book cover design, C. C. Cedras author, Denise Grover Swank, Fabio, fiction, Heather Graham, J. R. Ward, James Patterson, Johanna Lindsey, Judith McNaught, K. M. Scott, K.R. Brorman author, Karen Marie Moning, Karen Rose, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Lisa Jackson, Nikki Logan, Nina Pierce, Nora Roberts, publishing, reading, romance, S.A. Young author, Sandra Brown, Sylvia Day, writing, Yvonne Harriott
Once upon a time (*snort* you see what I did there?), this is what the covers of romance novels looked like. To be honest, many still do. And then there’s Fabio. Fabio Lanzoni, who’s ripped many a bodice, made a career out of posing for romance novel covers.
I remember getting laid up after knee surgery when I was in college and a friend brought me a huge shopping bag full of just exactly this kind of romance novels. I’d never read one before. Kathleen Woodiwiss took me away and I never looked back.
At the risk of sounding like your eye doctor, which do you like best:
Which is not to say that I only read novels in the romance genre – I’m pretty much agnostic about fiction, with the exception of horror, which I used to consume like peanuts, but the sleep deprivation started to take its toll…I can’t even watch Silence of the Lambs.
I’m determined not to use the obvious cliché in this post, but when we are looking at a book to potentially spend our money and time on, we do that judgey covery thing, and we should. Unless a reader likes to play a little Russian Roulette with their book choices, they tend to concentrate on genres they enjoy the most and the cover gives them clues that they’re in the right place. A cover like one of the ones above tells a reader exactly what they’re in for, if they choose that book. This one,
does too. What do you see in that cover? The background is black, the title is a bold font and color, the image of the man’s silhouette apparently pointing a gun tells you this will involve suspense at least, probably murder. And, while you can’t often rely on the title for clues, this one is crystal clear.
A reader who chooses a book based on the cover design and blurb will feel betrayed if the story inside the book doesn’t align with the reader’s expectations. Has that ever happened to you? Would you ever read another book by the same author?
In the interest of keeping this post to a length you’re likely to read, I’m just going to focus on the genre we’re writing in – romance is the broader genre, our stories are contemporary romantic suspense.
I like these.
A little bit about the business reality —
The romance genre has grown exponentially and diversified – Amazon lists 27 subcategories* under the romance heading – since the early days of Woodiwiss and Judith McNaught, and, at $1.438 billion reported for 2014, is double the revenue of the next highest earning genre (Crime/Mystery at $728 million). Close behind is Religious/Inspirational at $720 million – the Bible is still the number one best seller of all time, hands down. To put this in perspective, the Horror genre – the 5th best selling genre in 2014 – had just under $80 million in revenue for the same year, and Stephen King is worth $400 million and Dean Koontz is worth $125 million.
With the meteoric rise of e-books, and this statistic is of great interest to the three of us, 20% of all genre sales are attributed to self-published authors. YAY!
So, back to book covers. Not only has the genre changed dramatically, but so have the book covers. From the lurid, straining lovers in historically inaccurate fashions, we’ve now come to these:
In part, this newer, often monochromatic style is supposed to camouflage the sexy-times content from your companions on the train, plane or in the doctor’s waiting room, but this style has become so synonymous with erotica, that it’s no longer an effective disguise. Another benefit of e-readers/tablets/smart phones – no one knows what you’re studying so intently. It could be your portfolio performance reports. That, too, could make your eyes dilate, your breathing accelerate and a flush rise up your neck.
And then there’s this style which draws you in with a brawny, shirtless chest – often with cool maybe Celtic tattoos – or lovers’ preliminaries, but still a simpler design approach.
Does this modern trend in book covers pull your eye when you are book shopping? Do you like a shirtless chest – well, who doesn’t?! – a sensual image of lovers at some stage of foreplay? Inanimate objects, items of clothing or jewelry displayed in a moody monochrome? Seriously, we really want to know.
Even e-books need covers. Just as in the bookstore, writers need readers to stop, look and hopefully read the blurb in online storefronts. S.A. Young, K.R. Brorman and I have had numerous and lengthy conversations about covers. We know what we like, and each one of us has somewhat different views. Early on, we decided that the temptation to create our own cover designs was the paved highway to Hell. A professional cover designer will be one of our major expenditures and well worth it. Still, we need to be able to communicate with a pro about what we want our covers to look like, and, since we are writing at least three in this series, they need to be consistent from one to the next, no? Here are a random few in no particular order that we think represent something of the mood and content we hope to infuse into our stories.
What do you think? Got any suggestions, ideas, examples or cheap shots?
*Everything from Young Adult, Inspirational, Lesbian/Gay, Paranormal, Gothic, and plain old Historical, to Erotica (over 300,000 entries in that category).