3. That is an amazing list of book covers! So so hideous.

    And "The best Dad is a good lover"?!?! I mean… what?

    Although 'Scouts in Bondage' is disappointingly un-BDSMish.

  4. Oy! Some real winners in that collection!

    "When these Sapphic sisters saddle up, ecstasy is only a hoofbeat away...!"

    Oh my!

    I love the watercolor on the new cover, btw.


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