Covers that show action

Okay, so, I happened across this post over the weekend at Bones, Books, and Buffy:

The Friday Face-Off was created by Books by Proxy, where each week bloggers can showcase books with covers centered around a weekly theme. You can visit Lynn’s Books for a list of upcoming themes. Join in the fun each Friday by finding a book whose cover is based on the theme!

This week’s theme: A cover that depicts action of some sort.

And then three book covers depicting action, which you can click through to read if you wish. The person doing this post — Tammy — commented that it was surprising hard to find covers depicting action among the books she’s read recently.

Really? I said. So I went to Amazon and skimmed through the (many) books I’ve bought this year, and you know what? Hardly any of them depict action! Have you noticed that?

Of course for romances, you don’t get covers with action, as a rule. You get That Shirtless Dude or The Lady In A Regency Ballgown or whatever. But for everything else, it turns out, action is also just astoundingly rare on covers.

Here’s one that sort of might qualify? I mean, there is MOVEMENT, even if I’m not sure there is ACTION.

This is some sort of light paranormal mystery or something, I forget, the price was low and it looked like it might be fun, that’s all I remember. Yep, looking at it again, I see it’s free on Amazon.

I had to go 18 books down in my orders before I found one with even this much action. In 58 books that Amazon shows I’ve purchased this year, this is the closest I came to a book showing action on the cover.

That’s really kind of remarkable. There’s a woman on a motorcycle, but the motorcycle is at rest. There’s a soldier, but he’s floating quietly in space. Murderbot is walking, not running, across the top of some sort of space ship. A guy is walking, not running, down a tunnel of some kind on another cover. Here’s a spaceship, but like most spaceships, it could be sitting still, there’s no sense of motion involved in this cover.

Okay, moving farther back, last fall I got this one:

These people appear to be ABOUT to be active, at least. There’s certainly a sense of movement and urgency here.

Okay, here’s one:

There, at last, is incontrovertible action.

I had to scroll back a remarkably long way to find that. It looks to me like fewer than one novel in fifty shows action on the cover. I never would have guessed.

If you’re reading a novel right now that shows action on the cover, or you did recently, out of curiosity, what was the book?

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14 thoughts on “Covers that show action”

  1. I just took a quick look at my Kindle—scrolling through several hundred books (I lost count). For covers that show action, not just posing or walking, I’ve only got:

    Black Wolves, Kate Elliott (warrior parrying a blow?)
    Sword Dance, AJ Demas (two men with weapons, back to back, hair and clothing swinging: clearly defending themselves in a fight)
    The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski (the Witcher moving with a sword in hand through a dragon’s flames)
    The Guns Above, Robin Bennis (a woman leaping from one airship to another, gun in hand)
    The Perfect Assassin, KA Doore (a young man leaping, knife in hand)
    The Henchmen of Zenda, KJ Charles (two men locked in a fencing match, possibly about to kiss)

  2. So … doesn’t it seem like it’s no more than about one book per fifty? Did you ever notice that? I literally never noticed the lack of action on covers.

    Incidentally, I assumed the cover of Sword Dance shows two men DANCING. Maybe that’s just because of the title. But dancing is action! So it still counts either way.

  3. Possibly less than 1 book in 50. I scrolled through 720 books or thereabouts (some didn’t have covers as they were in Word format, so I tried to account for them in my sample). I only added 3 more to my original tally that show a clear moment of action. So that’s 9 in 720, or 1 in 80.

  4. Honestly, I think that’s amazing. Both that the proportion is so low and that I never noticed!

  5. Hmm… looks like from my recent purchases it’s the MG books that have some sort of action. Like, kids investigating or sneaking, if that counts. Maybe the books with dragons? Some of those have flying dragons, so even though they’re posing, presumably they’re having to work to be in the air like that? ;)

  6. I’d like to throw a shout out to the Michael Angel books. They’re really fun urban fantasy mysteries that build up to a greater plot through the 10 book series. And the gryphons are AWESOME.

    … Now I want to go reread my favorite scenes. (Forensics being compared to necromancy, to take one example.)

  7. Matthew, that makes sense, as MG stories are usually all about the adventure. The series Maria mentions looks like MG, and as she says, the covers mostly show action, stylized or not.

    Megan, great, glad to hear it! Hopefully I’ll get to this one pretty soon!

  8. FWIW if you go to action genres specifically you get a lot more action covers: e.g. I read some military SF (although less than I used to) and those still tend strongly towards spaceships in motion, and they’re firing weapons pretty often. Although there is a larger number of “hero/ine poses” covers than I had remembered, it’s still a decided minority.

    OTOH, even for Westerns (Rachel will know why I buy a set of those 2-3 times a year) a cowboy seems less likely to be shooting and/or riding hard than you’d think — less than half the time, just eyeballing Amazon bestsellers (and omitting the romances that sneak on to the page).

  9. FYI, I just found out that book one of the Michael Angel series is free on Kindle right now.

  10. You know, none of *your* book covers really shows action. I guess some of the Black Dog volumes are arguable, but #2 is a quiet sort of activity, and #1 & #3 are more tense than active.

    Oh, the diving griffin from the German cover for Land of the Burning Sands; I’ll give you that one.

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