Google+ Jen Ryland/YA Romantics: Trending Thursday: Dystopian Cover Trends

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trending Thursday: Dystopian Cover Trends


Welcome to Trending Thursday: a weekly post in which I look at all sorts of trends in YA fiction, blogging and more.  Today I'm looking at book covers:

Today's Trend: Great Dystopian Balls of Fire!

Do you believe that subtle visual cues can nudge your brain to make associations? I wasn't so sure -- until I started looking at YA covers.

In 2008, the image on the original US cover of The Hunger Games looked like this: a golden, circular Mockingjay pin.




And after that, it seemed like golden circles of all kinds were standard on YA covers, especially if the book was a dystopian or post-apocalpytic story.

There were covers that echoed the graphic quality of the Mockingjay symbol:

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There were also the burning rings of fire...

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Subtrend: Flat and Circular

There's another, related type of dystopian cover images that I think of as the manhole covers -- I'm a city person -- but maybe you'd say they were inspired by gears or a horoscope vector or a clockface:

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Tell me what you think about cover lookalikes: do similar covers create a sense of association in your mind? And if so, is it a positive association, or an "no, not that again" feeling?

36 comments:

  1. I'm not really a fan of most dystopians anymore since I find them so similar, and the covers are included. I think they need to branch out and try different things.

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    1. I agree! I'm finding the plots a little too similar as well.

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  2. First, I love the font you're using for this meme's graphic. Secondly, thus is brilliant and true! and I'm cracking up over the manhole covers!

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    1. What can I say? I see manhole covers. It's like an inkblot test, I guess...

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  3. Cool topic! I don't mind similar covers unless it's a complete rip off.

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    1. I agree -- sometimes similar ideas are coincidence, sometimes they are just what's out there, like fashion. If the covers are so identical that the reader is confused, then that is more of an issue...

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  4. I think I have a fine line when it comes to covers that look like others. Sometimes it's a positive association, if they have similar *trends* but still look different. But often they play too close to the original. I have the original US ARC cover of the testing(they changed it before release), and it is SO. SIMILAR. to The Hunger Games cover that it bothers me. But most of these are different enough.

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    1. I'll have to look that one up. I remember the original cover as a manhole style -- a flat metallic disc, but maybe I didn't see the one that you are referring to!

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  5. okay the manhole covers made me giggle. I never thought of them that way until you pointed them out. The others, every time I saw them come up I associated them with other books in their genre, makes me feel like it's been done so yes.. the not again feeling kind of sets in.

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    1. Well, I think (?) that Enclave is set in NYC, so the manhole cover totally fits!

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  6. I'm not really into dystopian/ post-apocalyptic books so I never noticed the similarity in cover until now. I don't really mind it. :D
    -Farzy @ Books Keep Me Sane

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    1. In a way, I think it's very effective branding -- like how healthy packaged food often comes in green boxes, etc.

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  7. Hmm. I think I do think of them as looking futuristic with those types of covers, but I don't know that I have a positive association one way or the other except if the cover just looks cool. :) I don't like covers to look too much alike, but I guess there are only so many things you can do to make something different, right?

    I've had a pretty good discussion lately with another blogger about NA influencing YA covers. There have been some YA lately that look like Errotica covers and we both agree that we don't like it. That's an interesting trend...

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    1. I don't like it if the cover doesn't reflect the kind of book that's inside. I think that sets up false expectations and can lead to reader disappointment!

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  8. I'm pretty okay with covers looking similar. I mean, if they're ripping off the cover of a popular book just to have that association then I don't like it. But if the cover means something to the book itself and isn't just to hook readers, then I'm okay with it. Covers with meaning to the story are most important to me.

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    1. Agree! l love it when the covers have little hidden things that mean something to you if you've read the book. Like those Wither-Fever-Sever covers? I could look at those all day!

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  9. This is so true! lol
    I'm glad the Dystopian book I'm reading right now doesn't follow this trend. Not saying that the trend is bad, just wanted something different. :)
    Thanks for posting! Love Trendy Thursday!!
    P.S. How is Half Bad comin' along???

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    1. I am about to start it! I have a few pages of the book I'm reading to finish, and then, it's a go!

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  10. Yeah I can totally see what you mean! I feel like if the book doesn't have a cover model on it, it follows some kind of pattern so you can kind of distinguish what genre it is when you look at it. I definitely think that some covers are crafted to relate to another book, for example The Hunger Games. Like whenever I look at the Testing I only think the Hunger Games so maybe that's what it's meant to do? Make you want to read it because it looks like another book? Thanks for sharing, though! <33

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    1. That's what I think -- it's like cover shorthand. Girl in long flowy dress standing outside = paranormal romance...

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  11. I hadn't noticed that before! But so true! Mm...why even is that?! Is there something particularly ominous/sci-fi/mysterious about balls of fire? :) I actually don't mind it, though.

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    1. It is interesting! Maybe I will have to interview some cover designers and find out!

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  12. I've noticed this too! Honestly, I don't really mind. You've got to use all the weapons in your arsenal, after all. I do a periodic post called Cover Crave Alert for two reasons. First I love pretty covers. I think we've all bought "the pretty book" at least once. :) The second reason, though, is that I think that cover artists should get their recognition. They have an important job. An author wants people to buy his or her work--but it can be extremely hard to get them to even look at the summary and decide to give it a chance. If visual association with a popular book is how it's done, I'm ok with it--as long as it isn't a copy. :)

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    1. Covers are SO important, I agree. And I also agree that designers don't get the recognition they deserve. I have a couple of Pinterest boards devoted to my favorite designers...

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  13. You didn't say what you thought, though? Irritated or no? Nice topic. Here's my blog. :)

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    1. I don't mind similarities but I think that eventually a cover trope (or whatever you'd call it) reaches a saturation point and then it might be time to try something new.....

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  14. Yep, I've noticed this too. I love seeing them all in one post! I totally agree with the comment above about if not having a cover model they stick with a theme. This makes a lot of sense. I wonder if it really does help sell books? I can't say that I have an opinion for or against.

    On another topic...you are reading Half Bad! I can't wait to hear what you think of it!

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  15. I can't say that this is something I've really noticed-I notice pretty dresses repeatedly because I love them and giant creepy eyes because I dislike them. But this is way beyond what I noticed-I love how you see these things and then share them with us Jen!

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  16. Whoa- yes, I've noticed dresses, but I've never noticed "Great Dystopian Balls of Fire!" (This cracked me up, I have to admit.) And "manhole covers" too! *snickers*

    I still remember a few years ago when dystopian novels were still so rare- then baam, we're flooded with books on how a single teenage girl overthrows a corrupt government. (I read Legend, Divergent, and Eve one after the other. My brain was muddled.)

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  17. I love all these covers. They're great! Thanks for sharing. Very nice post.

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  18. Wow, I had never picked up on that connection, but it's true. The circles are definitely in with those kinds of books. It makes sense, though, considering our brains use associations and put together patterns subconsciously all of the time. And sometimes you know what genre a book is just by looking at the cover. Great post!
    -Kelsey

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  19. I'm all dystopian out. At first, I LOVED the genre but then so many came out after that and it just blah.

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  20. Oh my! You're such a genious! I love all dystopian books and I haven't realize this until now!
    I don't always like the covers of those dystopian books, but they're less girly and made the story look strong, I think.
    Great post. Loved it!
    Lis @ The reader lines

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  21. You have a really good eye, Jen! I never noticed the ring of fire or manhole trend:) And I want you to know that you made a Jerry Lee Lewis AND Johnny Cash reference in this post which is just plain AWESOME :)

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