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  • Rob Ulitski


The old idiom of not judging a book by its cover is completely on the mark when it comes to its intention - i.e. not judging people by their outward appearances - but the more literal notion doesn't work quite as well.

If you're anything like me (and I'd imagine 90% of the general reading public), a book's cover art is hugely important, and a big swaying factor in whether you'll buy the book the first time you see it. The horror genre has been an incredibly exciting vessel for cover artists to experiment and lend their darker visions to fiction work, and one book that does a great job of diving into this in great details is Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks From Hell.

Exploring the 'twisted history of '70s and '80s horror fiction', the book is a bible of titles both lauded and forgotten, and as you can see from the book's own cover image, packed full of artwork from a variety of artists of the time.

When it came to the cover art for my upcoming booked Fleshed Out, I used the old pulp-style artwork as inspiration for early designs, before switching to something that leans into a more contemporary horror aesthetic.

There has been a huge discussion about the homogenising of mainstream horror fiction covers today, with regards to making all of the artwork look extremely similar with a more graphic, text-based approach - the video below gives a great overview of the subject. However, in smaller press and self-published releases, there is still plenty of experimentation going on, and I'm glad to see artists get the chance to experiment as much (if not more) today than they did back in the '70s and '80s.

Overall, I think it's a great time for horror fiction and cover art, especially in less mainstream work, and to celebrate the ever-evolving format, I've listed a Top Five of my favourite covers below, from different time periods and both mainstream and non-mainstream authors.

Want to keep up to date on my horror writing journey? Click the button below to head back to the landing page, and sign-up to the Pastel Wasteland Newsletter. You'll be in great company!


In the UK, we had a full-on, slime-ridden, hyper-embossed series of covers for a lot of the original books and let me tell you, it was DIVINE. I still have lots of these displayed prominently on my bookshelf at home.


A book that is as disgusting as it is delightful, Pus Junkies gets quite a literal concept for the cover art, with a bit of a rainbow-flavoured twist. The book has some of the most uncomfortable description in it that I have ever read, but don't let that turn you off - in fact, I implore you to read it, so that you can share the burden of some of the disgusting images that slosh around my head.

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3) Stephen king - 'cell' - 2006

I adore how minimalist this cover art is. After being passed down several of King's books,(with the gorgeous original '80s and '90s artwork) this was the first one I bought myself, and I was in love with this cover. It still might have one of the most polarising endings in the history of King's work, but damn does it look good.

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4) SHAUN HUTSON - 'SLUGS' - 1982

I spent a while tracking down an original paperback with this cover recently, and was overjoyed when it came through the post. It's completely disgusting, makes my eyelids quiver at the bare thought of a slug that close to them, but a brilliant way to encapsulate the story and provide a context for readers. And it has a strangely absorbing glittery title, just for fun. Cute!

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5) Jeremy Robert Johnson - 'THE LOOP' - 2020

And Number 5 on a short list that could be several hundred entries long goes to The Loop. In terms of books with more of a mainstream release, this is an example of how the contemporary, graphic design focused aesthetic can work with a bit more flair and originality. The ominous house, silhouettes and contrasting colour scheme work perfectly to set the scene for a thrill-ride of a story.

And there we go! As mentioned, I could make this list considerably longer, and I'd love to hear your favourites - please leave a comment in the discussion box right at the bottom of this page.

Want to keep up to date on my horror writing journey? Click the button below to head back to the landing page, and sign-up to the Pastel Wasteland Newsletter. You'll be in great company!

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