Thursday, 13 August 2009

Deeply Odd POD

It does the soul good, every now and then, to point at book covers gone terribly wrong. Sometimes I'm not a fan of a cover, and I say so, but I feel a bit bad, as it's a matter of taste, and maybe I'm wrong.

Sometimes, though, there's no way I could be wrong. Remember the woefulness of these ebook covers? Well, I've recently found the output of a POD outfit called Tutis Digital Publishing. Like a thousand other operations, most of their catalogue seems to be books taken from Project Gutenberg and other online public-domain text depositories, dumped into a Microsoft Word template, and then slapped between covers featuring a bit of cheap or free stock art.

Sometimes this art is basically appropriate enough.



These are fine. Leadenly literal, but they make sense.

Then there are those where you can see the thought processes involved. The Cuckoo Clock? Put a cuckoo on the cover. Dawn of All? Put a dawn on the cover.



These are not really right, nor any actual good, but you can see why some harried, underpaid minion at a POD company might have chosen these images while in a rush.

Related to these are the covers where the image has a remotely tangential relationship with the contents of the book.

"Daughter of Eve? There must be a woman in it. This is a picture of a woman. Sure, she's a sort of New Age flea-market-art-stall-idea of a Native American, and she's clutching a gigantic scratched DVD, but she's a woman. It'll do."

"Ancient Egypt? They're famous for, like, big stone monuments, right? Sure, not castles with moats and everything, but it'll do."


"Hmm, a desperate character? He must be, like, a mugger or a bank robber or something. They all wear ski masks, right? What do you mean, Nineteenth-Century Russia? It'll do."

"A Little Tour in France? How do you reckon he got there in the first place, huh?"

"Well, they might mostly be about Irish independence, but see here, it says comedies? Well, see how the amputee octopus is laughing?"

"Hey, it's all 'the past', man!"


The final category is probably the biggest, representing at least half of Tutis's output. I like to call it 'What the flying fuck?'

Presenting Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford: not, as you might have thought, a novella about the relationships between women in a small Victorian-era English town, but the exciting tale of how a woman, having escaped Bond villain Goldfinger's clutches, goes on to become an inveterate fan of chill-out music.


Presenting Walter Scott's Chronicles of the Canongate: not a collection of Scottish short stories, but a science-fiction extravaganza set on an alien world with multiple moons.


Presenting Guy Boothby's A Bid for Fortune: not a fin de siècle tale of international master criminal Doctor Nikola, but a confectioner's guide to Christmas.


And presenting Izaak Walton's The Complete Angler: not a rambling guide to fishing, the countryside and rural lore, but the mind-boggling story of divine intervention putting a stop to aquatic thermonuclear war.


Two more, because I couldn't resist: Here's the fourth of Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz books, the one that features fighter jets and the planet Mars...


..and a book of short stories from the 1890s, the cover of which inexplicably features a painting of Sailor Mercury, a character from an awful 1990s Japanese cartoon.


Alas, this is not a joke. here's the original painting, and a more typical image of the character:


I literally cannot fathom the thought processes behind these covers. They're a perfect mix of ineptitude, inappropriateness, possible copyright violation, and sheer demented anti-genius.

UPDATE: A number of commenters have added to the madness. Nicole of Bibliographing points out that the last cover actually features Sailor Neptune, not Sailor Mercury. Harry of Heraclitean Fire adds that the bird on the front of The Cuckoo Clock isn't even a cuckoo. Anonymous led me to this even more blatant bit of copyright theft...


..which is not successfully disguised by making Mowgli a sickly hue of green. And finally, Brian of the Dusty Bookcase has gone above and beyond the call of duty by taking this investigation further, revealing the horrors wreaked on innocent Canada by Tutis. He also notes that a number of the books discussed here have suddenly vanished from Tutis's website.

25 comments:

Derek said...

LOL ... the value of these "offerings" is that they cleanse the palate to make you appreciate good design.

po6ot said...

Ha ha ha.

A steady descent into madness.

Matthew Adams said...

I wasn't sure if i should laugh or cry.

Harry said...

"The Cuckoo Clock? Put a cuckoo on the cover"

And that's not even a cuckoo.

Great post.

nicole said...

Wow, just wow.

However, I must disagree with you. That is clearly a painting of Sailor Neptune.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! You made my morning. I looked at their site - they're all so bizarre! And their prices - you'd think they'd at least be cheap.

According to their site, they also crank out SEO garbage, so they're all over trying to make a quick buck off the Internet.

I know! Someone should sic Disney on them for copyright infringement! http://www.tutisclassics.com/BookDetails.aspx?The+Jungle+Book-Rudyard+Kipling&BookId=868

Rex Parker said...

I've never laughed harder at one of your write-ups. Started chuckling around the Henry James cover and lost it at Cranford. Way to build to a climax, man.

Glad to see you succumbing to the horrid joys of bad cover art. More, please.

rp

JRSM said...

Thank you, all: I've added the various links, suggestions and corrections to the end of the post.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I laughed out loud as soon as I got to the amputee octopus. I think it's a laughing jellyfish, though, which is even weirder, somehow.

Brian Busby said...

My wife suggests it likely that the fighter jets of Oz are piloted by flying monkeys.

Which somehow seems scarier.

Amy said...

The octopus is part of a wallpaper called "Medusa", created by dim.po of indeepop.com and dimpoart.deviantart.com. And by "part of", I probably mean "stolen from".

Lucy Fishwife said...

I want that job! Are we entirely sure it's not just a gigantic piss-take? Even if not, I want that job.

JRSM said...

Amy: well spotted. Not sure if you've already done so, but I contacted the artist to let him know.

Lucy: they are very real--all these books are for sale on Amazon and various other places. But that would certainly be a memorable job.

Bob Fingerman said...

These are astonishing.

Steerforth said...

Your best post yet - I particularly liked the Turgenev and Lytton Strachey. Madness.

I shall be visiting the Tutis website for more fun.

Max Cairnduff said...

Brilliant, in a sort of "proof Lovecraft was essentially right about the gibbering madness of the universe" way.

I think the Complete Angler has to be my favourite, the total lack of any conceivable connection not only to the book at hand, but to any book ever published.

John Self said...

The thing that adds to the frisson of horror on viewing each of these covers is that inept banner GREAT CLASSIC SERIES. CLASSICS FFS!

And wasn't it The Compleat [sic] Angler? Not that we should expect such fine details to be attended to. Barking mad.

JRSM said...

Max: I checked their website to see if Tutis had done a cover for Lovecraft, but no luck. I can't begin to imagine what would be on it. Actually, it would probably end up being a picture of a teddy bear. But that 'Angler' cover--wtf, as the cool kids say.

John: Are you denying the obvious greatness of this series? And yes, I suspect they must have 'corrected' the spelling in that title. Heaven only knows what the insides of these books are like.

Lee said...

OK, go ahead and tell me frankly what's wrong with my POD cover for my new F/SF novel Corvus. I've tried to get it right, but I can't afford to hire a professional. Here's the link:

http://lleelowe.com/corvus

(The snow photo continues on the one-piece cover, without any print except title and my name on the spine.)

JRSM said...

Hello again, Lee: I actually do like that Corvus cover, which is appealingly minimalist. The only change I might make would be to put your author name up under the title, and perhaps use the same font as the title for it. Then the near-white-space of the snow image is less disrupted, so the eye can rove around it without 'catching' on the text.

Does that make sense, without sounding too wanky? I hope so.

Lee said...

Hi JR, thanks. I'll try that out. Yes, I prefer minimalist anyway - which is all I can handle too. I quite like it for the cover to suit thematic material but prefer readers not to be too prejudiced by things like a face. They should be able to imagine the character(s)for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I bet that for the "Eminent Victorians" one, the "designer" thought "Victorian" had something to do with being victorious. I can't fathom the reasoning behind any of the other ones, though . . .

JRSM said...

It's when you can start to see what they were thinking that you need to start worrying about the state of your own mind, I suspect.

inigomontoya said...

Alice in Wonderland is actually a larger than life sculpture in Central Park

JRSM said...

Ah, thank you--it still doesn't fir the book, but at least I know what it is!