Judging Books By Their Covers

Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published debut books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.

This week I’m looking at six books that all come out on March 1st. Since they won’t be released for two weeks as of this writing, and getting my hands on an ARC from a real author is about as likely as buying a pressure cooker and not being told I’m gonna die by every Boomer in my family, I do mean it when I say I’m just “looking.” I’m going to do my best to share with you the cover of each of these six books, and what I imagine are their strengths and weaknesses based on that. Then, if and when March rolls around, we can all find out how wrong I am. Again. As usual. They don’t call me Not-stradamus for nothing. OK, here we go.

Berserker Bounty Hunter 2: The Cat-acombs by Roland Carlsson is clearly some kind of furry low fantasy erotica, a la the LitRPG genre that has darkened the Denny’s placemat I’ve been using as a welcome mat. There’s a sexy cat lady, and a sewer (everyone’s least favorite video game level), and that’s about it. I’m guessing long-time fans of the Berserker Bounty Hunter series won’t need much else to get up to speed. It’s hard to judge this one based on such a simple premise. Actually, no, I think I can confidently place “cat sex sewer” pretty low on my TBR, below a surprising number of other sex sewers.

Now this is more like it! Freedom Against Zombies by Alathia Morgan is serving me jingoistic zombie realness. Against a backdrop of ruined buildings and hungry zombles a young Appalachian woman drapes herself in the American flag. It’s easy to see the gimmick here. It’s going to be some wholesome, bald eagle-worthy ass-kicking carried out by patriotic redneck preppers. Somebody is going to drive a tank, or oh! A fighter jet. Somebody steals a fighter jet in this book. I’m calling it now. This is the sort of book that makes you simultaneously ashamed and proud to be an American. If it turns out to be some sempai-noticing-me simuator about a blank canvas Mary Sue, I’m emigrating to Canada. Which is code for “letting the zombies eat me.”

Outranked: The Weight of It All by J. J. Thorn gives me mixed feelings. First, it calls itself a LitRPG series, which is code for problematic erotic power fantasy. But this cover. This is some Frank Frazetta-level cheese. There are way more lizard creatures getting wasted on this cover than I could hope to draw with my primitive monkey fingers. Our dude is standing on a pile of lizard meat, converting more lizards into meat. It’s glorious. I’m almost afraid to read it, in case it’s about a guy who works at Comcast and uses an elaborate fantasy world to trick lizard women into sleeping with him. A weaker woman, or a smarter one, would stop subjecting herself to this level of disappointment over and over again. But I’m clearly not alone, as the ongoing manufacture of Peeps will prove. Hopefully Outranked lives up to its badass cover.

Blaze of Glory by A. M. Van Dorn is a western with a cover that looks exactly like what I imagine the concept art for the Custer’s Revenge video game looked like. There’s a kneeling cowboy shooting at someone off screen, and two ladies posing (I only drew one because it was really redundant – same reason why I skipped the perfectly spaced out cacti on the horizon). The guy is literally in the process of shooting someone, with his hand on the hammer of his revolver; why are these ladies just posing? Are they in danger? Were they doing some Looney Toons plan to distract the bad guy so our cowboy could do a sneak attack? So many questions for March. You know what, A. M.? You tried. OK, you didn’t really try very hard, esepcially on those cacti, but you showed up. True, you haven’t technically shown up yet because it’s not March, but you exist. Probably. Well done.

Bloody Mayhem by Jack Quaid is a shooty-shoot action adventure with one of those cool 70s movie poster covers. There’s a looming hooded figure, cars exploding into stuff, and a gun-toting duo of disco ass-kickers front and center. I’m guessing this book is going to have car chases, mustaches, gun fights, sassy AAVE one-liners watered down for Wine Beckies like me, and at least one evil corporation run by a guy with a Persian cat. Possibly two. Two Persian cats, people! The 70s aesthetic is criminally underappreciated in pop literature today. You can’t see this thing and not imagine a car that looks like it was made out of scrapped battleships flying down the road to the tune of “wacka-chicka wacka-chicka.” It’s instant cool. And believe me, I know cool. I was a hall monitor all four years of high school. I made regionals.

A Fubar Kind of Day by Martha Carr and Michael Anderle is not here to waste your time or insult your intelligence. Mike and Martha have a simple story to tell with this cover art. It’s a classic story you’ve all heard before, a tale of gun fights, kicky-flips, magical energy blasts, and all the major inney and outey bits of the female body (I’m talking of course about the root chakra). Something I didn’t even notice while drawing this is that Blasty McTitsface is holding a handbag during the magical gun battle portrayed on the cover. That’s how transfixing this woman is. In case it’s not obvious, I have no patience for the “where are her organs” response to stylized depictions of women. I don’t know where Mafalda’s organs are either; she’s a cartoon. If anything, I find this kind of hyper-sexualized drawing very useful, because it tells me so much about what I will find inside the book. As an advertizement/warning, this cover is a huge success. If you want to read about women doing magical stuff other than having boobs, go browse the Hugo awards. Seriously, it’s like 100% women authors now and nobody’s noticed.

It’s usually not that hard to judge a book by its cover. I knew a woman once who organized her bookshelf by color, and the books were all still grouped by genre. Some of them were still grouped by author. Book covers and visual marketing are a precise science. But self publishing, as usual, allows for a lot more surprises. There are no boardrooms calculating ROI to the penny, and so the rules are looser. Any one of these books could turn out to be a Latvian haiku compilation. We’ll just have to wait until March 1st to find out.

Some crazy woman drew the covers of six upcoming releases. I think she needs help.

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