Want to help prevent bad book covers BEFORE they become an embarrassment?
Of course you do! Check out CoverCritics.com!

Copyright Concerns?

The Fair Use Doctrine of copyright law states that there is no copyright violation when a necessary portion of a work is presented as part of commentary or criticism of that work.  Copyright restrictions on a book cover are further weakened by the fact that a cover is meant for exposure and advertising; it’s hard for you to argue that someone is violating your copyright by advertising your wares.

I am an Amazon and Smashwords affiliate; the links run directly to retailers whom you have authorized to promote and vend your books.  So if you object to being featured on Lousy Book Covers, you aren’t legimitately objecting to the exposure as such, but to the negative characterization which Lousy Book Covers entails.  (Because, really, would you be up in arms if your book showed up on a website called Terrific Book Covers?)  That means that what you want silenced is my opinion.  Sorry, that ain’t gonna happen.

Also, before you make complaints and try to get your book cover taken down, please google “the Streisand effect.”  It was a couple of authors shouting “copyright violation!” that led to the original tumblog of this site going viral and being featured by Andrew Sullivan, Publishers Weekly, the UK’s Guardian, io9.com, HuffPo… Probably not the publicity those authors wanted.

Speaking of copyright, because I have nowhere else to stick this: The goat image in the header is courtesy of Matthew Schultz, and is licensed by a Creative Commons attribution license.


  1. No, I won’t ask you to take it down. I understand that instead of trying to help a situation, you’re small minded enough to want to make a living out of other people’s difficulties.

    While $200 might be very little money, to me, it is the sum total of what I make – if I’m lucky.

    Sorry for trying to use what talent I have to earn a living. And sorry my cover dosen’t meet with your approval. and sorry that you actually think that belittling others actually contributes something to humanity.

    1. And sorry that you think what you wrote actually makes sense. Do you honestly think that you can put out a product for people TO BUY, and that they won’t legitimately express opinions and critiques of it? You could use this incident to improve, or you could whine about it and make excuses. The first one might help you sell something; the second one definitely won’t. Please take your passive-aggressive act somewhere else.

      1. Nathan, This is brilliant! I just might intentionally make a crappy cover for my novel. Granted you put it on your site. It’s the best free marketing ever.

        Tess, there’s no such thing as bad press. I guarantee most your traffic will come from this site. It will benefit you greatly to be a sport about it too. People like others that can laugh at themselves.

        I’m serious about that cover Nathan. I’ll use crayons.

          1. Just wait, someone is going to start a Troma type book cover design service that will make purposely bad covers hoping that they will get free publicity on your site. Oh the vicissitudes of success.

        1. Agreed. After the initial surprise over the attention, I’m actually kind of flattered to show up. Personally, I don’t think the cover featured was my worst, and the slow, but steady sales on the particular book allow me to take the criticism with a grain of salt.

          It kind of reminds me of an erotica book on a Patriots player riffed by late night some time back. I’m sure the intended joke ended up boosting the author’s sales; at the very least, the late night hosts had to buy the copy to lampoon….

      2. Totally agree with what you have to say, Nathan. Personally, there are a couple of things that have happened because of you posting my book cover on this site… 1. You’ve highlighted a serious flaw with the cover. Now I’m no designer… that’s fairly bloody obvious now… I’m a writer. And it just shows that even in what you think are the right hands, sub-standard work can still be manufactured. 2. Thank you for highlighting the serious flaw. How the f**k did I not see that before? In all honesty, I still think the font and the colors of the setting sun behind the title are pretty cool. It just all goes tits-up after that. And that, my friend, will not draw the reader in. Again, how could I be so blind?!! 3. Just like there are plumbers and there are plumbers, mechanics and mechanics, and by that, I mean some are good, some are really f**king good, and some not worth the tools they work with… then there are designers and designers. What really pisses me off is that I hired a graphic designer for this job (and got charged a shit load) when, really, they should have just said, “Dude, I don’t do book covers. Give me a company/corporate logo and I’m good to go, but with books, I don’t know what the f**k I’m doing.” It’s about here, Nathan, when I’ll mention again I’m just the writer. It’s a good thing I know my way around the keyboard, ‘cos I’m obviously frickin’ blind when it comes to anything else. Anyway… I’m gonna thank you again right now, because v2 of the cover will hopefully be a big improvement. And it’s certainly opened my eyes to how important this issue actually is. People DO judge a book by its cover. Regrettable, but true. And inside that cover, if I may say so myself, is a great story. Quality work. To anyone else who doesn’t like their cover being highlighted, then wise up… what they’re doing here is actually pretty good. I didn’t see it, but I do now. We can’t put our product out there and not expect it to be critiqued and have opinions formed. That’s what it’s all about. So suck it up, use the critique to improve, or don’t bother releasing your work in the first place. Good going, Nathan. I’ll let you know when version 2 is done. Now that you surprised me and took my book cover virginity, I’ll be ready for you, and I won’t be an easy slut next time!

        1. And this is why – when I see an author I know personally on this site (and there have been FOUR – so far) I send them the link. What they do with it is up to them, but they deserve the feedback and the comments. They, too, may not see the forest, blah blah blah.

          This site, while hilarious and sometimes scary, DOES do “good.”

          1. It certainly does, Kris. I might have been wandering blindly through that forest for months and months, not noticing the trees even when I was knocking my stupid head against them every few steps. I am so frickin’ happy this problem was seen and addressed quickly, and like myself, I think the authors who have their covers commented on here need to take it on board without bitching and whining. Just be thankful that it happened. They can improve the cover, and if the quality inside is good, then they’ll get the readers. Without the feedback on this site, you know, the initial “Hey, you could have a problem here, buddy. The public might be bypassing your book because of this,” then they’d never know. They’d wander through that forest for a long, long time. Be thankful, authors, and for f**k’s sake remember this, because it’s really, frickin’ important… people DO judge a book by its cover.

      3. Your whole website is mean – that is what is wrong with the world today. I disagree with you about copyright content, but just seeing that you posted it as something not to fight, is mean. I like positive things. You know that all those people, whether self-publishers or not, mostly worked hard on what they presented. Yeah, you didn’t like it. But, it’s not the same as criticizing book content. You are using their cover, posting it on line, and maligning them. It’s not the same. Yeah, people can create things that people don’t like. Do you think you’d actually get some of these “mis-directed” people to hire you to create a “good cover” after all these negative remarks? I’d like to criticize your website, but I don’t want to be negative. I know you worked hard on it.

        1. “I just spent a paragraph criticizing you and your website, but then I’m going to say I’m not going to criticize it just to give the appearance of having the moral high ground.” Seriously, do people even KNOW what “passive-aggressive” means anymore?

          1. I meant I’m not going to criticize the looks of your website. I did criticize the your website for being mean. You are not passive aggressive, you are aggressive. Your website is mean. Cover after cover after cover and no positive remarks. Yeah, maybe there are some bad covers. But a whole website directed at being mean is not funny and not constructive. My post was mostly about this. Thanks Nathan for listening. Buddha

            1. Buddha:

              Well–perhaps you should take a look at the sister site, http://www.covercritics.com . Sure–some mean things get said here. But everyone on cc.com donates their time and expertise to help those who ASK. Anyone here can ask for free expert help on CC.com.

              Personally, I seriously doubt that Nathan picks up any cover jobs from this site. The folks whose covers end up here usually aren’t using professional help. I see the same thing with people who are DIY their formatting, for their print/eBooks; they don’t think that commercial expertise is required. Same exact thing with covers.

              Do you stop over places like cakewrecks.com and clientsfromhell.net , and tell them that they are “mean?” Everybody, in every walk of life and every type of vocation, needs to blow off a bit of steam. Those of us in the publishing biz see LOTS of awful covers. It’s hardly surprising that there’s a site dedicated to it. (And, btw: this is FAR from being the ONLY “bad book cover website.)

              You said “But, it’s not the same as criticizing book content.” How do you perceive that? My experience of this after 7-8 years is that people are far LESS willing to hear criticism of their book than their cover.

    2. According to Mark Coker of Smashwords, if you have an attractive cover your sales should improve – assuming there is quality on the INSIDE, of course. A bad cover says there is not.

    3. Great response all they care about is promoting their seriotype in hopes of intimidating authors to turn to their over priced mediocre crap.

    4. Tess,

      Take it from an experienced self-published author; and one whose work has also been featured here. If you’re going to survive the rather harsh world of the literary world, you’re going to have to have some very thick skin. Whether it’s a publisher rejecting your submission or a poor review; suffering the derision of others is part of the business. There’s no escaping it.

      Believe I know all too well how much it hurts when one pours his or heart and soul into a project that can take years to complete; only to be received poorly. But even writers with names like Dickens, Bronte, Joyce and my man Jack got bad reviews. And I think it bears mentioning that being featured here is not a reflection of the most important element of your novel; that being the writing itself.

      It takes no small degree of courage to throw one’s work out to the wolves. I hope this experience has not discouraged you from continuing to work on your craft.

  2. Just some perspective on all this from a future novelist. I think this is helpful. It gives me some insight on what and what not to do if I am designing my own cover or hiring someone to do it. I have seen professional designed book covers which were just bad. So thanks for the insight and the criticism.

    1. A website with good covers and bad covers is a nicer concept. Like book reviews, there are good reviews and bad reviews. This guy is wow.

      Please get a little bit tough, Don? I know I’m a Buddha and shouldn’t be talking this way. This is helpful? With a whole website of bad examples and sarcastic comments? That’s just mean and counter productive and bully-ish.

  3. Hi Everyone,
    Well, if I had an average neat book cover, no one would know my name … Now my books are international bestsellers. I’d rather have someone talking about my ugly book cover than no talk about my average but still good-looking book cover … and by the way my story even got so much attention that several Hollywood producers contacted me a while ago and today we are in the planning stages for a major film production, read more about it on my blog: http://sciencefiction- nastragull.blogspot.se / Again thanks for the free advertisement and any funny comments. PS There will be a book cover contest for my book series where the first prize is money … – Erik Martin Willen, Author to the Nastragull Series.

  4. Oh My!!!!! That was probably The Dark Mountain Saga’s first cover. My Autistic son created it. I was so proud of him wanting to assist me, that I over looked the obvious. Thank goodness I never went through with keeping it. Well Thank You Nathan for the Free advertisement. The Dark Mountain Saga Cover background remained the same. As I mentioned it was created by my Autistic son. I am happy with you talking about my cover. Oh hey by the way how did you miss the blurry cover of my debut book September’s Child.

  5. Ha! I found myself on here, and I have to say the feedback was excellent. I’m learning as I go and thoroughly enjoying making my own covers but I’m glad for the opportunities to learn where I went wrong and ideas on how I can improve. Plus, a laugh or two is also bonus.


  6. This site is one of the resources I recommend to those who want a boot-camp self-teaching experience with book design, along with sites thebookdesigner.com and peach pit.com (PeachPit Press, which sells a wonderful array of books on design–no, I’m not an affiliate of either, but an addict, I mean customer).

    Best print equivalent to this site is Sean Adams et al. _Thou Shalt Not Use Comic Sans_.

    Another exercise that’s very helpful, for those with Kindle accounts. Create your ebook, send it to your Kindle Docs, send it to your favorite reading device. Then go to that device/Kindle app and look at your book under ‘All Items.’ You can see your book cover alongside pro covers from Big Name Publishers both traditional and indie.

    The designer’s eye is developed over many hours/days/years, and unfortunate examples are as valuable as gems.

    1. Good idea. Check out book covers in your genre and see which books are selling better than yours. “Selling” on Kindle involves “clicking” involves “being impressed enough to click.”

  7. I am a graphic designer and the COO and managing artist at J. Ellington Ashton Press.

    OMG THANK YOU FOR THIS! I fight with authors all the time that want me to accept either their own art or a friend’s art that is horrid. This site seriously made my day.

  8. “I am an Amazon and Smashwords affiliate”

    but how do you find time to do this site if your making money being a affiliate? It doesn’t make sense,,unless your a lowball player and this site is a Catharsis for you not making much money…i get it…

  9. What I’d like to see are some comments on WHY you believe each cover to be lousy. Some are obvious, others less so. And yes, one of mine was featured, but I don’t know why specifically. It would be very useful to have the faults pointed out.

  10. My first reaction when I saw one of my book covers on here was ‘I will contact my solicitor and my publisher!’ When I have had the chance to re-visit the Lousy website and read the comments of all the hard working and committed authors on here I just found it quite amusing. Amusing that someone has to stoop so low to run such a critical website, trying to belittle authors and illustrators and also amusing as I am typing this as I sit around my swimming pool, which I purchased through my royalties. You don’t seem to have your contact details published on here, perhaps you could inform us all of your address as you are so very interested in our work.Thank you for the free publicity. I wish you could join me in a chilled glass of champagne around my pool in the Canary Islands.

    Kind regards
    Heather B Moon
    Children’s author at Fountain Blue Publishers California
    Tillie and the Golden Phantom, Tillie and the Voodoo Kid and Tillie and the Weird Christmas Tree are all available on Amazon,Smashwords,Barnes and Noble.

      1. I would hate to be on the receiving end of one of your comments, but I am sure I will be in the future, as I continue to make my wise-ass remarks. I will be sending you a link to one of my books because, really, I think it will be interesting to know what genre of fault the cover falls into.

      1. Is that racist? Not being really fine-tuned on that, but even I am pretty sure that is not really an OK depiction of a Caribbean person.

        That’s not really what I wanted to say actually – just that the book only has one review on Amazon. I wonder at the size of that pool now…

          1. LMAO, wow. That’s like writing a book called “Tillie and the Catholic” only the Catholic is wearing stereotypical Roman empire garb.

  11. i wouldn’t call the cover racist, only teradumb. Shit, SA urbanites know that Ethiopia,Lions&Weed/Caribbean&loas DIFFER!

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