June 1, 2014

That First Thousand Words: Hot Romance Covers

Just Justin being Justin.
Just Justin being Justin.

By Alexa Day

Have you heard? The good people at HarperImpulse are putting on an online romance conference at the end of the week. There’s a day for readers and a day for authors, and I’m looking forward to checking out both of them. You should totally register for it right now. This will still be here in a second.

But I’m really looking forward to hearing about covers on Saturday. I have no idea why covers and cover reveals and

So I wonder what these two are going to do later?
So I wonder what these two are going to do later?

cover trends are so exciting to me. Maybe it’s because I make the stuff that goes on the pages, but I have no inclination toward visual arts at all. Maybe I’m just into pretty pictures. I hate to overthink things like this.

Now, I’m no cover expert. But I see the fabulous world of book covers divided, like Gaul, into three parts, where a great deal of good is being done by art departments everywhere.

1. The couple. I dated a guy some time ago who was very curious about what I wrote, and in an intelligent way one does not always encounter among my dates. After asking about Fabio (so many guys don’t realize just how long it’s been since Fabio has been on a cover), he observed that one could divine the level of sexual content in the book by looking at how much the characters were wearing. It’s not a perfect rule, of course, but it’s not a bad start.

Seeing our lovebirds on the cover tells you a lot more than what they’ll be doing in private, though. Is there a baby between them? Are they running, hand in hand? Does he have wings? Is she armed?

Inclusion of heroines who look like me (or as much of me as you can see in that picture in the sidebar) is a huge part of the reason I got into writing interracial

I feel less inhibited already.
I feel less inhibited already.

romance. So there’s a special place in my heart for a cover with a heroine of color on it. I remember my delight at seeing my heroine, Grace Foley, on the cover of my own book, Illicit Impulse. It frustrates me to think that her presence there might be keeping potential readers from picking my book up, but it will pain me to remove future heroines from my covers. Such a conundrum. I bet Megan Hart’s Naked cover will make me feel better, but if that doesn’t work out, I can check out Zenobia Renquist’s cover for Pliable Inhibitions as I move on to the next point.

2. Half of the couple. If you’ve been hanging out with me for very long, especially on Facebook, you know how little I mind objectifying the fine menfolk. Show me a shirtless

Sometimes the picture on the package shows you what's inside.
Sometimes the picture on the package shows you what’s inside.

dude on a book cover, and I’m all smiles. Show me a naked dude on a book cover, and I’m ready to sit down and talk a while. As always, there are other clues on the cover to help me figure out what’s going on inside. Dogtags on a dude say one thing, while a cowboy hat says something else. You have a pretty good idea who’s waiting for you in Koko Brown’sĀ Jezebel, right? On the other hand, for a hero who would not be judged by his appearance, Jane Lark’s cover for Just You works just fine ā€” it’s just Justin.

I’m also into the heroine-only covers, especially those historicals. I’m just shallow enough to admit that I love the fashion show on the cover of so many Regency romances. I’ve seen lots of gorgeous dresses and lots of bare skin out there lately, with nary a dude in sight. That’s just my speed, bearing in mind the rule of thumb I shared with my date.

The still life says, "It's complicated."
The still life says, “It’s complicated.”

3. Provocative objects. Megan Hart’s Tear You Apart, which just won the RT Seal of Excellence Book of the Year award, presents a simple cover: A bowl containing three shiny red apples (durable representatives of temptation) and a single wedding band on a black background. That’s really all you need to get a pretty good idea of what the book is about, right?

I wonder if you can still get one of these covers on an English edition. Or as a poster.
I wonder if you can still get one of these covers on an English edition. Or as a poster.

Sometimes the most provocative object on the cover is the title. Naked won’t turn up in a Google SafeSearch because of the title. Who knows what else the Google prudes are keeping from us?

So are you into the pretty pictures? Follow Lady Smut. I’ve got a new cover coming up soon for my short story, “Turnabout Day,” and the crew is getting all ready for Lady Smut’s Book of Dark Desires. You’ll want to be here for all that.

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  • Post authorBarbara Mikula

    I have to say that seeing the cover of my new book is the most exciting moment for me. It just seems to make it real. I can’t believe that I have written seventeen and two-thirds (LOL) books myself. Seeing them in floating frames on the wall of my office fills me with pride, and sometimes I just sit at my desk and look at them! Some covers are graphic and some are not. That doesn’t necessarily denote the hotness of the content. My latest cover for Hannalore’s Treasure shows a pretty heroine in a buttoned up blouse and glasses, but the book is very hot when she gets involved with her archaeology professor on a sacrificial Mayan altar in a cave in Guatemala! Very hot indeed. I always check out the covers before I read any books. It’s just part of the visual fun! – Skye Michaels

    Reply to Barbara Mikula
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I think the dude on your latest cover suggests something hot is going to happen at some point. šŸ˜‰

      I’m on pins and needles for my next cover; I mean, I’m seriously excited in a child at Christmastime kind of way. I agree — maybe it makes it real in a way. Yay, pretty pictures!

      Reply to Alexa Day
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  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    I *Lurv* these covers — esp. Naked and Just You… and Koko Brown’s covers are always so very good. Who says women aren’t visual when it comes to sex? Who says?

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Shh … don’t tell. If you tell, they’ll know that I’m staring at them and not just absently staring off into space in their general direction. šŸ˜‰

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorKel

    I have mixed feelings about covers. Partially because I’m not especially visual, and partially because I think I click off things that most people don’t care as much about. So for me… I’m all about eyes. I don’t care how cut the guy on the cover is if you cut off his eyes, he leaves me feeling… nothing. Ditto with imagery that doesn’t match the physical attributes of the characters, especially when the characters are reoccurring. If the lead has red hair in the story and he’s a blond on the cover… I’m feeling a little blah about the cover already, even if he looks good in the kilt. I’m even pickier about the female heroine… and usually the cover artists stick women in horrifying poses that would require a professional contortionist and a serious lack of period-appropriate undergarments to pull off.

    I really appreciate “non-people” covers that only hint at the contents of the story, mostly because there are fewer fiddly details to get wrong. šŸ™‚

    • Post authorAlexa Day

      I really enjoy still life photography, so those provocative object covers appeal to me, too. There’s so much beauty in simple things, simply photographed.

      I share one of your pet peeves, though; I really hate it when the imagery doesn’t look like the character. At best, it suggests that someone wasn’t putting in all the necessary effort — at worst, it’s a total bait and switch. Either way, that drives me a little crazy!

      Reply to Alexa Day

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