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Jo-Ann Walmsley - 2007 Worst Cover Chair and Commentary


In general, the 2007 Worst Cover Contest ballot followed the trend of the romance novel industry by the nomination and inclusion of five romantica/erotica and two paranormal covers – the two hottest genres going right now. The remaining three entrants were pulled right from Harlequin lines, another typical occurrence in this category. What was really interesting this year is that, other than the winning cover, two of the Harlequins are the top winners. It seems that smut and porn are less offensive than nerds and cheesiness! Not only that but one of the Harlequins was not far behind the first place winner in number of votes. Between both of them, they garnered almost 50% of the votes.

Specifically, here are some hints for publishers and art directors on how to keep your covers off of this ballot – Harlequin, your Blaze couples really have to stop boinking in the backs of cars, and your American Romance line needs to muss up your couples just a little (okay, ALOT) more. Vampires need to get back to being vampires, and claws are not sexy. And finally, if you really must take your couples’ clothes off for public viewing, can we at least keep it attractive?

And now for the results!


Big Spankable Asses Kensington
Cover artist: Unknown

Big Spankable Asses won the 2007 Annual Cover Café Cover Contest Worst category by a 3% margin over the second place winner. There’s a good chance that if it hadn’t been for the title, this cover might not have won, but half of the people who left comments mentioned the title specifically. They also mentioned the words porn, smut, gross, offensive, garbage, insulting, racist, vulgar… well, you get the idea. And so does anyone else who views this cover and walks by without buying it.

Ellen: “It combines the world's worst title with the world's worst cover! Who in the name of Rufus would buy a book with this cover? The title confirms every claim that romance is women's porn, and the cover seals the deal.”

Elizabeth: “This was such a hard choice. Shall we vote for porn, porn, zombies in love, or more porn? In the end I had to choose Big Spankable Asses because it just has nothing whatsoever going for it. The title (even without the profanity), the cover concept, the picture itself -- I would not be caught dead, living, or undead anywhere NEAR this book.”

Tina: “I never want to see butt cracks on my romance novel covers. Ugh!”

Slightly comical were the complaints from some of the voters because of false advertising! The uh… anatomy in question… was, in fact, not as described.

Amanda: “…Also if the title implies a big @ss, then it should probably be a bit bigger than this skinny minnie's.”

Kris: “I think they forgot their target audience was women, not men. Although there's not much of an ass there anyway.”

Karmyn: “…But this gets my vote because that is not a big spankable ass. It's barely an ass. It's more an asslet.”

Nana sums it up for all of us, I believe. “How do you NOT vote for this cover? I don't even say that because of the title. I say that because, well, it's an ass. In my face. And it's not even a particularly well-executed ass: doesn't the left cheek look flatter than the right cheek? And then I look below the ass, which I really didn't want to do, and discover that whoa, I'm pretty much face-to-face with this person's ladybusiness. And yet there is no ladybusiness! This is what Barbie would look like from behind, if her right arm were flexible! The skin even has that same poreless shiny plastic sheen.

After examining this cover thoroughly (there's a humiliating statement), I have to conclude that this is not, in fact, a human at all. This is an inflatable sex dummy. In which case, I caution the heroes: go easy on the spanking. Nothing would be more embarrassing than getting overly enthusiastic and accidentally blowing up your blow-up doll. Except maybe buying this book.”




And in second place we have the first of our Harlequin series contenders – It Happened One Wedding. You know this is a really bad cover when it almost ties with a book titled Big Spankable Asses. I didn’t bother to tally what offended people more – the guy’s slicked back hair or the fact that he doesn’t know where the shutter release on that camera was and it would never make it to My Space. And blue! Who knew? Nothing was going to save this cover!

Leila: “Oh good grief, the sappiness of this cover just sent shivers down my spine! Can a cover possibly get any more cheesy than having those two loons grinning away into a camera? Something about his completely slicked back hair is just very offensive to the eyes…”

Wendy: “Hahahahahaha! These are all great in truly horrid ways! (Although, there's something about Kink that I like...) In the end, I went with the cheesy grins (although the Mark Cubin look-alike on Mommy for a Minute is a close second). All of the other books in this category (except for the aforementioned Mommy for a Minute) I might consider - on the day after I had finished reading everything else. However, never for a second would I think about reading this book. I'd be more likely to carry around the spanking one than this smarmy looking book. I hate his hair. I hate his grin. Why is the church blue?”

jelyha: “Though I find the trend toward TMI, overly skanky covers depressing (and I say this as someone who has always loved sexy covers), I find the one for It Happened One Wedding just downright strange. What year is this set in - he looks like he's taking his hair care tips from Al Capone.”

We all thought we’d seen this image before though, right?

Valerie: “Looks like Norman Bates' son has found a mate and they are moving into the old homestead.”

Barbara: “'Psycho' is not a movie that really brings to mind romance...and what is the deal with that guys "BIG" camera?”

And finally, it just downright makes Willa’s teeth ache and that is never a good thing.

It Happened One Wedding Harlequin
Cover artist: Unknown




The next four covers were pretty close in votes. Topping this group is Mommy for a Minute which was my pick for Worst cover this year. I've detested it since I first saw it. I know it's supposed to be cute and innocent, and I'm sure it is. But despite the fact that Mr. Man has "Serial Killer" written all over him, and you know at some point towards the end of this movie, Mom is going to end up fleeing UP the stairs, it's just WRONG that this little cutie is sitting on the lap of Mr. Man with a big old, phallic GIANT finger pointing straight up. Not a good idea at all.

Annemette: “Looks like a toothpaste commercial from the 70's. And what's that great, blue finger supposed to symbolize??!”

Robin: “So many horrible covers, but none of the others feature a child sporting a blatant penis symbol on her hand. Someone call Child Protective Services on this one.”

Bonnie: “Not only cheesy but somehow creepy with that big finger.”

Elissa: “The others may be smutty to the core, but this cover wins the prize for being the corniest thing I have EVER seen. It doesn't look natural at all.”

Is this minor league? The Stepford Sentinels maybe?

cassie: “How do you choose? They're all pretty terrible. But this one, with their vacant, Stepford stares takes the cake...”

Judith: “So hard to choose but I have to give it to the scary Stepford smiles and eyes. I might have liked this one if it was a horror cover.”

carrotbat, however, will not be rooting for the Stepfords. “Oh, God, there's some clunkers here. The world's dumbest vampire, the small plastic ass, the crazy heroine ... I came so close for voting for the grade eight Photoshop project that someone decided belong on the cover of It Happened One Wedding, but ... I just can't not vote for that stupid foam finger. Not to mention that they're all looking in different directions, the heroine looks like someone I know and can't stand in real life, and, as a Mariners fan, I just can't condone anyone cheering for a different team!”

Mommy for a Minute Harlequin
Cover artist: Unknown




What She Craves Kensington
Cover artist: Unknown

Fourth place – What She Craves. Oh, the answers to that were delicious! Some clothes, another breast, a sex change, a better photographer. Some clever comments there, but it’s not too funny for those who are distressed and offended by the blatant “show it all” on the covers trend of romance novels today.

Robin: “Crass and nothing sexy about it.”

Alyson: “They all need a brown paper cover.”

Mascha: “Too much red, too much skin, too much breast, just tasteless!”

Angela: “Yikes, the colors are bad, the nudity is unattractive, and the person whom we assume is a woman looks like she has a rat's nest on her head.”

Wendy: “What a horrible picture. It looks like a horror film scene where the actors are drenched in blood. And I can't figure out where his hands and arms are. Are they wrenched back in handcuffs? I can see hers, definitely, because I'm unable to tell if her left hand is holding a Frisbee under her arm, or if she's supposed to be caressing her own breast. Either way, yuk.”

Sure, sure, make fun all we want, but Cindy is concerned for the poor couple. “The silicon in her breast burst and he's having an allergic reaction as a result.”




Bustin’ took the fifth place spot. Truthfully, I’m surprised it placed as high as it did. There’s really not much to it. Which could be the problem, I guess.

Maddie: “It looks like this was done in 2 minutes.”

Marie-Nicole: “So rudimentary, a grade-schooler could have done it.”

Janet: “Looks like this is the type of graphics you'd expect a computer to churn out in the 80’s from Clip Art.”

Kris: “Where are his legs? Hate the colours, it looks like the cover artist was out of ideas and in a rush.”

Lizzie: “Besides being both ugly and silly, this cover typifies everything I hate about vampire novels--that a scary archetype had become trivialized by overuse until it's just a cartoon. In a category with some ridiculous, tasteless covers, I've voting for the one that represents a ridiculous, tasteless trend. (Webber's book may be nothing like that, but I wouldn't know it!)”

Nothing about this cover worked for Alexina. “…What has the title got to do with the image? A hint would be nice.”

Bustin’ Love Spell
Cover artist: Unknown




Ceremony of Seduction Kensington
Cover artist: Unknown

Sixth in line is Ceremony of Seduction. For as many negative adjectives as this cover received, I’d have expected it to place higher. But they all can’t be in the top three, right? This cover was described as crude, boring, horrible, explicit, TMI, etc. It was observed that covers like this that go too far and leave nothing to the imagination just make the genre trashy and perpetuate the general opinion of it.

Lisa: “Let's be clear: I HATE EVERY COVER IN THIS CATEGORY. But forced to choose only one, I went with Ceremony of Seduction because it's so blatant and stupid. I'm not an idiot; if I want to read an erotic romance, I don't need the visual equivalent of a 'HERE BE PORN' neon sign on the cover.”

Bethany: “… Not only is the couple completely naked, but they also seem "right in the middle" so to speak. That's not something, personally, I want on my book cover. This novel should be titled Ceremony of Sex not Ceremony of Seduction. Secondly, the female appears to have fallen victim to sleeping sickness. Obviously the hero is not skilled enough to even keep her awake. That's a problem. […] All in all, this one is pretty bad, there is no way I would ever read it based on the cover, and somehow I doubt anyone else would either.”

Heather: “There should be some subtlety to a cover. There's a big difference between sexy and porn.”

Julie: “I like sexy and sex but want it in the story not on the cover.”

Ruby: “Too much exposure for children's eyes...wouldn't want it on Wal-Mart shelves.”

Elaine: “I would never buy a book with a cover like this. It's waaay too explicit.”




This last group of four covers were all close in number as well. All in all they didn’t garner many votes so that’s a good thing!



The number seven Worst cover in this contest is Touch of Madness. The thing about this cover is that as a horror novel, it may have won first place. But as a romance novel, it didn’t cut it. One voter who had even read the first in the series put this one back after studying the cover. Other voters are calling out the Fashion Police!

LauraD: “Some of them are so bad they are a joke, but this is just plain fugly.”

Barb: “BLUE eye shadow applied by a madwoman who looks like she's hearing messages from the dead. Cadaverous hand stretched out on her shoulder in anything but a loving manner. Boobs bulging out of a way too tight top, with the "h" in touch managing to look like it is pushing her boob out. Weird dress with bat-style cut-outs and no body below. What's not to hate?”

morganhorse: “OMG! That girl needs some serious intervention in the make-up and fashion department. Stacy! Clinton! Nick & Carmondy! Pleeeease take her away.”

Wanda: “This is just so much ugly, I can't even break it down.”

Tracy: “Just awful looking, like some kind of crack whore with necrophilia issues.”

Carol: “If this is geared toward romance, it has the opposite affect on me. I'm assuming the hero is touching her.”

Nancy: “…But Touch of Madness hit a new low; the cover is depicting main characters as evil. Attempted porn or lack of imagination in a book cover is one thing, but evil demonic allure as a romance selling point? The customers can rightly call the publishers idiots.”

Touch of Madness
Cover artist: Unknown




Beyond Breathless Harlequin
Cover artist: Unknown

Beyond Breathless, the lone Harlequin Blaze entry, is our eighth place winner. It’s tacky, tasteless, sleazy, and looks to be beyond painful. But I’ll let our voters point that all out to us.

Melissa: “It doesn't even look sexy; it looks horribly painful and awkward and what exactly do either of them think they're kissin' huh? And he's in such a weird position (in pain?) and she's trying to eat his nose... It's. Just. SO BAD.”

Avocado: “They're all terrible. Really terrible. And I'd run like hell from the books because of them. However, nothing at all says "romance" about this-- it says "drunk sex."”

Jana wants to know, “Didn't we get past this in high school?”

Andrew: “Some of the other covers are certainly pretty bad, but in most of them at least the folks pictured seem to be having fun. Not so with Beyond Breathless, one of the most awkward-looking covers imaginable. From the odd angle to the uncomfortable body positions, the cover doesn't suggest forbidden passion as much as futile screams and desperately grasping anything within reach as the car plummets backwards off a cliff. Should've had the parking brake on, you two.”




At the Edge
Cover artist: Unknown

Berkley Trade
Cover artist: Unknown

Down here near the bottom we have At the Edge in the ninth place spot. It’s the second cover to have a blurry red lens obscuring the action. We’re guessing publishers and art departments equate that with hot, steamy sex. Someone should tell them trying to squint to see what’s going on just gives us headaches.

Rhyan: “All that Red just way to hard to look at.”

Brandy: “The color is awful, like a dark room nightmare. It looks like something from a bad seventies B movie.”

Cover Café’s John wrote: “Could be hot but is too fuzzy and red to get there.”

Several voters bought this book because Ms. London is a well-known, respected author. It was a hard thing for them to do, however.

Diane: “Love the book. Almost didn't buy it because of this cover.”

Kathleen: “Although none of them are 'winners' this one goes the farthest over the top of good taste and has the least to do with the storyline. I was embarrassed to buy this one.”

Mary Lou: “She writes too well to be saddled with a cover that shrieks 'MINDLESS PORN! RAMPAGING FILTH!'”

Finally, the Best of the Worst is Kink in last place. Is it telling that the image of a pair of spread-eagled legs encased in fishnet stockings with a set of handcuffs resting between them on a…wait for it…red background is the least offensive cover in this group? And if so, what does it say?

To be fair, many voters commented that they actually liked this cover. Many did not.

Maria: “This cover is simply made of dullness. It's not edgy, it's not nice to look at, it's not innovative. It's dreary and makes me think of just how unglamorous and unsexy day-to-day prostitution must be - because this cover feels like it should illustrate an expose on trafficking, not the hot romance I'm presuming the book is.

Cinquetta: “Who wants to see a woman’s crotch....just...noooo!”

Laura: “Crotch shot.”

Rebecca: “The placement of the title makes you wonder if KINK is some new feminine deodorant spray.”

And last, Brenda sums it all up very neatly, very succinctly, very this-is-what-this-contest-is-all-about(ly): “Nothing at all to make me want to pick it up.”

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