Welcome to week 4 of my Tell-All Tuesday roundtable Q&A series Romance Writers Tell All. This week we’re dishing about book cover trends in romance.
Q: Let's talk book covers today. There are a few different book cover styles and trends out there in the romance genre. Maya Banks has gone to florals and graphics; Christine Feehan uses a lot of illustrations of people (I'm thinking of the Drake Sisters series); some authors use photographs of models; and the prevailing theme across the board seems to be naked torsos of hot men. What cover elements to do you think inspire romance readers? Is any cover trope or type in danger of being overdone, in your opinion?
Bella Andre: What works is constantly changing, but I usually love to show readers how each couple looks in my mind as I'm writing them. It makes the story that much more real to me, and hopefully to them too! But, of course, there's nothing wrong with a hot man!
JJ Ellis: I like using people…just not the half-naked ones. My book covers have loving couples on them. I enjoy a variety of covers as I see them as the best kind of art. I love having a visual to go off of to enhance the story whether it be a couple, or scenery, or a graphic of something that appears in the story. I do have a pet peeve and it may be picky of me, but seeing a half-naked, modern couple on a historical romance kind of bothers me (but doesn’t stop me from reading a story!) As for covers that are in danger of being overdone it is the ones with half naked fitness models with perfect abs on the cover. So many people I talk to are so over it and will scroll on by a book with that kind of cover… but it obviously still sells a bit. Another of my pet peeves is when fitness models are used to depict every day guys like cowboys. But then I’ve grown up with cowboys and I know they have a different kind of muscle tone and so that’s probably just my silly little problem. In the end, the covers are what the authors want them to be and we all have to be happy with that. Just don’t tell me that my books will sell better with fitness models or half-naked people on the covers because truthfully, it wouldn’t match my stories so I refuse to follow the trends. If you like your cover and you know your fans will appreciate it…go for it!
Kallysten: I'm afraid I'm terrible at talking about covers! It's a battle with my cover designers when I try to explain what I want, and when they ask me to show them what I like, it's always so disparate that it's useless. I have a number of 'sexy chest' covers myself, and because of that I feel like I can say they're definitely overdone. I'm still looking for an alternative...
C. Deanne Rowe: When I’m shopping for a new read, the cover draws me in unless I’m buying the latest release from an author I already know. I believe it is the same for most readers. When I was selecting the covers for my C. Deanne Rowe books, I looked for the hint of romance and elements which suggested what my story was about so the reader knew exactly what they were getting. A friend of mine once told me she selects the books she reads by the cover and the sexier the better. Give her the covers with naked torsos of hot men and she is happy. When The Stiletto Girls select covers for The Stiletto Series, we have a theme for the books and we always select a cover with a stiletto and something which goes with the theme. I believe your book cover is like a first impression. Give it your best shot and make it your own.
Susan Stoker: This is another really hard topic because some of the books that hit HUGE have pictures of men with their…er…man parts…clearly highlighted in their pants…and others have flowers on them. I think in the “traditional” world of paperbacks what we see is covers that don’t scream “BOOK WITH SEX IN IT.” Think about it—50 Shades, Maya Banks, etc. People can read those paperbacks on the train or bus or in anywhere in public and not really worry about what others will “think of them” for reading it. So a lot of the paperbacks being published by the Big 5 publishers are quite tame for that reason. But then many ebooks that have hit the NYT lists have the iconic naked man torso on them, or the man parts, or even couples in sexy clenches. I think what sells books, more than the covers…(don’t get me wrong, covers are very important, if the cover isn’t eye catching and pleasing, then the book probably won’t go far) is word of mouth and advertising. I think first and foremost the author has to write a good book that sucks a reader in. I know I read a book with an awful cover and an awful title…and loved it! I don’t think it will ever “do much” because of the cover and title, but it really was a great book. I don’t think anything has really been “overdone.” Let’s face it…the naked man torso is hot to look at and does sell books.
NDG: This is a challenging topic, and I thank you all for lending your honest perspectives. Just like all the romance subgenres, I think there are covers that attract different readers. I think I’m in semi-agreement with all of you, if that makes sense! For instance, Deanne’s friend who’s happy with the sexy torso cover is definitely a niche reader and choosing that kind of cover will almost guarantee that demographic will at least pick it up or give the description a look online. But personally, as a writer, I designed my covers specifically to stand out from the naked torso/hot man/sexy chest covers, because they are so ubiquitous. Of course the danger in doing that is that the cover won’t appeal to the majority. Maya Banks is already established, so doing her graphic covers isn’t really a huge risk because she already has a following. I confess as a reader of romance, I’m just bored with these sexy torso covers and tend to think “so what’s new and fresh about this couple and their story?” as I troll through them. I have to look inside the book or read the description to find out if the hero is really up my alley. I like good chemistry and a hot story just as much as the next romance reader, but at the end of the day, if the characters don’t mean anything to me, I’m just bored—in other words there had better be something between the pages to back up whatever the author is trying to sell on the front. On the other hand, seeing only a torso gives me a chance to build an impression of the hero in my mind based on the writer's description. Often if I don't relate to a photo cover with models, it can be difficult for me to connect to the characters if I'm sort of given their physical appearance on the cover----especially if it doesn't really match how the characters are described in the book. I'd rather let my imagination do the work.
Okay, it’s been a great four weeks, and I think we’ve saved the best topic for last: SEX! That’s right, how do we conquer the all-important love scenes in our writing? Are we inspired by real life? Well, the only way to find out if we’ll kiss and tell, is by tuning in next week for the final installation Romance Writers Tell All! In the meantime, find out more about the authors below.
About the Authors
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