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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All about the covers

Spending an afternoon chasing interesting links on Facebook, I found an interesting article on The Romance Book Club page, called "Off with Their Heads:  Cropped Figures in Romance Cover Art," by Mary Anne Landers.  Here is the link and I'll wait if you want to look at it, but come back please, because I'd like to discuss it:
Good article, huh?  We had this discussion on the science fiction fan side a few months back, because there is a dramatic change in trends in cover art.  I grabbed three books to illustrate the discussion on the romance trends:
This is what they were discussing in the article and the comments--the generic sort of picture/painting that gives an impression of a time and heroine or couple.  She's holding holly and it's snowing outside.  It's a long dress, so it could be Regency or Victorian.  I think this cover model has blond hair where the light reflects it, but if you look on the left side of the painting, the curl over her shoulder is brown.  All bases are covered, as we don't have to worry about the wrong eye color.   There's no information about the cover artist or designer for this Kensington/Zebra book and it is the author's fifth book apparently.  The dress is light in color, so the title and author's name are easy to read.  The only blurb is in small print, saying "She's all he wants...."  This would be a good choice for an e-book cover too, as the tiny image would show well. 
This is a debut novel and getting a good cover blurb is a real coup, so up in the top corner is "'Brims with clever wit and repartee.' --Nicole Jordan, New York Times Bestselling author."  In between the title and the author's name is, "England's most eligible bachelor has finally met his match."  This is from the Forever imprint for Hachette and the back gives "Cover design by Diane Luger, Cover art by Jim Griffin, Handlettering by Ron Zinn."  I usually have a problem with ornate script on a cover for a title, but it is in a print on the binding and it's readable.  So, this one shows the faces of both the hero and heroine (love me some matchmaker romance!), but their eyes are closed.  Moderate level of sensuality, with a hero losing his shirt and the dress artistically dropping off the shoulder.  Oh and the strategically placed hand and pretty blush.  So, what do you think?  The hero model is tasty, but not necessarily my type and I can tell you for sure I don't look anything like the model for the heroine.  Would that affect my reading pleasure?  Probably not, unless they had reference to a wrong hair color inside or something.  Impressive for a first time author, though.

This is one from an established author and a pretty big name.  It's from 2005 and the wonderful Lisa Kleypas (she dedicates it to Christina Dodd, another favorite) and Avon is her publisher.  No information about the cover artist, but they did double duty, because this one garners a "step-back" cover, with a shirtless hero and fully dressed heroine in the garden.  I'm about half-way through this one and they kissed in the garden, but I believe the artist took some liberties.  Just sayin'.  Again, the closed eyes, so they avoid that issue. 

Between the second cover inside, metallic on the top of the outside cover and raised lettering, there were major bucks spent.  Did I buy it because of the cover?  No.  It was one on my list of the author's I didn't have.  Does the virginal heroine show too much cleavage?  Yeah, but points for the pretty boy hero checking it out.  The garden plays a minor part in the story, so there you go.

During my years as a bookstore manager, they began the practice with a Danielle Steel book (don't remember which one, sorry) of releasing the new titles with her name in large font, a small bit of art and then in two different color covers.  It was cool if you could alternate the colors in the rack.  It kind of drew the eye, though sometimes one color sold better than the other or the publisher sent only one for the initial release, then you had to figure out they were the same book later when you got restocked.  I still remember one of my smart-assed clerks telling one of the customers when she had both color covers in her hand that the pink one was the happy ending and the blue one was the sad one.  When she started toward the cash register with the two copies, I made him apologize.  We laughed about it when we were sure she was out of the store. 

I also remember the huge scandal when a Joanna Lindsay book on the bestseller list had a painting showing what was obviously a man's very fine naked buttocks, with the naughty bits hidden by a bush or the heroine's skirt or something.  We did have one complaint about it, from a concerned mother, since it was at the front of the store.  I have to admit, I sometimes made fun of the improbable or shall we say probably embellished models in that Fabio era.  Somehow, I don't think those Scottish lords in the Highlands shaved their chests.  I know the Regency era heroines did not wear eyeliner. 

So, what do you think about the cover trends?  Do you prefer a generic cover, without a clear portrayal of the characters so you can visualize yourself and your dream man as you read?  Or do you want to know what they look like?  Or do you think it will matter less as you get to read on your Kindle or Nook the first chapter? 

The first person who expresses interest and sends me their address ( will get the copy of Christmas with the Duchess.  I'm embarrassed to say it's a duplicate.  Oops. 


  1. I definitely prefer a generic cover. The hero and heroine NEVER look right to me otherwise. But I think the cover will remain important, even for e-books. At least I hope so, in case I end up published that way!

  2. I know! I can't tell you how many times I thought "that's not what she/he looks like!" I'm thinking of a generic cover of a gold bikini top on a sandy beach for SEVEN DAYS. That will solve the problem of finding a male model good looking enough, thin enough and with a significantly smaller right arm from his war injury....