Functionality: 0 to 3 points. A cover has a basic job to do. Can you read the title and who wrote it? Is all the relevant information there? Is the information well ordered?
There is a bit of a built in advantage for book covers that don’t have a lot to say. Each cover needs firstly these two things:
- A title
- An author
In addition there are other text elements:
- Series title
- Publisher name (pretty rare these days)
- Egoboo thing ‘Number 1 New Yrok Tines Besteller!’, ‘Thrilling to the last page!’ Stevan Kring
A sequel that’s being promoted can end up with a gaggle of text elements.
Somebody IRL asked why do these weird points and that they don’t make it more objective. That’s right – the categories don’t make the judgements less opinionated or subjective but they do make you look at different aspects. Using subcategories is an attempt to make a judge reflect on their own opinion.
If you were using lots of judges you could also better see where there was consensus and disagreement.
Having said all that – this remains just me messing around with working out what I like and dislike about covers and your own mileage will vary!
More after the fold…
For fairness sake, I’m using reverse alphabetical order so I see the later books first this time.
- Witchy Eye Artist/Designer: Daniel Dos Santos | by D.J.Butler, Baen ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Title is very clear but author name gets a bit lost. 1 point.
- Walkaway Artist/Designer: Will Staehle| by Cory Doctorow, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
“A novel” is coming to irritate me a bit but arguably in Doctorow’s case he does write about a lot of things. Also the unusual cover design might make it unclear that this is a fiction work. 3 points – it is all there but there is no mistaking the title and author.
- Too Like the Lightning Artist/Designer: Victor Mosquera | by Ada Palmer, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
- Author and title are clear but it’s not clear this is the first of two books. I’m going to be nice and give it 2 points though.
- The Underground Railroad Artist/Designer: Oliver Munday | by Colson Whitehead, Fleet ISFDB or Amazon EntryThis also has ‘a novel’ but it is put quitely in one of the train tracks. A clearer rational for pointing out that a novel is a novel given the title is on a historical subject. Other variations on this cover put “New York Times Bestseller” inside the tracks as well. Nicely done. 3 points.
- The Sunlight Pilgrims Artist/Designer: Suzanne Dean , Kai & Sunny| by Jenni Fagan, William Heinemann ISFDB or Amazon EntryA starighforward approach, author, title and some surounding text. 2 points.
- Of Sand and Malice Made Artist/Designer: René Aigner| by Bradley P. Beaulieu, DAW books ISFDB or Amazon Entry
That it is part of a series gets lost and the title is oddly hard to read at thumbnail size. 1 point.
- The Hammer of Thor Artist/Designer: John Rocco | by Rick Riordan, Disney Hyperion ISFDB or Amazon Entry
A bit of a design challenge as this book needs lots of text elements. The Percy Jackson reference is important without causing confusion, as this is not a paercy Jackson book. The series is captured with the titular character. There’s an additional tag line “Epic heroes, legendary adventures” and I’m really not sure what that’s for. 2 points.
- The Drowning Eyes Artist/Designer: Cynthia Sheppard| by Emily Foster, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Note that a small font size doesn’t mean text disappears. Even at this thumbnail size the author’s name is readeable but it could have been a bit bigger. The Fran Wilde quote isn’t readable at thumbnail size but that’s OK as it is more for print. 2 points.
- The Days of Tao Artist/Designer: Galen Dara| by Wesley Chu, Subterranean Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry
I think the author’s name gets lost a bit, and the only clue to the series nature of the book is the title. If you didn’t know, would you assume there were other ‘Tao’ books by Chu? 1 point.
- The Changeling Artist/Designer: Yuko Shimizu | by Victor LaValle, Spiegel & Grau ISFDB or Amazon Entry
This is also ‘a novel’ – maybe because LaValle has been more known for shorter fiction? I don’t know. While I like the cover, I think the title and author run together to much. Yes ‘a novel’ adds a divide between them but if I didn’t recognise the author name, it looks a lot like a story about a changeling called Victor LaValle. The quote from Marlon James is visible at larger sizes. 1 point.
- Sieging Manganela Artist/Designer: Brian Allen| by Charon Dunn, Amazon Digital Services ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Does what it says. 2 points.
- Occupy Me Artist/Designer: Sidonie Beresford-Browne| by Tricia Sullivan, Gollancz ISFDB or Amazon Entry
At thumbnail size the author name gets lost in the feather. I know it is ‘Sullivan’ but the first three letters are hard to read. Otherwise very nicely done but I’m going to be mean and mark it down. 1 point.
- Ninefox Gambit Artist/Designer: Chris Moore| by Yoon Ha Lee, Solaris ISFDB or Amazon EntryI’m not sure about the wide spacing between letters in ‘Ninefox’ but overall effective. The text gets out of the way of the picture but stays readable. 2 points.
- Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet Artist/Designer: Joan Wong| by Charlie N. Holmberg, 47North ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Nicely done. I know nothing about this book beyond the cover but I can see a lot about it. Yes, we aren’t judging books by their covers but each cover is a tiny billboard for the book. 3 points.
- MAGA 2020 Artist/Designer: Dawn Witzke| by ed Marina Fontaine, Superversive Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Here is the opposite case. I know what the book is but what can I see from the cover? Is it essays? Is it a novel? Is it fiction? Who has written it? There is a publishers logo but nothing else. Here is where a simple “an anthology” would have helped.
- Lovecraft Country Artist/Designer: Jarrod Tayler| by Matt Ruff, Harper ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Making use of some retro-cover design tropes has the added benefit that old cover designs built in a lot of balance for the text elements. Rather than the rather disconnected “a novel”, the cover says “A new novel from the author of the mirage” – hitting two birds with one stone. 3 points.
- Hammers on Bone Artist/Designer: Jeffrey Alan Love| by Cassandra Khaw, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
So well done. The minimal use of colour means the red text for the author name really elevates it. 3 points.
- Firebrand Artist/Designer: Michael Heath| by A.J.Hartley, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Title, author and other elements all really well integrated and yet readable. 3 points.
- Final Girls Artist/Designer: Julie Dillon| by Mira Grant, Subterranean Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry
I like how the title was done but at this thumbnail size poor Mira Grant is looking a bit lost. 1 point. Sorry.
- Fallout: The Hot War Artist/Designer: David G. Stevenson| by Harry Turtledove, Del Rey ISFDB or Amazon Entry
3 points for planning if nothing else. The underlying design gives plenty of space for lots of text elements without disrupting anything about the image.
- Everfair Artist/Designer: Victo Ngai| by Nisi Shawl, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
The font and size for the title is near the edge of readability at this thumbnail size but it is actually readable. A very careful choice. 2 points.
- Death’s End Artist/Designer: Stephan Martiniere | by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
We all know who wrote it and who translated it but at this size it is easy to miss. Lots of stuff going on but only the title really works. I’m going to be super mean and give it 0 points. The guilt will now consume me.
- Central Station Artist/Designer: Sarah Anne Langton | by Lavie Tidhar, Tachyon Publishing ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Meanwhile, did this book by Lavie Tidhar win a World Fantasy Award? Why yes it did! I’m tole what I need to know attractively and effectively. 3 points.
- Breath of Earth Artist/Designer: Gene Mollica| by Beth Cato, Harper Voyager ISFDB or Amazon Entry
I think some of the bigger text is still getting swamped a little by the images but everything is still readable. 2 points.
- Borderline Artist/Designer: an unsung hero| by Mishell Baker, Saga ISFDB or Amazon Entry
“The Arcadia Project” gets a bit lost (its the vertical text). The graphic design trick with the title works I think and I still see it as “Borderline” despite the partly repeated R. Author name is in danger of getting lost amid the noise. 1 point or 2 points? I’ll give it 1 point and let it pick up marks on other criteria. The text works but it is playing second fiddle to the fun they are having with the layout.
- Babylon’s Ashes Artist/Designer: Daniel Dociu| by James S.A. Corey, Orbit ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Side complaint: they really need to number these now, as I have trouble marrying the titles of Expanse novels to the events. I can’t remember which one this is! is it the one before the thing with the stealth rocks from orbit or the one after? Anyway. It is functional 2 points.
- After Atlas Artist/Designer: Anxo Amarelle | by Emma Newman, Roc ISFDB or Amazon Entry
“A Planetfall novel” – that’s not readable at thumbnail size but I guess if you are browsing on Amazon et al, you’d see that in the supporting text. It’s fine. 2 points.
- A God in the Shed Artist/Designer: an unsung hero| by J.F.Dubeau, Inkshares ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Nice cover but the author is getting assimilated by the darkness of the cover. Dark red on a browny-black is not a great choice. 0 points.
- A Fierce and Subtle Poison Artist/Designer: Allison Colpoys| by Samantha Mabry, Algonquin Young Readers ISFDB or Amazon Entry
Last but not least. Tells you what you need to know. 2 points.