When a Cover Can Ruin a Book

Josie Leavitt - February 1, 2013

I know I’ve ranted about my utter distaste of covers with photographs of real people, especially teenagers on them, but a friend shared a cover with me that made me gasp. There is a new book that has the first three Anne of Green Gables in one collection.

I think having the first three books together is a great idea, as folks often read the first one and come racing back for the next two in the series, so it’s good to make their lives easier and let them stay with Anne uninterrupted. The problem is the cover.  See the cover to the left? Does that look like the skinny red-headed, pre-teen Anne I loved as a child? Um, not exactly. The woman, and I mean woman–there’s nothing pre-teen about her, gracing this cover looks nothing like Anne. She actually looks likes she’s the kind of kid who would sneak out of her boarding school to smoke cigarettes with the math teacher.

First off, why is she a blonde? Secondly, what’s with the come hither look? Thirdly, why was this approved?

Covers of books are very important, I understand that, but there are principles that I think covers should follow.

1. The cover, especially one with a photo or drawing of a main character, should actually look like that character. If the main character is a redhead or a person of color, the cover should reflect that.

2. The cover should accurately reflect the time period of the book. The Anne in this cover looks like she just snuck out of boarding school to smoke with a teacher.

3. The cover should set the mood for the tone of the book.

4. The cover should pull the reader in.

I don’t mean to criticize only this book, but it was such a glaring example of a cover gone awry, I couldn’t help myself. So, my plea to all publishers: please stop thinking that only books with photographs sell, because this is not true. And, please design the cover after you’ve read the book.


106 thoughts on “When a Cover Can Ruin a Book

  1. Audrey

    I could not agree with you more. That cover cheapens and takes away from the truly great books that the Ann series is. It is like putting a male stripper on the front of David Copperfield! Ghastly simply ghastly.

  2. Betsy

    Folks, you are getting all upset because you MISUNDERSTAND the situation. This is NOT a “PUBLISHER” with a marketing dept. This is a public domain book that some RANDOM PERSON is selling. You could do the same thing. PUBLIC DOMAIN – it means anyone can do anything with it. Here is a list of public domain books: http://www.feedbooks.com/publicdomain. If you want, you yourself could publish, say, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo with a photo on the cover of Governor Chris Christie eating a donut. (If you had the rights to the donut picture of course.)

  3. Harold Underdown

    No publisher “approved” this cover. This was published using CreateSpace–a self-publishing service by an individual. It’s a form of self-publishing. Or pure opportunism.

    A little research before writing this column would have revealed this. Publishers are far from perfect but they are not responsible for the actions of opportunists.

    1. Annette

      Thank you for clarifying that no publisher put this out, but that it was published using CreateSpace. Also, I appreciate the public domain information. I did not know that the author loses rights to their work after 50 years.

  4. Cat

    This is awful. I hope they pull this cover. It’s just entirely wrong, from start to finish. Who comes up with this stuff?

  5. Shannon W

    What really makes no sense – well, all of it. But, how many times does Anne lament her unruly, too bright, red hair? It’s part of her charm and her difference from those around her. This girl is just … common. I hope this edition is a money-sucking failure.

  6. Lesley

    I am an Islander, what a disgusting thing to do to our beloved character, and a disgrace to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s memory. Shame on whoever did this cover!

  7. Wendy

    Shock and dismay! The cover is not selling what’s inside–anyone who picks up the book for the cover will be disappointed and anyone who doesn’t pick up the book because of the cover will be disappointed.

  8. Rita

    This must be some kind of a joke. Also, I suspect, a copyright violation, because I don’t believe these books are in the public domain yet.

  9. janet

    It’s not just this book that’s had this happen to its cover and covers in general tend to be far too sexy. Unfortunately, sex sells–witness the halftime show at the Superbowl as well as many of the ads. I also don’t like putting a picture from the movie on the cover.

  10. Chazz

    These three books (plus a couple more in the series) were published before 1923 so they are in the public domain in the United States. They are also P.D. in Canada since Lucy Maud Montgomery died more than 50 years ago. That means hack “publishers” can reprint their own version of these books in pretty much any way they choose. The Look Inside feature on Amazon reveals that the formatting of this “edition” leaves a bit to be desired. There are two lines of verse on the opening page of chapter 2 which, in this edition, are shown as one normal sentence with an awkward string of spaces where there should be a line break at the end of the first line of verse. If you want to see what it should look like, please consult the FREE version posted on Project Gutenberg Canada.

  11. Tulcie

    Children’s author Shannon Hale told my daughter and I at a book signing that these days publishers insist on only using photos on young adult books as they feel nothing else sells. Shannon was not too happy about the new printings of her books having photos. But really, if they have to do that at the minimum they can get the hair color correct!

  12. Laura

    It is possible that this is being marketed for placement in the young adult section. Nevertheless, this is NOT Anne of Green Cables. Whoever approved this cover must never have read or ever heard of the series.

  13. Barbara Piper

    Check out the Caustic Cover Critic


    for some genuinely awful examples of POD covers that have virtually nothing to do with the text they cover. The practice of using photos that are in the public domain means that a cover for The Hound of the Baskervilles can use a photo of a cute puppy, or The Postman Always Rings Twice with a cover photo of a friendly mailman waving to neighborhood kids. A volume of these book covers could be an entertaining publication in itself, but what cover illustration would you use!?

    1. Mary Ann

      I am shocked! First Anne and now Trixie! I agree with the person above that said everyone would be disappointed with either purchasing the book with the wrong impression, or not purchasing for the same reason.

  14. Anne Belov

    I can’t believe this. “Anne of Green Gables” being one of my all time favorites, I had no idea she was a twenty something “come-hither-babe”. What was the publisher thinking?

  15. Faith Pray

    Ugh! What a travesty! The girl who wants to read that book based on its cover will be sorely disappointed. Talk about misrepresentation. Wow. I’m crying real literary tears for Anne, and redheads everywhere.

  16. Lucie

    This is so bad it has to be fake-but hey, if it’s real then let’s enjoy the fact that any perves buying this drawn in by the porny cover and expecting a roll-in-the-hay romp will be treated instead to some quality literature 🙂 the joke’s on them!

  17. Joyful Reader

    This January I read L. M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables 1-3 for the very first time. I L*O*V*E*D them! This cover makes me sick! Why does the entertainment industry think they have to appeal to the reader in such a way! I would never have picked this book for my daughters based on this cover! But thankfully I have a wonderful set with “skinny red-head” Anne on the cover! The only way we can stop them is to NOT purchase anything like this. Thanks for sharing even though it is aweful.

  18. Patricia

    OMG! I totally agree with you on this one. That cover totally turns me off. Looks like something that is selling cover girl makeup or something.

    I would really like to know if it does attract young readers who have never read the Anne of Green Gables series. Since I probably already have a built-in judgement of the book – after reading and seeing the movies – would a cover reach them?

    My guess is not.

  19. Sally Lewis

    I am appalled. That photograph in no way depicts the Anne millions of girls have known and loved over the years. That picture may sell books but those books will not be read since the Anne in the book will not be as expected based on the cover. Basically it is a fraud. In this day and age can publishers really afford to ‘turn off’ any potential reader?

  20. Tat Chuen Kong

    I have not yet read the famous work of literature, “Anne of Green Gables”, nor seen the eponymous tv series. (Of course, I had been aware of it over the years, but, as with so many other worthy things, I don’t have time to experience it all for myself.) So without knowing either the story or the characters, the cover depicted in this blog did give me an impression of the book which I can only infer from the other comments to be somewhat inaccurate!

  21. Annie

    This book is out of copyright…in other words, it’s in the public domain. Therefore anyone can publish it…they are trying to entice a teen market. This isn’t about literature, it’s about Publishers trying to make money! They are trying to capture a ‘new’ market…. will it work? I doubt it, although there is romance, there’s no brooding Edward Cullen character to get girls heart aflutter, but from memory Gilbert did make my heart skip a beat 🙂

  22. Angela

    I would guess that the copyright has expired on the original version as it was first published in 1915 (at least book 3 was). copyright back then was 28 years, plus an additional 28 years. With the copyright expired, anyone can type it up, throw on a new cover and act as the publisher. Sad but true. I have to wonder if this “publisher” even bothered to read the books before making the cover.

  23. Timothy Stone

    It doesn’t have to be authorize, Sir. Stuff like this is going to happen, because, as great as public domain is to releasing books for low or free prices, it also leads to this abomination. 🙁

  24. Jennie Hansen

    I love covers that look like photoes and hate the cartoony ones unless they’re on humorous books or cook books. However, even covers that are or look like photographs should match the contents of the book. This one doesn’t. It’s awful. I agree completely with your comments on the importance of the cover and object to many of the YA covers, not because they show realistic people but because of the tendency to make teenage girls look like tramps.

  25. Judy Paolini

    Unfortunately, with CreateSpace, and I assume many other self-publishing sites, the design of the book cover is completely up to the author as long as the printing specifications are met. Most self-published authors do not hire competent book designers because they think they don’t have to. There are even websites out there for these authors to design their own covers – often written by other self-published authors with no design expertise themselves. Some even charge for their advice. Self-published work is even more in need of professional editing, design, and promotion than books that are already put through rigorous scrutiny by publishing houses. Yes, there are a lucky few who do it well all on their own but that’s rare.

  26. Ellen Scott

    i, too, agree with all previous comments, assuming that man of green gables’ comment was tongue firmly in cheek! The other thing that always bothers me about photos on covers is when they’re for historical fiction set in a time before photography was invented!! A photo of Queen Elizabeth I or Shakespeare does not work!!

  27. Jacki Leach

    Hmm… Looks like the publisher is catering to the Young Adult crowd. I, personally, hate the cover. I wouldn’t give this book a second look.

  28. Ramona Grigg

    Very odd. I found the listing on Amazon but it says the publisher is “Createspace”, which is a self-publishing outfit where people pay to have their books published. https://www.createspace.com/

    Is this authorized? I highly doubt it. Looks like someone’s trying to make a buck the easy way.


    The comments are interesting, too. Almost everyone hates the cover.

    1. DR

      All of LMM’s works are in the public domain. There is no need to have it authorized, any more than books like War and Peace, Jekyll and Hyde, etc, do.

      Cover is ridiculous though.

  29. Emma

    This is such an AWFUL book cover!!! This is NOT what Anne was supposed to look like. It is upsetting that this is the image being put in our childrens’ heads. Really awful 🙁

  30. Jessica Rising

    This is so terrible it makes me want to cry. 🙁 As a scholar of children’s literature, as well as as an independent writer of the same, I hate , hate, hate this. I just spent $500 on illustrations, and two days of work finishing my cover. This makes us all look like a bunch of illiterate money-grubbers. Grr!

    Poor Anne… 🙁

  31. Robin DeSpain

    Where do we protest the publisher. I’m all for paying a little extra that a publisher stays a float, but I’ll quickly do the opposite if need be. If they messed up this BAD on a classic book, how much up are living authors hard won manuscripts getting screwed?

  32. Marilyn Vandivier

    O my word! I cannot believe they would have the nerve to put this on the cover of Anne of Greene Gables.
    I like the rest would not read the book if I saw this as the cover. I too have read the Anne series over and over and love it. I have even watched the movie. My 14 year old granddaughter watched it and loved it. I sure hope they fix this. This is just awful.
    They would take a wholesome book and destroy it with a distasteful cover.

  33. man of green gables

    they FINALLY got it right! it’s about time they updated this book and threw away the overrated
    unsexy redhead freckle image.

    I like it better now. its sexy (unlike before) would have been better if she was wearing a bikini
    (or nude) that would have boosted the sales and would have been a smart business move.


  34. Becky Lee

    It looks like a cover for a sexy Harlequin romance set on a horse farm & the girl was ready for a tumble in the hay. This is too sexy & too modern to be an Anne of Green Gables cover. Whoever designed this couldn’t have read the books or even seen the movies.


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