Movie/TV Tie-In Book Covers are Lame

The release of a film or TV adaptation of a novel is a big event. Not only does it introduce the story to a brand new audience, it also drums up interest in the original novel. If the adaptation is done well, or at least is good in its own right, then it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Except for the poor cover artists. Because their work gets replaced by a poster.

Great poster, but it doesn’t quite work with the source material.

It makes sense. Movie posters and book covers are both out to do the same thing: give a hint at what the story is about to grab the would-be audience’s attention. Releasing a new print of a novel using the film’s poster as a cover is easy marketing. “Hey, did you like that new movie? Well, here’s the source material. Check it out!” In concept, it isn’t a bad idea.

Alas, the issues far outweigh the benefits. For one: it hinges a lot on the quality of the poster itself. Unfortunately, most movie posters these days pretty much look the same. Two dudes staring at each other, an ensemble shot of the cast, so on and so forth. They get the job done, but not in the most unique or interesting way.

At least, that’s the way it is in Hollywood. Foreign film posters are either really weird or really cool. Usually both.

The second, far bigger issue is a simple one: the book is not the movie. Sitting down to read is a vastly different experience from watching a film, regardless of how close an adaptation may be to the source material. The feelings the film poster try to invoke may not work for the source material, which goes for something else.

Whoever did this one didn’t even try.

For example, let’s look once again to the Lord of the Rings. The books are slow and highly detailed; it’s like a tour through a war-torn world, meant to be taken slowly and rarely all that exciting. The films, on the other hand, are fast-paced action-adventure stories meant to get your heart pumping; it’s like a rollercoaster. They’re the same story at their core, but the telling of them is very different. As such, the poster and the original book covers are about as different as you can get. Slapping the poster onto the book gives a false impression of the novel within.

Luckily, LOTR gets re-printed so often that newer, more interesting covers quickly replace all the movie tie-in ones that are printed.

Finally, there’s the biggest issue: it’s a slap in the face of the cover artists. A lot of them do really impressive work, creating visually stunning pieces to try and help sell the story said art is attached to. Come time for the adaptation, however, they’re wonderful work is tossed aside in favor of whatever the poster designers came up with for the film/show.

This one isn’t that bad, but it still makes me sad.

A sad example of this is the Witcher series. Those books had some excellent cover art. Now, however, you’re more likely to find prints using images from the video games or the Netflix show. Neither of which work for the books; the games are a sequel to the novels, and the show is a totally different beast from its source material.

Covers like these are unreasonably upsetting to me. They’re a decent marketing gimmick, but that’s about it. It’s a sad advertisement that replaces works of fantastic art done by talented people. Alas, they’re a dime a dozen; so long as books get adapted into other forms of media, covers like this will continue to exist.

But hey, it could be worse! We could have covers with art generated by AI!

Oh god, we’re gonna have covers with art generated by AI someday soon, aren’t we?


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