Judging Books by their Covers

It’s still snowing, though no longer quite as cold as before. And of course my heater had to have a failure in the middle of the night (I have a nifty system that sends me a fax to inform me of errors, so I’ll notice before I start freezing to death) and the usual method of dealing with such errors, pressing the reset button on the heater control panel, didn’t work at all. This isn’t the first error of late, I had another two days ago very early in the morning. I suspect a maintenance error, since the heater maintenance person was here only a couple of months ago.

In other news, tonight was the monthly translators’ meeting for December, taking place again at Leo’s restaurant. Which means that I was overly social this week, considering I was out two evenings (first the newleaf reading and then the translators’ meeting) in a row. For me, that’s pretty rare.

I’ve been a big fan of the Cover Café’s annual romance novel cover contest ever since I discovered it several years ago. Coincidentally, they also have a special holiday cover contest going on right now.

However, I have always wondered why there aren’t similar contests for other genres. Because romance certainly isn’t the only genre to profit from celebrating the best design the genre has to offer, considering how godawful many SF, fantasy, mystery, thriller, literary, chick lit, etc… covers can be. And lo and behold, All Things Urban Fantasy has a similar cover contest for urban fantasy covers.

Interestingly, both romance and urban fantasy are oft derided subgenres and much of that derision is based on the fact that “the covers are so awful, so the books must be awful as well”. Never mind that romance covers have gotten a lot better and the past ten years or so and that urban fantasy actually has a whole lot of very striking covers as well as some godawful ones. Though epic fantasy is usually worse, e.g. the US Wheel of Time covers are awful. Besides, judging by sheer blinding cover awfulness, Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign would have to be the worst SF book of the past twenty years. Which it obviously isn’t.

So in short, we all know that judging a book by its cover doesn’t work, yet people persist in doing it. And now two of the most derided genres with the most derided covers, romance and urban fantasy, hold cover contests to honour well designed covers. Coincidence? I think not.

Talking of urban fantasy covers, one of my students, who is an avid reader of YA paranormals and urban fantasy, calls those books “dunkle Bücher”, i.e. “dark books”, because their covers are always dark. IMO that’s as good a genre label as any other.

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