Apparently, covers in this general style must include at least several elements from this list to fit the cliché:

  • Gold or silver metallic text, often dimensional, with or without drop shadow.
  • Letterspaced all cap or small cap author name.
  • Too-busy and mostly botanical backgrounds, whether or not they have anything at all to do with the actual story.
  • Silhouettes! May be of ladies wearing hats, skulls, swords, arrows, etc.
  • Arched text at the top – often the author name.
  • At least three typefaces per cover, maybe more.
  • Too-detailed type, often set too damn small.
  • Random occult symbols, sometimes hidden, sometimes ghosted, sometimes all over the freaking place. Same thing goes for Egyptian hieroglyphics.
  • The colors of magic, which are – apparently – electric blue, purple, acid green and magenta.
  • Compressed all-caps display serifs with too many swashes.
  • Using distressed type but not giving a shit as to whether or not repeating or multiple instances of the same character are distressed the same way – is it that hard to use good type with alternates or to actually distress it your own damn self?
  • Idiotic borders made from elements of at least three different time periods / historical styles.
  • A title containing the words “curse,” “wicked,” “shadow,” “night,” and/or “kingdom.”
  • Over-Capitalization or Inconsistent Capitalization of everything, often for No Reason At all … and an Over-Use of – Sometimes – Incorrect Punctuation!
  • Ridiculous pen names ( A. A. Chamberlynn and Phoenix LaFae, I’m looking at you).
  • Everything’s centered! Why does everything have to be centered?
  • Silver, chromed, or otherwise metallic curlicues, swashes, thorny vines and similar motifs.
  • Roses, roses, roses. Bloody roses, roses shedding teardrops, crystal roses being broken, thorny stems, etc.
  • Utterly gratuitous use of Photoshop. Everything, apparently, was ethereal and glowing and purple and electric blue back in ye olden times.
  • Generic stock photos of gorgeous young and almost always white – that is, caucasian – witches with red or blue hair, bare-chested hunks, wolves, elf-eared wizards, etc. … you’ll likely see the same image used on two or more covers from different authors.

Here are the boring, the depressing, the lame, the played out and the otherwise cliché:

Not that they’re all bad. A few are pretty nice … but they still can’t avoid these obvious clichés. The good ones have a few things in common: limited color palette, refusal to use a bunch of crappy Photoshop layer effects, and above all they use good type well. No awful free fonts, no fake distressed type, etc. Plus, with the good ones, you know the designers tried to talk the authors, agents, packager or publisher out of the cliché looks but just couldn’t win. We all gotta eat, so give it up to the few people who know what they’re doing but are still forced to do this stuff … I’m one of them too.

Here are a few that are at least decent:


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