I’m unsure why this subject popped into my head today, but I thought I’d finally put it down in my blog. More and more, we see horror books with incredibly gory or disgusting covers. Some are meant to shock or grab your attention and I get that, especially when you’re brand new and trying to be seen among the ocean of titles out there.
There used to be the issue of people not buying them because they wouldn’t be able to read them in public, for fear of everyone seeing the covers. Now, though, there are ebooks so all people see is your reader. No biggie there anymore.
But here is what bothers me:
There are a lot of great horror books out there, written by fantastic authors, and they might have some gore in them (possibly a lot of gore) but there is so much more than that. There is a gripping story, well-developed characters, and masterful storytelling to enjoy. But many people wouldn’t know because they were too disgusted by the covers to buy the book.
A publisher once told me (and I’m paraphrasing from memory) that if a reader can’t handle the cover, they shouldn’t read it, anyway, because they can’t handle what’s inside. I disagree. A gross cover is an artist’s interpretation that, once seen, you can’t “unsee.” When a person reads it, their imagination can turn down the dial, if needed, to match their level of enjoyment. Then they can still appreciate the work put into the rest of the story’s creation.
Isn’t it a common sign of amateur writing to write gore for gore’s sake? Gore in a book needs to have purpose or else it’s merely senseless shock value. In my opinion, that’s exactly what gory covers are guilty of, and worse yet, by spotlighting the book’s gore, they’re negating all the better qualities of the book, as mentioned above. In that one image for the reader, they’ve stripped the author’s work down to blood and guts.
The horror genre has been struggling with the stigma that it has little depth other than gore and violence for years. This only hinders progress, in my opinion.