What’s the Deal with Mannequin Covers?

A growing number of indie covers are featuring mannequins. Is this good or bad?

It’s a challenge to design a great cover. Indie authors don’t have the luxury of a cover design team or much money to invest in professional help, yet covers can be very important for the success of a book. Thus, many authors who are inexperienced artists are suddenly faced with the task of putting a great image together for the thumbnail and front cover.

This is no easy task, and the cover art critics are fierce:

  • Anything hand-drawn is deemed fit for a refrigerator, but not for a book.
  • Any photo in the foreground of a nice background is deemed a photobomber.
  • Highly detailed artwork is said to make the cover too busy.
  • Deformities in fingers, hands, limbs, or faces are ridiculed.
  • When the aspect ratio is tweaked slightly to fit the cover, it’s cursed for distortion.
  • If a person happens to strike an odd pose, even this is pointed out.
  • The photos must be cleaned up and professional, else the technique will be criticized.
  • Indie authors are supposed to know to use just three colors in a ratio of 60-30-10.
  • Colors must work well together, with the title large and easy to read.
  • You also need to watch out for the font police, who can be very picky.
  • But if the images don’t relate to the content, that’s a serious violation.

Drawings pose an instant problem. Taking your own photos requires professional skill. There are many stock photos available, but not always in the pose or colors that you want. To top this off, you must find images that signify the genre and relate to the content.

So what’s the solution? Maybe this is why more indies are featuring mannequins on their covers. It’s much easier to manipulate a mannequin with a graphic arts program. They are easy to adjust, clothe, maneuver, touch up, and preserve proper shape and size. Some of these mannequin covers are very well done, so much so that I didn’t realize that they were mannequins at first.

But now I see the cover art critics blasting indie covers that feature mannequins. For example, are there mannequins on the cover because it’s a romance between mannequins?

I actually hired an illustrator to design a cover for an upcoming fictional book, for which I was completely stumped on the cover. The result looks great, but the main image does look a little like a mannequin. I’m going to keep it, for better or for worse.

What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear your take on these mannequin covers. Is it good, is it bad? If you made it to the end of this post, please feel free to take a minute to express your opinion. Your opinion is welcome (encouraged even), and won’t likely offend me or the mannequins. 🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

9 comments on “What’s the Deal with Mannequin Covers?

  1. I can’t say I’ve seen a cover like that, but I would just like to say I’m completely clueless as to how to find/create a cover for my very unfinished novel. It sounds scary, too!

    • That’s the million $ question and there are many ways to go about it. Study top selling covers in your genre; that will give you something to aim for. Browse stock photos every once in a while; you might find the “perfect” image and design your cover around that. More important, perhaps, is seeking honest feedback on your cover and revising it before you publish. Self-publishing isn’t as scary as it seems. 🙂 Good luck with your book. (I opted not to offer a link to a mannequin cover because it’s not my style to single out authors by name unless I’m highlighting what they did great.)

  2. I think it’s silly to be immediately worried about whether or not to use a mannequin. The main thing is to find a few readers in the age of the audience you’re writing in and show it to them. Always remember not to show it to friends, though, unless they’ll straight up tell you how it is. Polling people like this helps you get an idea where you’re going right or wrong.

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