Friday, March 4, 2011

Cover Critique: Inappropriate Use of the Headless Torso

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts meant simply to be humorous and not insulting.

I think most of you have probably noticed the headless or semi-headless torso cover trend in romance book covers as it's fairly hard to miss. In case you need help identifying this trend though, I thought I might assist your enlightenment with some visual aids. I'm displaying said aids for strictly professional book-related reasons only. I want to make sure we're all on the same page you see, I take no other pleasure in these covers other than informing you of a significant and noticeable trend. Professional and respectful, that's me.

Well, hello there my shapely torsos, what pretty book covers you make. Now that I have stopped petting my screen long enough to type, I just want to point out how the lack of a full head on these covers works well because, let's just admit it, we're not all that concerned with what their faces look like when their chests and abs are displayed in all their rippling glory now are we? No. So, in addition to simply wanting a more valid reason to feature these delicious midsections, I also wanted to make my point that a lot of the time, the headless or semi-headless torso is a very appealing and enjoyable cover design solution. Now that we have established that firmly *scrolls back up to refresh my memory as to the trend in question* we can move on to a cover where this element is not quite as successful.


Gah! That is one mutant, eyeless, diaper-clad baby! Why cover designer, why have you done this? Are we attempting to protect the baby's identity by cropping out his or her eyes? I imagine stock photographs with a full face are more expensive, but this is just a little disturbing don't you think? I have no pecs to ogle. I have no abs to drool over. I have no um, package, to briefly (okay, not always briefly) stare at. What I have instead is a very fleshy, very enormous baby hovering ominously over a building as though he might drop from the sky at any moment and cover those bricks in diaper-y goodness. Blech.

I guess this cover just flummoxes me, title and image and all. What will come to me? A monstrous nude child missing the upper half of his or her head? And if this baby is in fact coming to me, is this cover to scale? If so, what am I going to do with this child? Where will I keep them? How will I clothe them? Even though this alien baby has very adorable fatty arm and leg rolls like a little plump sausage, I must humbly request he or she be returned to sender. If something else absolutely must "come to me", I would like to draw attention to the first set of images. I will be accepting any and all deliveries that appear as such. Thank you.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what this book could possibly be about? Well, I won't keep you in suspense (from Barnes and Noble):

Ben Blau is the reluctant chair of the philosophy department of the Lola Dees Institute, surrounded by a bestiary of academic innocents and opportunists. His wife, Ruth—a writer whose early success never quite blossomed into a career—nurtures sometimes noisy and sometimes private rebellions against the conventions of academic life. Their lives have settled, if not always comfortably, into a dull ceremonial round of convocations, committee meetings, and pot-luck dinners. To Ruth it seems that nothing will ever change.

Except that this year a new couple has arrived on campus: an ethereal, celebrated young memoirist and her husband, an intellectual jack-of-all-trades and perpetual misfit. Something about these two throws the staid academic world of the Lola Dees Institute into comic chaos and revives Ruth’s hopes that she might become, once again, the writer she used to be.

Hm. I see nothing about a giant exhibitionist baby who seeks revenge on an academic campus via crushing the buildings under the sheer monstrous weight of his or her freakishly overgrown baby limbs in that blurb do you? I, in fact, see nothing about babies at all, even normal sized ones. This book is a conundrum and completely abuses the beauty of the headless torso trend. Please don't misconstrue my thoughts and read between the lines that I hate babies, absolutely not the case–little teacup humans are adorable. In proportion. With a complete face and head. Just saying.

Have a good weekend everyone:)


  1. LOL

    The headless torso covers can be very successful, like you have pointed out and they have the added value of allowing us to use up our imagination when it comes to the face...

    Now this baby one... OMFG!!! I have no words for how awful that is!

    Jenny, my dear, you have a horrible-covers-finding ability, I DO NOT envy! LOL


  2. As good as the headless torsos are, sometimes I think they're way too buff. Um steroids, anyone?

    The baby cover though is just weird and in no way does it reflect the premise of the story. I wonder how many people bought the book since most of us love our pretty covers. A good cover usually convinces me to at least look to see what the book is about.

    If they brought the baby down just a little bit, it could crush the campus! Then there would be a completely different story to tell :)

  3. Wow that baby cover is rather disturbing. Its like staring at the first torso's drooling...scrolls down...stops drooling..disturbed, mood ruined ^^

    I can't believe they cut the babies head off, babies have the cutest, little faces, chubby cheeks and pretty, adorable, big eyes :D

  4. LOL Jenny why did you do that! I was just reading along, okay well I was staring at those gorgeous bodies, sipping my drink when I scroll down and see a giant eyeless baby. As you can guess said drink went all over my computer screen. I just wasn't expecting that. Again another great post :)

  5. That man on the cover of The Perfect Play is HOT! That floating half head baby cover is the worst. Yuck.

  6. Floating diaper-clad baby is creepy! What was the cover designer thinking?!

  7. Loved this post! Those are some hot covers, and that last baby-cover is incredibly bad.
    Faceless diapered babies??

  8. Your preface made me chuckle (amazing how dad's can stir doubts about our actions even after we are fully grown) Personally, the headless male torso's leave me thinking that a man with no head (and therefore no brain) could have some advantages. But the giant baby and the summary of this book is definitely a total mystery, yet funny when examined from your perspective.

  9. I don't get it, the giant baby makes no sense at all. What were they thinking? Is the baby foreshadowing?

    However, if I were forced to pick a favorite torso, Torso #2 (The Perfect Play) is HAWT!

  10. There was a baby on the page? I kind of got stuck in the middle and my mouse did not want to let me scroll further :)

    I had not seen the Nalini S. cover YUM!

  11. Ahh ...yes, this seems to be a a famous pose for books. It always angered me because I wanted to know what the hero look like. You give me his body but not his face! Totally wrong!!

  12. OH LOL- headless babies...creepy! Why do marketing people use babies in weird stuff not about babies...maybe the duo was going to give birth to a brain child... :D

  13. I love your cover critiques, they always crack me up! The kids are looking at me like I have lost it because I am sitting in front of the computer laughing hysterically!
    Truly Bookish

  14. giant. headless. baby.

    bahahahahaha where do people come up with this stuff?! jenny, thank you (yet again) for an amazing cover critique to kick off a better day than yesterday :)

  15. Oh, Jenny. Thank you so much for your professionalism. Much appreciated. And I can honestly tell you that I only swooned over the cover to test their effectiveness in marketing.

    And the baby...Gah x 1000! That is the ugly side of Twilight vampires mating with humans right there.

  16. Dear God. The half headed baby just scared the crap out of me.

    By the cover I thought it was going to have something about a woman who struggles to get pregnant or is hopeful about getting pregnant (or something at least similar to that) and then I read the B&N teaser...

    What the hell cover designer? Are you on crack?

    Jenny, amazing post. I'm also loving your use of the word flummoxes. I'm adding that to my vocabulary bank. :)


  17. Larissa - It's a burden I bear;)

    Zahida - I thought for sure this book would have something to do with a baby, why else would it be on the cover? Clearly, I was mistaken:)

    Catherine - Ha! Yes, mutant baby does put a damper on the drool-worthiness of the first 3:)

    Nic - That is always my goal for these critiques, to make people snort and/or spit their beverages up on reading:) Mission accomplished!

    Tiah - Agreed! He's even got a pretty face, I saw a full picture of him the other day:)

    Misha - You ask a good question:)

    Sabrina - Exactly! Strictly informative, that's why I posted the torsos:)

    Jan - That preface has actually been there each week except last, but he did scare me into wanting to make the font enormous and in red, flashing letters so no one missed it!

    Jennifer - I would take either torso 1 or 2, I'm not picky;)

    Felicia - LOL! Yes, as soon as you can tear yourself away from the hotness, you will be scarred for life by a mutant baby:)

    Savy - I would like a face every now and then, or maybe just a side profile even. I like Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series because she has heads and faces and everything:)

    Tina - Right? Babies should always have heads. Always. Hot men with nice abs do not always have to have heads, I'm fine with pretty bodies:)

    Truly Bookish - Thank you, glad they amuse:):)

    Melissa - It's like the covers know I'm looking for them and they find they're way to me:)

  18. Missie - You. Are. Welcome. I do strive to be professional at all times. Thank you so very much for testing the marketing effectiveness and the hot male body to drooling woman ratio, I appreciate you letting me know the results of your efforts:)

    Kelsa - Exactly! I thought for sure this was going to be a book about some sort of struggle to get pregnant, but we were obviously being too literal. The baby is symbolic. Of something not baby-related. *Is confused*

  19. I am with Larissa, I honestly have no idea what to think of the creepy baby... But those headless torsos? Well all I gotta say about them is "Darn hot book boys!"... ;)
    As always, thanks for the Friday laughs Jenny! Your critiques always make my day!

  20. Jenny I love, love these cover critique posts. They rule. You find the best covers ever and your writing is insane.
    You just made my day, I laughed so much.

  21. Hahahahaha! Headless baby.

    I love those headless, hot covers above! I kinda just imagine what they look like and all is right with the world.

  22. Avery - I love hot book boys;)

    Anilu - Thank you sweets! I had to giggle when I say crazy mutant baby too:)

    Bells - It's a masterpiece isn't it? And those torso covers always make my world right as well:)

  23. I dont mind the headless torsos on romance novels. You can see their awesome bodies and still imagine what their face might look like. But that baby cover is all kinds of wrong. I keep seeing it as a giant baby about to crush the building LOL.

  24. Oh my, professionalism be damned! I love love those covers (excluding creepy baby) for purely carnal reasons, and I don't care who knows it! I never get tired of these! A great way to end the work week!

    ****shudder***** creepy baby torso - reminds me of the neighbor kid who cuts up baby dolls . . .

  25. Noooooo! *hides from mutant baby* Oh why oh why!?

  26. Umm... this cover confuses me. Don't see the connection, don't see the point of cutting the baby's head off. Plus, kind of scary...
    Not so against the top three covers though. ;)

  27. I love the torso ones though I do like to see a bit of face too but those abs do catch my attention and I would buy the book lol- can't help myself.

    As for the baby I can't for the life of me figure this one out its too weird and I doubt if I was browsing thru the books would I take a second look at it.

  28. Jenny - I don't mind them either, I quite enjoy the top 3 covers:) But the baby is disturbing, the effect is most definitely not the same!

    Linds - LOL! I knew I liked you for a reason, your taste in headless torsos is amazing:)

    Blodeuedd - "Why" is exactly right. Sadly, I have no answer for you:)

    Megan - It confuses me as well, there's just no explanation for it:)

    BLHmistress - I would buy these books just for the covers too, I'll admit it:) But not baby cover, no that one would get left of the shelf after I stared at it in confusion for a while!

  29. At first the title threw me. You were against these shirtless hunks? I mean were you really looking for brraaaiiinnnssss? ;) Ah, but you soothed me by realizing you were upset by these beautiful covers. *stares at the covers again* *sigh* Oh... I was saying something... Oh yea! The headless baby? *shivers* Creepy. It reminds me of cake wrecks. When they have the baby for the showers... and then ... eat. the. cake. O.o 'nuff said. ;D

  30. I like the guy with the football! Yummy. The headless baby is weird and it doesn't seem like it has anything to do with the book. *scratches head*

  31. At least those men look yummy and real, but that baby looks like an alien. *shudders* I wonder if this cover was made after Michael Jackson held his head-covered baby over the balcony or inspired him. LOL!

  32. Seriously? The only thing worse would be if they Photoshopped a tattoo on the baby's chest. Or oiled it a bit. Or if his arms were sort of veiny.
    But, actually, the thing that concerns me most is that the poky bits on the top of the house are seriously going to hurt Baby's feet when he falls on them.

  33. Personally, if I was going to be toting a gun, I'd wear a shirt. Now I can see shirtless with a bow and arrow...but a gun and a chest just looks dumb.

    Honey I blew up the kid!

  34. LMAO AHAHAHAHAHAAH I scrolled down after looking at all those delicious male torsos and it was like WHAM! Naughty thoughts out the window at the sight of the baby in the diaper!!!!

    I love these posts, Jenny. Seriously, I laugh so hard sometimes I almost start crying. LOL

  35. Ahem, to chime in on the brouhaha here, omg the baby one is HILARIOUS I don't know which designer would actually approve that for the type of book this is ;-) Anywho, it's Friday, thought I'd stop by for the FF from CFB and wish you a lovely weekend! Come find out who my fave villain is if you have the chance :-)


  36. Okay I admit it, read the whole post and all the comments and immediately took my mouse and went right back to the top and the "hot" book covers.... The baby is truly obscene and not sure why anyone thinks it fits the book blurb but there is no accounting for marketing perspective and I stopped trying long ago to figure out WTH they were thinking by using something that does not go with the book!
    Now on the other hand the men on the first three fit as it is all about the "testosterone" and aimed at women readers!

    Thanks Jenny for another fun cover breakdown critique....

  37. *Shrieks with laughter* You know what Jenny? I think I'm at a loss for words. That cover is just too awful to comprehend. I just hurt my poor, pretty eyes. At least you made up for it by posting the 3 yummy, rippling abs above. Yes, I think I can forgive you. *grins*

  38. O_O

    A giant headless baby. That has nothing to do with the plot apparently. Who comes up with this stuff?!

  39. Melissa - HA! No no, I'm all for the shirtless yumminess, I don't need a head. Well, not that one anyway;)

    Julie - As do I! And giant baby doesn't have anything to do with the book, so welcome to the group of us that has no idea what's going on with this cover:/

    Rummanah - The men are yummy, but baby? Not so much:)

    Ruby - Now I'm picturing this baby with oil on it's chest. That's messed up.

    Alison - I agree, I would wear a shirt as well, but then my chest isn't all tanned and rippled like that, so maybe if it was I'd be all about the partial nudity:)

    Carissa - LOL! Yes, the baby is a bit of a jolt after all the muscle-y goodness:)

    Anita - I have no idea how this cover got approved either, maybe the blurb is misleading and the baby is somehow actually representative of the plot?

    Jackie - I have to admit, I did the same thing:) I've gone back repeatedly and just stared without letting creepy baby ruin it!

    Tammy - It hurt my eyes too, and since I'm scarred for life, I wanted others to share in my misery;) Glad I could redeem myself with the hotness of the first 3 though!

    Aylee - I wish I knew, I would want to be friends with them and just follow them around all day to see what they come up with:)

  40. The only thing that came to me, upon seeing the baby cover, was a fit of laughter and a small concern for that baby's health-- it's really disgustingly chubby (and headless). Loved it, Jenny. :)

  41. I approve the first set of pictures. Very nice choices. Floating kidzilla, on the other hand, leaves me scared and confused. I think I need to run to the first photo set for comfort now. :)

  42. I usually think all babies are cute, but this one creeps me out just a bit. Why is he/she floating? Demon child? Extra-special baby with the powers of Superman?

  43. OMG that baby is so wrong. Baby's she never have their heads sliced off!

  44. First of all, as a mother I have to say, babies get heavy. If you start out with one the size of a mutant and it can't walk, presumably it's got regular baby routines. How much will it weigh by the time it can walk??? That mother better start pumping iron!

    Secondly on the third headless yummy shot- No Place to Run- what woman in her right mind would run from that unless maybe she was running to the guy on Nalini Singh's cover. He's got just a little bit more something.

    Thank Jenny. I'm late to the party but still needed a laugh on Monday. No more giant babies head on or off. Creepy.


  45. Great um, ananlysis. I was trying not to laugh too loudly the whole way through it. Headless baby indeed, nothing in the blurb even mentions a baby.