Covers That Make You Do a Double Take

Cover design has changed a lot over the years  – and I don't just mean the monochromatic single-item shallow-focus trend going on right now. Used to be covers were… on a book, on a shelf. Now, covers are on books, on physical bookshelves, on digital books in all sorts of sizes, large and small. Resizing the cover image can yield some hilarious results, too. 

Here's an example from Chelsea Z:

 Book Becoming Three - in the small image, the woman's finger lines up with her lower lip, so it looks like her lower lip is 5 inches long heading for the hero's mouth

She came across this cover while book browsing: “one of those covers that makes you go Whuuaaa?? Girlfriend has some seriously stretchy lips…or….reeeally long fingers maybe? Maybe it is clearer on a print book???”

Yup, and it's clearer in the larger-sized image, too: 

 Book Larger sized image shows the color difference in the heroine's lips and the fact that her finger is between the heros face and her own.

The larger image makes the depth and contrast more clear – but the smaller cover image makes it look she has a prehensile lower lip. I wonder if that would be useful, should we reach that point of evolutionary development. 

I saw this in the RT magazine on the flight home from Kansas City and did indeed do a double take when I saw the picture as I was turning the page: 

 Book Waking up to You a slightly overexposed overhead shot of a woman curled around the shoulders of a dude with one leg over his shoulder it is a very strange composition

I think part of my Huh?! comes from the fact that it looks like a somewhat creepy American Apparel ad. And the other part comes from not being able to readily identify whose body parts are whose, what I'm looking at, why his shoulder looks so much like a giant unintentional (or intentional) dong … and why the focus of the shot is her bum: 

 Book larger image - the lightest part of the image is her butt so naturally the eye is drawn there

Not only did this cover make me double take, but it gave me a mild case of the squicks, too.


 Here's another double-take cover:

 Book a headless woman in a red dress against a blue white background with a cat directly under her bum like she's about to sit on it.

 Tammy sent this to me, writing, “I came across this book after one too many mouse clicks and then just had to take a closer look because my first thought was WTF.   My second was that you might enjoy it.”

 Holy crap. Either she's sitting on a cat, or she's shitting a cat. It's a whole new descriptor of crazy, you guys: cat shitting crazy! 

Alas, in the larger image, it's clear that she's not sitting or shitting a cat: 

 Book Cover


You can just barely make out the white sofa she's sitting on … and the Photoshop aura surrounding the cat who was added in using the inestimable powers of cut-and-paste.


 Here's a cover with both an image and a title that might cause you to do a double-take:

 Book Cover


She's positive…. that their arms are very confusing. Is her head on backwards? Is that her back or her front? What the hell? 


 Book Cover


Well, the hands and her neck look more… logical, but that title is still making me 0_o. 

 Elyse, who sent me this picture, suggested it's “a novel of love and broad spectrum antibiotics.”


This last one is my favorite. Meet London's Last True Soundrel! 

London's Last True Scoundrel - a man standing with his back turned and his shirt mostly off wearing very beige breeches that at first glance make him look like he's got no pants and no asscrack either.

Jennie R sent me a link to the original cover, saying “this cover inspires a much closer look. Can't tell if it's really bad or really awesome.”

That's one way of looking at it. Clearly the man is a bonafide scoundrel because you can't tell at a glance if he's wearing pants!



It's more obvious in the bigger version (heh) but still, a quick glance and you might think he has no pants… and no asscrack.

And you can't win for trying. St. Martin's seems to have updated the cover. Now the pants are darker, but he looks…furry:


Book Cover


Which did you like better, the buckskin or the chocolate brown longjohns? Did any of these covers make you do a double take? 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    It was the last one that made me snicker aloud. It truly did appear that he had no breeches on his buff butt, but it turned out to be buff breeches. The updated cover would have been an improvement but (heh) for the image you planted in my head.


  2. 2
    JD says:

    In the small version of the last one, for a split second I thought he was doing a Marilyn Monroe skirt-updraft. o_O Ohhh…it’s his shirt! Okay. Nope. Still bizarre, no matter what color his butt changes to. (Now that might make it more interesting—a cover where his butt changes color—maybe heat activated?)

  3. 3
    Lostshadows says:

    I prefer the brown pants. “Where’s the ass crack?” double takes aren’t a good thing.

    The cat sitting/shitting cover would have been helped if they’d picked a cat with a different expression. Up close its kind of startled looking, far away, it just looks grumpy. Neither of those helps dispel the impression that she’s done something to the poor cat.

    My only thoughts on Waking Up to You‘s cover were more on the lines of, “I hope they didn’t have to hold that pose too long.” Damn, she look uncomfortable.

  4. 4
    KatieO says:

    LOL! Thanks for the beverage warning or there would be coffee spewed all over my computer right now!

  5. 5
    Tollingbell says:

    Thank you for the laughs!! All of your comments are right on but when I looked at the cover for book #4…it appears as if her back is facing us while her head is screwed on—‘Exorcist’ style.

    I’ll never look at those covers again without thinking of these comments.

  6. 6
    Meg says:

    @JD—I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thought that!  London’s Last True Scoundrel looked a bit like London’s Last True Crossdresser to me….

  7. 7
    JD says:

    @Meg LOL it’s the only thing the Smash producers didn’t try, to keep it on the air. Sorry—still bitter about that cancellation…! :P

  8. 8
    MissB2U says:

    It’s waaayyyy too early out here for this kind of shenanigans.  Or to try and type “shenanigans”.  Book #4 definitely got my attention for all the wrong reasons.  His bum looks like claymation gone wrong.

  9. 9
    LadyRhian says:

    The “She’s Positive” cover made me think, “And now, she’s living with AIDS.”

  10. 10
    J.K. Hogan says:

    In the last one, they should just quit while they’re behind and just give up on the pants all together. ;-)

  11. 11
    Joanna S. says:

    I must say that, buff or brown, the last cover’s “scoundrel” is sporting the most ill-fitting pair of breeches I’ve ever seen on a romance cover.  The title should perhaps be changed to: London’s Last Flat-Bottomed Scoundrel” or even “London’s Man Who Laughed His Ass Off”.

    I would think a scoundrel would know how best to accentuate his (ahem) pertness in order to attract the hundreds of women he will need to sleep with before he encounters The One who possesses the magical woohoo.

  12. 12

    I couldn’t take a scoundrel seriously in furry pants. Although they are better than when it looked like he had no pants and a monobutt. And the cat. Oh the cat.

  13. 13

    LMAO!!! I love it!
    The next to last one with the exorcist head is ridiculously freaky!

  14. 14
    Jessi Gage says:

    Thanks for the laugh this morning. I especially loved: Is her head on backwards? What the hell?

    LMAO, which was much needed this morning.

    Some double take book covers on my Kindle:
    The Charmed Sphere by Catherine Asaro (Another one of those is that her front or back? Also is that a dismbodied hand she’s holding? Is that her ass crack? Where’s her head?)
    The Pleasure Diaries (vol 1) by Sky Ashton (Which bony ridges are hips and which are ribs? I can’t tell which direction her head is at.)
    Sins of the Highlander by Connie Mason (Apparently this is what they did before Q-tips)
    Curio by Cara McKenna (Never thought tighty whiteys could be THAT sexy. Nothing wrong with this cover, just love the crotch candy)
    Beyond Eden by Kelle Moon (Are there two guys back there or just one who is hugging himself? I’m not even going to comment on the apple other than to say, Ack!)

  15. 15
    Tamara Hogan says:

    The “She’s Positive” cover (Um, positive for what? HIPAA laws, anyone?) reminds me of Meryl Streep in the movie “Death Becomes Her.”

  16. 16
    Linnae says:

    Thumbnails are so important in today’s digital world but most of the above covers still have major problems when viewed in the larger size. 

    If you want to see more “What were they thinking covers?” , the annual cover contest for 2012 romance covers is online at Cover Cafe.  The Worst category has some real winners (or losers) this year.  You’ll find the link on Cover Cafe’s home page.

  17. 17
    de Pizan says:

    All I saw on the last book cover was the mysterious bulge on the inside of his leg…

  18. 18
    Mary says:

    My first impression of the buff breeches one was that he was wearing a tutu. So I think the darker pants are an improvement!

  19. 19
    Kelly S says:

    They all required 2nd takes.  Although, I hadn’t noticed the guys shoulder looking like a different part of anatomy until you pointed it out.  Nor did I see the white couch until you pointed out so even in the large version I thought she was sitting on the cat.  Buff boy, totally thought his shirt was a towel and he was drying off.

  20. 20
    Laura says:

    I am totally appropriating “shitting cats” as my new favorite curse phrase.

    “Shitting cats y’all, I can’t think with all the noise.”
    “I don’t give a shitting cat.”
    “Shitting cats! That guy is hot!”

    Like a smile, you can take it anywhere.

  21. 21
    SB Sarah says:

    @Laura: If “shitting cats” becomes a thing, I will laugh so hard. I totally said that last night. “Holy shitting cats, what the hell happened in here?”

  22. 22
    De says:

    By now, I should know not to look at these on the reference desk, in the middle of the library.  I’m fighting not to laugh out loud, and my face hurts from the grin that’s stiffling the snickers.

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