- Two faces or two torsos, usually front and center and large. Such covers are so commonplace, they say nothing about a book except that it's m/m romance. But so what? I already know that. Tell me more! Or at least make me imagine more.
- Drawings that look generically yaoi-ish. These have gotten tiresome.
- Bland landscapes.
- Wings. Of the angel variety. I'm really sick of wings.
- Animals -- usually, wolves or cats. Aside from poser figures, the one thing sure to send me running in the opposite direction is a freakin' wolf on a cover.
- Shitty composition. Even if a cover has beautiful or intriguing graphic elements, I'm instantly turned off if those elements are out of proportion to one another or poorly arranged and balanced.
- Inappropriate fonts and/or colors. This is related to the above. Making bad font or color choices is probably the most widespread problem among designers, and it's one that can destroy otherwise promising covers.
I know I'm not an expert, and a lot of people aren't in the least bit bothered by the things I've mentioned. But every time this competition rolls around, I get more of an education on how important a unique, well-done cover can be. And I'm reminded why Anne Cain is so consistently brilliant.
Just for the record, I think this one might make it to the top:
Even if it doesn't, BRAVO, Dreamspinner and Shobana Appavu! Wow. Hard to get more arresting than this.