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Cover Fail: It’s a Bad Hair Day

I love CL Wilson and thoughtCrown of Crystal Flame was a grand conclusion to her epic Tairen Soul series but as a friend of mine said, “What is Bronson Pinchot doing on the cover?”

I’ve never read Robin Owens but I have friends who are fans, ardent fans, of her work. She was saddled with this unfortunate cover on Heart Journey. I figure that the model’s real hair must have been horrible for the art department to decide that this bad photoshop of a Ken doll wig would have been better.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Las
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 07:36:32

    Heh, that’s pretty much how I picture every man who’s described as having long hair. Which is why I just pretend I didn’t read the part where the hero has long hair and imagine him how I want him to look.

  2. joanne
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 07:50:22

    Mr Pinchot on the cover wouldn’t bother me but that flying dog over his shoulder is a definite deal breaker.

  3. hapax
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 09:03:35

    @joanne — not a flying dog, but a winged telepathic poison-clawed, purple-eyed, firebreathing telepathic werekitty.

    I adore this series, but sometimes the crack quotient goes a *bit* over the top…

  4. Maddie
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 09:03:53

    The Heart Journey cover is killing me with “The Exorcist” looking head twist, that alone would have me passing on the book.

  5. Heather Massey
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 09:31:19

    You know, as much as I want at least one or two cover elements to accurately reflect the story, sometimes it’s just not worth it. Especially if the budget doesn’t allow for more time/talent to be spent on creating a faithful adaptation.

    I’m curious what others think. If a choice had to be made, would you prefer a cringe-inducing image that at least accurately represents the story, or a bland/general one that at least looks professionally done?

  6. Hot Like Sauce
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 10:02:29

    Why is the guy on Crown of Crystal Flame trying to seduce me like Mango on SNL? Is he a cheating hero? Should he be included on the epic amazon thread?

  7. Maddie
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 10:05:05

    @Heather Massey:

    I hate to say this but Harl Presents always stray from what the hero and heroin looks like and I find it distracting when reading how tiny she is only to flip to the cover yet again to see the model tall h on the cover and the British pale looking guy on the cover only to read how Greek he looks in the book.

    I think it just them saving money because they basically use the same models over and over again, I guess they never heard of Photoshop.

    If it was a auto-buy author for me I would cringe as I buy the book at the register because I know they mostly have no control on who or what is on the cover.

    If it a unknown author like the two above, haven’t read there books I don’t even bother to pick the book up, just wired that way.

  8. Chicklet
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 10:09:40

    @Heather Massey: Give me bland over crackheaded every time.

  9. Ammarylis
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 10:10:43

    @ Heather Massey: If I ever became delusional enough to think I could write better than I could read, I’d definitely want a cringe-inducing but accurate cover. It makes me personally feel more connected with the MC’s if I have a visual of what they look like. Or at least what they look like in the author’s mind.

    Take Richelle Mead’s Storm Born. The cover model looks just like Eugenie, down to the tattoos. I thought that was very cool, even if the cover model looked like she was fighting evil one boob at a time.

  10. Lynn S.
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 11:14:03

    @Las: That’s about what my hair looks like before I get the accessories to it. Maybe he needs a barrette, some hair combs, or perhaps a scrunchie.
    @Heather Massey: It’s a toss up and if you’re reading ebooks it’s not that much of a problem as once you get past that first page you don’t have to deal with it anymore, although independent ebook publishers are some of the worst offenders as far as cringe-worthy covers go.

    If you want to see something truly frightening check out the cover for Once a Hero by Lisa Childs. Professional, yes; Bland, no; Cringe-worthy, probably; scares the ever-lovin’ crap out of me, YES. The look on his face, the hair, the night stick, cripes! I wouldn’t be able to sleep if that book was in the room with me. Luckily it belongs to my mom.

  11. Devyn Quinn
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 12:19:28

    Although these are terrible covers, I would take either over the cringe inducing cover I received on my Kensington Aphrodisia debut, Flesh and the Devil. A dark vampire tale received a pair of high heeled boots…in sand. I kid you not. Unfortunately there is little the author can do except smile and say they love it.

  12. Mary Beth
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 13:03:30

    You are so right about these covers. l love Robin Owens, but this cover even turned me off! One of the best things about e-readers is not having to look at the cover everytime you open the book.

    I also agree with the writers who complain about the cover not being even close to how the character is described. In those cases, it’s more of a distraction than a benefit.

  13. Joanne Renaud
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 14:05:08

    You know, I wonder why they don’t just hire illustrators instead of using these photoshopped photos of the same models over and over again. Illustrators can actually paint different kinds of people, and a lot of times they’ll work for far less than a photographer.

  14. Kay Webb Harrison
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 16:22:44

    I just read Heart Journey; it is excellent. However, I also wondered about the cover. Up to this one, the Heart books’ covers showed the heroes’ torsos and arms, with appropriate props. They were stylized and quite eye-catching. Why this one has the 3/4 view and a scene from nature is a mystery to me. Maybe it’s because the hero is an AC-TOR and the heroine is an explorer/cartographer, who is several years older than he is.


  15. Grace
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 19:23:17

    Devyn Quinn said: “there is little the author can do except smile and say they love it.”

    So true and so terribly unfair. Hard to give a professional response when you receive such horrendous, unprofessional work back. Were I Ms. Owens, and I received this cover (shirtless guy wearing a dead tribble on his head, I’d have a hard time even forcing out a civil “thank you” between my teeth.

  16. Heather Massey
    Sep 23, 2010 @ 19:44:24

    @Lynn S. LOL! That cover looks like an advertisement for Will Ferrell’s new buddy cop movie. It is creepy, though.

    @Ammarylis I’ve seen a few cringe-worthy-but-accurate covers that I gave an A for Effort.

    Illustrators can actually paint different kinds of people, and a lot of times they'll work for far less than a photographer.

    But it’s cheapest to reuse stock images ad infinitum, isn’t it?

  17. Robin D. Owens
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 01:01:47

    I must admit it is not my favorite cover, and coming after Heart Choice which WAS (though it, too, was inaccurate), I just sighed. Some people said they liked it — I think it was my critique group bucking me up.

    Raz has longish hair, but not that long. It’s auburn. He is Native American in skin tone. They are in mountain valleys or cities throughout the book.

    What can I say? I can give input only before.


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  19. Nat
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 08:27:11

    Once the cover has done its job of catching my eye as a reader (sometimes for the wrong reasons, but still), I don’t look at it again. The blurb and story will take it from there. I don’t view covers as character sheets (oh, my Dungeons and Dragons roots, let me show you them). I also don’t much care who or what is on the cover, as long as it looks good (to my eye).

  20. Maddie
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 09:16:24

    @Robin D. Owens:

    I’m curious as to why you the author do not have a say on what the cover should look like, it’s like giving birth to a baby and having some stranger name it.

  21. Robin D. Owens
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 10:25:58

    Short answer: IT’S MARKETING, BABY. What the marketing department believes will sell.

    I’ll get an email saying that there will be a cover conference (usually at 7 am the next day, my time). I’ll send images and notes regarding what the hero/heroine/setting looks like. For Raz, his hair was auburn, I said “elegant actor” and since the book opens with him and his friends at the Thespian Club doing tarot, I had a pic of a guy doing a card trick.

    Above is what I got.

    Actually, I try to write in the cover image if possible, but there was just no way for the surroundings to match — except there is a huge labyrinth that I use (and is in this book), so my mentor said she thought that might have been the labyrinth (it’s a meditation path that winds around an asteroid crater).

    And obviously I took too much time to talk about this, and should go back to writing… ;)


  22. Estara
    Sep 24, 2010 @ 15:25:54

    The Owens covers had a lovely habit of only showing parts of the hero’s body with some sort of Kelta design on it – except for my very first Heart-Mate edition, but this one really did in no way reflect the story.

    The hero is a fairly sophisticated actor!

    Whatever the covers, I’ll continue to buy your books, Ms. Owens!

  23. brooksse
    Sep 26, 2010 @ 11:27:18

    @Las: LOL… me too. I’m not generally a fan of long-haired heroes, with a few exceptions. This one looks like they took a stock photo of a guy with short hair and photoshopped in some longer hair.

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