The group writing blog, Writers in the Storm, Melinda VanLone recently had a different take on covers. Some of the points underline what Sarah, Cedar, and others have said – covers are not first and foremost works of art. They are tools for selling.
The second point… I’m not entirely sure about, although based on the problem on the ‘Zon with “Just what is Urban Fantasy anyway?”
From the OP:
Step Two: Make Sure the Cover Art Fits the Genre
Once you nail down the shelf or category, take a much slower stroll along those aisles and pick up books similar to your story. It’s vital that you do this physically, in person, at a real bookstore, and not a library (you want current trends). You want to do your research in a place where people actually spend money.
Don’t do this research online.
If you research on Amazon, the results will be full of fluff and spit, stuffed with Kindle Unlimited attempts to make money without effort. Most of those covers are slapped together with little thought and no expertise, with the hope of tricking people to read even ten pages. Your story is worth more effort, and more thought, than that.
Part of me agrees with the usefulness of going to a bricks and mortar store. But not all of us can do that easily, and I’ve seen great live-book covers that stank as thumbnails on Amazon, B&N’s website, or other e-tailers.
As an aside, I’ve found some very interesting and thought-provoking ideas and tips over at Writers in the Storm, and some things that I really wondered about. It leans toward romance and contemporary fiction, but many of the articles are broad enough for other genres.