Tag Archives: Bertrice Small

Judging Books By Their Covers

17 Apr

Louisiana BayouIn preparation for the release of my upcoming book, Hot Bayou Nights, my editor asked me to let the art department know what the important elements are in my story that should be included on the cover. I was asked to look through several cover artists’ catalogues and let my editor know what I like and don’t like in a cover. Looking at covers in that way, meaning consciously thinking about what draws me toward some and not others, was a new experience for me but one I found really fun.

To Love AgainRemember when romance covers, especially historicals, all kind of looked alike? Those were in the Fabio heyday, when his chiseled form and face graced every other one of them. Prominently featured was the half-clothed heroine, heaving bosom threatening to spill out of her dress, posed submissively with a macho he-man. Those covers were all the rage for awhile, and the publishers put a lot of effort into producing them. Photo shoots with elaborate costumes and backgrounds were set up, and the cover illustrator would be involved in posing the models just so before heading back to the studio to paint the cover. This isn’t to suggest that there isn’t a lot of effort going into producing today’s covers because I know there is. But covers today look quite different and it’s interesting to review what covers make us want to give the book a closer review and what covers turn us away.

One of the things I had to consider was whether I want to include on my cover the faces of the hero and heroine. Tokyo TeaseCovers like this one, featuring just a sculpted torso, are quite popular. The anonymity of the hero’s face allows readers to imagine their own fantasy hero, kind of like a faceless mannequin lets us imagine ourselves in the fabulous clothes the mannequin’s wearing. For me, just the torso doesn’t quite do it. I can get with the appeal of imagining exactly the kind of face I want on my cover hero, but I do that anyway when I’m reading the story. Also, while I have NO PROBLEM with the sculpted abs, I guess I want a pretty face to go with them. Just a preference.

ServedMoving on, there are the book covers that are just photographs with nothing else, meaning no background. I see that a lot on gay romance covers for some reason. They’re nice covers, no unnecessary clutter. This book Served gives an example of what I mean. Kind of a different style, right? I get a good impression of the beach from this cover even though it’s not actually there, and can also surmise that there may be some menage scenes. That, however, raises an issue. It’s pretty clear that Served is a gay romance, but do we assume that the Tokyo Tease romance is straight? I do, but it’s not entirely clear to me why. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve made an assumption about the content. Interesting . . .

With the omnipotence of ereaders, romance readers don’t have to feel like they need to hide what they’re reading since no one can tell anyway. Before that, however, there was the era of benign flowers or jewelry or a garden path on a cover that looked romantic but didn’t scream to everyone around its identity. Pretty, but kind of dull.Must Be Magic

There are choices to be made between clean covers, maybe just the h and h embracing with little else, or elaborate, with h and h, a prominent background, and showy font. What about color versus black and white? Or monochromatic? Do you always stop and browse if there’s an animal on the cover? Cute puppy, perhaps? What about if the cover features your favorite escape, like a beach?

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what draws us to covers. Ultimately I think it’s a combination of several elements: the book’s cover, title, author, and just plain what we’re in the mood for at the moment of purchase. As I ponder what I’d like on my cover, I’d love to hear from others as to what sucks you in for a look and what makes you walk on by.

Collecting The Classics

4 Jan

FirstsI’ve been subscribing to the book collecting magazine Firsts for many years. I’m fascinated by the idea of collecting books and all the knowledge that goes into assessing what makes a book valuable, what authors command what prices, how to tell a book’s condition between good (which, in the book collecting world, isn’t actually considered good at all), fine, and very fine. Naturally, once an author has passed away ahis or her books automatically become more valuable, but there are other considerations that go into determining a collectible book. If you happen to come across a fine or very fine first edition of Sense and Sensibility you’re looking at paying upwards of $50,000 for it. But even books much less well known than the esteemed Ms. Austen’s can fetch a pretty penny.

Still, book collecting isn’t necessarily all about the dollar value of the book but rather the emotional value to the collector. I happen to be a huuuuuge Stephen King fan and own almost everything he’s written. Certainly they’re not all first editions and some not even in hardcover. But I love them all and would never want to part with them. In this age of digital books that get downloaded and deleted after they’re read, retaining a book in hand seems that much more valuable in many ways.

So how about romances? Are there old favorites out there that are on your shelves and will forever remain a part of your treasured collection? Or how about some romances that you don’t have but would love to own. Maybe you covet Jude Deveraux’s or Nora Robert’s very first books. Or perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey has made you decide that you want to start an erotic romance collection. Whatever the case, part of the fun of collecting books is the hunt to locate them. I’ve looked casually for a first edition of Stephen King’s Carrie but so far have been unsuccessful. They’re tough to find, probably because they’re pretty darn valuable. I’ve seen first editions priced anywhere from $2,500 all the way up to $7,500, which explains why they’re not just casually lying around in used bookstores.

Tigers EyeI first started reading romances with Johanna Lindsey, I believe it was Gentle Rogue. But the romance that really made me fall in love with romance was Karen Robard’s Tiger’s Eye. The hero is a bad boy from London’s underground and the heroine is high-born lady from an aristocratic family. It’s a book that I can read again and again and one that has a permanent place on  my keeper shelf.

Skye O'MalleyI would also add Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley to my list. This is definitely one of those romance classics from the “golden era” of romance in the 1980’s. Sure, the writing’s been criticized, but I’d argue that this book was a groundbreaker of its time. The heroine captains her own ship, takes a variety of lovers, travels the globe – what more could you want?

Another set of books that retains a place on my shelf is perhaps a little more of an odd choice, but I found it Wideacreintriguing nonetheless and that’s the Wideacre trilogy by Philippa Gregory. Gregory is known for her historical fiction, perhaps best represented by The Other Boleyn Girl, but if you haven’t read the Wideacre Trilogy I’d suggest you check it out. The heroine is strong-willed, almost bordering on crazy in a fascinating kinda way. She’ll do whatever she can to hang on to her ancestral home, Wideacre, including seducing her own brother. Before you shudder in revulsion, give it a try. I was intrigued by the way Ms. Gregory completely made me buy the story. I believed the heroine’s obsession over her home and I believed that she’d do everything she does in order to keep it. Wideacre is followed by The Favored Child, and then Meridon. They’ve all three got a place on my shelf.

I would love to hear what romances are considered collectibles in your world. Hmmm . . . cozying up with Tiger’s Eye suddenly sounds like the perfect weekend plan!

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