In the last couple of years, there’s been this ever growing cover trend across various genres and as far as I can see, it doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon. That trend is illustrated covers.
Now, I want to clarify that initially I adored this cover concept when it first came about. To my knowledge, it was primarily seen with the latest contemporary romance releases and I liked having a romance book with a cover that wasn’t objectifying or had an embarrassing factor to it if read in public. The illustrated, cartoon-type of cover was almost like camouflage for a romance novel. And there’s nothing wrong with that, really.
But like most things in this world, and not just with publishing, once something is well received and others decide to hop on the trend bandwagon, things get blown out of proportion. These days, it feels like every new cover that’s being revealed is of this style and in my honest opinion, I’m sick of it.
Where’s the originality? What happened to the days where the cover reflected the story? Where’s the link between the cover image and the story’s theme or message? At least, for now, most fantasy books haven’t fallen prey to this trend (and why should they?) but every contemporary book, whether it’s YA or NA or adult, all have this cartoonish cover and it truly feels like there was this unspoken rule that all contemporary books MUST have this cover or else no one will care about the book. And that’s a really sad way to think about books and a gross emphasis on how a publishing house cares more about the money than the story. But I digress.
My ultimate breaking point for this trend was when a YA contemporary cover got a new redesign for the paperback edition and received the illustrated treatment which, in my opinion, it didn’t need at all and it ruined what drew me to the book in the first place. I adored the hardback cover and thought it was one of the most beautiful covers I’d seen in a while, but the people over at the publishing house thought the paperback needed a different cover, and I feel like they made a bad decision. Looking at the two side by side felt like such a downgrade and it broke my heart to see yet another book fall victim to this trend. And for why? To sell more books? To have people think “hey, this cover looks like that other one so I’m sure it’ll be equally as good”? I really don’t know but the lack of care and design for these covers makes me sad.
What might be the most dangerous part to this trend is that over three massive genres (YA, NA, and Adult), with widely different audiences, they all are seemingly starting to have the same types of covers at that could potentially lead to the wrong people picking up the wrong book. It’s bad enough we have NA fantasy books being shelved in YA because publishers refuse to recognize New Adult as a legitimate genre, but with a YA contemporary sharing the same design style as an Adult contemporary could lead to trouble. A parent could buy a book like Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey for their 16 year old teenager because they saw them reading The Upside of Falling by Alex Light, or vice versa. Or someone wanting to read an NA/Adult romance accidentally reads a YA romance instead and ends up being severely disappointed. It might not happen, but it could. And the same can probably be said with fantasy novels and sci-fi novels, but in my opinion it feels like this trend is getting out of hand.
It’s one thing to take advantage of a successful trend but it’s another thing to overuse it to the point where people begin to get sick of seeing it constantly purely because it’s what sells. Out of all the reasons why I’m tired of this trend, that might be the biggest one. I hope we can find a new trend to exploit soon and this one will be yet another echo in the past, or maybe designers and publishers can use their own minds and bring back originality. Who knows.
I’m still going to buy books with these covers, since I very much want to read those stories. I’m just going to be continuously disappointed in the covers. You love to hate to see it.