More Bad Book Covers

I had thought the previous crop of tramp-stamped dommes in fetish gear wielding swords on book covers  was bad enough. But these two recently caught my eye, and I’m hoping this isn’t the next trend.

Come on. Who would ever walk around dressed like that, packing that much heat? If you’re going to war, I don’t care if you’re a teenage hooker, you’re going to find something a little less ridiculous to wear.


Um, what’s with the flip-flop on her right foot there? Is this appropriate footwear for ANYONE going into battle? I ask you. There’s been a lot of talk lately about ridiculous armor  (really, go check that out, there’s some excellent artwork depicting women in good, useful armor) on women in fantasy novels, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

More to the point, these two Lolitas are clearly adolescents. On top of the sexual fantasy outfits, publishers seem to be depicting younger and younger girls. From what I read, the character in Jay Lake’s Endurance is quite young, trained as a courtesan, so maybe this is intended to be erotica, or erotic fantasy, in which case she is probably dressed to titillate in keeping with the story. Here’s part of the description from Amazon:

Green is back in Copper Downs. Purchased from her father in sunny Selistan when she was four years old, she was harshly raised to be a courtesan, companion, and bedmate of the Immortal Duke of Copper Downs. But Green rebelled. Green killed the Duke, and many others, and won her freedom.

I haven’t read the book, I don’t know how old exactly she’s supposed to be in the story. Maybe it was shelved incorrectly. The ‘horror/erotica’ section was the next aisle over. It does sound like BDSM, I mean, a God of Pain? You can read the reviews for yourself if you’re interested.

The MC in Discount Armageddon is apparently older than the child in the Endurance, but you’d never know it by that cover. She looks maybe sixteen, seventeen?

I understand that authors typically have little to no say over the cover art for their books. I haven’t read either book (nor will I, the subjects do not appeal to me) so this is no slight against the authors or their writing. I just wish publishers would quit with the sexploitation covers.

I think I’ll go write some military sci-fi so at least one woman warrior can have the appropriate armor and footwear.

41 thoughts on “More Bad Book Covers

  1. yah, really, if Green drops that big knife while she’s wearing those sandals, she’s going to cut her toe clean off. I have a friend who has a rule never to read paperbacks that feature the title in metallic print. I used to think she was a little conservative, but I’m starting to understand her point…


  2. Seriously, where would these characters even find “armor” (if you can charitably call Green’s getup armor) like that? Who, in any fantasy universe would even make something like that? What’s the point?


  3. This has actually been a topic of discussion in my gaming/geek/nerd circle of friends, lately. I’ll comment on it when I have more time, but you are definitely not the only person who feels this way lately, D.D.


  4. I like Bunny’s friend’s idea of not buying books with metallic titles. 😀 As to that armour, what’s the point exactly, when it leaves all the most vulnerable parts (head, heart, lungs, and even kidneys, by the look of it) open to attack. Sheesh. The teeny-bopper trend is scary. Btw, with the tags you used, you should be in for some interesting searches leading to this blog post. o_O You’ll have to share the best ones…


  5. hahahaha 🙂 We’ll see.

    It’s just so absurd. I don’t know who these things are designed to appeal to. I’m guessing McGuire’s target audience is women, not randy teenage boys, so what’s the point of that kind of advertising? Lake’s book is more likely to appeal to hormonally driven teenage boys, and maybe that’s his target audience, but even men are making fun of the “armor.” I’ll have to watch for the metallic ink on covers, I hadn’t thought about that before. It does sort of scream “cheeseball” doesn’t it?


  6. Right? Can’t exactly carry concealed weapons when there’s nothing to conceal them with, or in, or under, or whatever.

    Oh my god, that’s hysterical!! The ‘attack mammaries’ … oh my god!! 😀


    1. Yeah, baby! That’s what I calls armor! I read somewhere that contemporary portraits of her showed her in standard armor, nothing tailored to a woman’s curves or anatomy. Makes sense, why bother?


      1. Nevermind that female armour wasn’t exactly “standard issue” (I wish!), armour tailored to curves is inherently weaker, so it would be impractical and dangerous in battle. Perfectly round cups would probably be strong because of their spherical shape (and would have to be _perfectly_ spherical), but anything else that has that dip at the centre (a la fantasy armour) – well, that’s just asking for a lancing!


      2. And this is one of the reasons I love you 🙂 I read a similar comment from someone who actually makes armor (see here) having the ‘boob plate’ as he calls it could crack your sternum if you fall hard enough. This crap is just lingerie.


    1. YES! I noticed the dates on your blog post, this has been going on for years. Enough already! I think I’ll do another blog post and design some book covers myself of what I’d like to see…


  7. Yes but what does it tell you about the story? I assume these authors don’t want to be considered ‘penny dreadful’ authors. All I can think of when I see the McGuire book is “Sucker Punch.”


  8. I actually assumed from what I’ve read so far of Discount Armageddon is that it was specifically written to have a story that the endless dumb fantasy covers would match — the heroine is a hereditary demon-protecting warrior who wants to give it up to be a professional ballroom dancer.


  9. Hi Jane,
    So it’s a parody of the genre? I haven’t heard anything about it, other than the blurb I read on Amazon. I know McGuire seems to be well-respected author so that sort of makes sense.


  10. Ok, so….about this:

    Basically, from discussions with my friends we seem to agree that it stems a lot from the fact that we (meaning Americans specifically) are so used to this kind of depiction of women. In most media today (video, print, and music videos) we see it so often that we become more or less numb to it’s intended purpose – which is to grab attention.

    Not to mean that we don’t look or aren’t drawn to it – just that we are used to it. Literature has kind of a handicap in the area of advertising because (short of reading reviews) you can’t watch a trailer for a book. So a lot of the time I feel it is there to stand out as a beacon saying, “HEY LOOK, THIS BOOK HAS A HEROINE WHO NOT ONLY KICKS ASS BUT SHOWS HER’S ON A REGULAR BASIS.”

    Of course it’s kind of ridiculous when you realize that, unless the author is going to describe her outfit in every single encounter, you will either have to keep flipping back to the cover to refresh your memory OR imagine her in the same outfit throughout the book.

    So that’s the first reason I think it is as outlandish as it is lately and as prolific.

    The second I see as a bit confusing. I suppose it could have the desired purpose of targeting a particular demographic. But it kind of doesn’t work out that way for me, since a lot of the books that you describe with the “school-girl with a gun” or “latex-clad sword wielding femdom” sometimes are written from a woman’s perspective BY a woman. So while the initial image may draw the curious male, maybe once he begins to read he finds that he can’t relate to some of the material and get’s bored. So while the pictures scream, “HEY SAILOR!” it sometimes doesn’t pay to judge the book by it’s cover.

    I’ll admit I was drawn to Anne Aguirre’s novels because of the main Character, “Sirantha Jax” on the cover.

    I read the blurb on the back of the book and I was very interested in the story. So I read it. There are a few parts of the book which are described from Sirantha’s point of view about the male characters she comes in contact with. Including sex scenes. I’m not insecure in my own sexual preferences for it to bother me, but I could see how some men I know would probably have dismissed it as female “mushy-tip-stuff” and instantly closed the book at that point never to pick it up again.

    So I just wonder sometimes if those other books have the same effect on men once they get past drooling on the cover.

    Another theory I had is that perhaps it’s some sort of equalizer to make men feel better about reading a book with a heroine instead of a hero. Perhaps by showing how “HOT” she is, they are attempting to sooth some men’s feelings about being afraid of strong women or women who are capable of taking care of themselves.

    It’s almost as if to say, “Yes it’s true she can beat the crap out of the bad guys. BUT LOOK AT THAT BODY! So it’s ok guys, you can like her, she’s still feminine!”

    I do agree though, that it is getting out of hand lately. And tends to show it’s face more and more on teenage targeting fictional material.

    Being the father of a very bright, 8-year old girl, it does aggrivate me to no end that I can not relax for a second around the internet, the TV, the radio or walk down the isles of book stores without worrying what she’s going to see next and how to explain things so she understands. And I have to be careful because she definitely knows when I am trying to dissuade her and I always worry about making something TOO forbidden and thus fanning her curiosity.


  11. Fantastic analysis, Eric. Thank you for detailing all that! Yes, I agree that it’s likely meant to be an attention-getter. There are a lot of book trailers out there now, but I don’t know of any for these particular books.

    I am saddened and disturbed that men are still so insecure with strong female characters that this kind of advertising might be seen as necessary to interest them in a book with a strong female protagonist. I had thought we were starting to get past that, at least a little bit with the younger generations. Perhaps my optimism was premature. Women embodying historically male roles of assassins and showing aptitude with weapons and martial arts have been around for some time.

    From the reviews I read of Jay Lake’s book, I don’t think it suffers from the ‘mushy’ stuff syndrome. It sounded (and I could be wrong) like it’s written from a male perspective to appeal to men. I don’t see anything ‘feminine’ in the traditional sense about Green apart from her sexualized body and outfit.

    Since Liz suggested McGuire’s book is intended to lampoon the cliches I can understand why they’d use such an over-the-top outfit on the MC. (And god that left leg is getting to me. It’s straight as a pole, no knee in evidence. But that’s a side issue).

    Good luck with your daughter, she sounds like a sharp kid 😉


    1. Thanks, D.D. It really was cool that you brought this up after I had had a pretty detailed conversation about it recently.

      I could probably write several pages on the discussions we’ve had on this same subject, about comic books, in particular.

      Way gone are the days when Wonder Woman’s outfit was considered provocative.


  12. Having read both Green and Endurance, I can say that the cover for me fits the character as depicted in the story very very well. This isn’t a “sexploitation cover” so much as an accurate depiction of the character as presented by the writer.

    I have not read Seanan’s Cryptid Novels, but having read her other stuff and having met her numerous times in person, I would not be surprised if the overt sexism is part of her snark.


    1. Hi Jorhett,
      Thanks. If that’s how the character is depicted as dressed for battle in the book, then I stand by my position that it’s patently ridiculous, and falls into the ‘absurd women’s armor’ and “Strippers with swords” category. I think the book falls into the ‘sexploitation’ category if the Amazon reviews are accurate.


  13. I’ve read Discount Armageddon. The main character is a waitress in a strip bar (and a ballroom dancer, and a cryptozoologist.) That’s actually the waitress uniform. It’s not really her preferred mode of battle dress. But there is one scene where she winds up fighting while wearing it. I haven’t read Jay’s Green series yet, so I can’t comment on that.


  14. I am sorry but if I seen both of those book in the bookstore window I would just glance and continue walking. The names do not grab my attention nor the covers. There are so many cool graphics and talented artist out there than can make a cover pop. The style of both cover need to be updated. I can understand one wanted to bring some sex appeal to their cover.

    I don’t understand though why the writer have no saying or little saying of what is on the cover of their books. It is “their” books and their name is on it. What is inside the book and on the cover represent them. I am surprise the marketing team has not research of what people want and etc.


  15. I would guess (having worked with marketing people in the past) they think they have it figured out, and that’s why we get so many of the same style of covers, there’s so little variation within a genre. As to why authors have little or no input on the covers, my guess is publishers don’t think authors have a handle on graphic design, which may be true in a lot of cases. It’s a shame that it becomes so formulaic, though.


    1. I agree it is a shame.
      Yes, not much authors have a handle on graphic designs but there are tons of graphic artist out there who the publisher could hire to revamp the look of their author book to make it stand out from the rest. Just they do with movie posters.


      1. Good point. I may have to look at movie posters, see how much sameness there is with them. It does seem like they try to make them unique and eye-catching.


  16. exactly! They do, this is one reason too posters help sell the movies before anyone even see the previews. Also many people collect posters. They are eye catching and grab one attention. This is what I picture all book covers to be like.


    1. Okay I can totally understand that way of thinking, but than that would leave a bad stereotype right. For example if someone read a few books that covers look similar they would not dare to read or touch a book that remind them of the book they thought was a waste of time reading.


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