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Fix it! (How to turn CoverFail into Cover Win)

Covers fascinate me and a lot of blogs do the cover thing like the classic and can’t be duplicated cover snark by the Smart Bitches and so I’ve never posted about bad covers here at Dear Author. Nor about good covers. But I love to talk about them so I thought I’d institute a new feature for Thursdays called Fix It in which we take on bad covers and talk about what could fix them (and what is wrong with them in the first place). I’m not very good at snarking so I’ll just tell you straight off what didn’t work for me. First, covers are just as important on the internet as they are in person. Second, covers move me to buy and can deter me from buying. They are that important.

First up is Jeaniene Frost’s cover, Eternal Kiss of Darkness. Ironically, the internet image of this book cover actually looks good. It’s when you see the cover in person that the shocking badness of the cover jumps out and shoots you in the eye.

(click for a better image of the paper cover).

The second cover is Lisa Ruff’s book Man of the Year. Jayne has consistently given Ruff’s books good reviews. Ruff’s latest publication, Baby Bombshell, was an August recommended reads. Yet, Man of the Year has to fall under #coverfail because of the so many things. The smirk is one. The apparent youth of the cover model (he looks like he is playing in the College World Series, at best). The hat that appears to have never been worn before (is this his first time at the rodeo?).   His awkward stance (the mound must be really uneven).   This book would have been a pass for me.

Thoughts about these covers? For me, to improve the Eternal Kiss of Darkness cover, you would just need to remove the fake pink blood that was slapped on the top.   For the second book, I think you need a new cover model. Or at the very least, a better hat.

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. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 05:42:13

    Covers are what you’re given. I’ve had bad ones, really bad ones in the past – check out the first print cover for “Chemistry of Evil” ( – I cried when I saw that one. I was soooo happy with the new, Loose-Id cover I nearly wept all over again.(
    So I’m always careful to comment on covers and link them to the author. It’s great that you do that, too.
    The cover of the Frost book was a fail for me because it was creepy. I read romance, and that doesn’t look like a romance to me. I don’t know if it’s the “Come into the Casbah” look of the man, or the blue overlay, but it wasn’t until I visited the States a few months ago and saw the cover for real that I realized what a coverfail the book was.
    I’d never seen the second cover before, and I’d like to add to your comments – the edges of the man. Dear Lord, I could do better with the blur tool on Photoshop. And the stadium behind him is at such a crazy angle, too – makes me dizzy.
    I buy mainly in ebook, but the covers are still important to me. With the success of black and white e-readers, will we see concentration on that aspect? There was an attempt a few years ago to colorize Casablanca, and that was a giant fail too, because Casablanca was designed to be seen in black and white.

  2. Janet P.
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 06:40:44

    It looks like one of those 13U AAU Summer All Star Team poses. As a Mom it makes me want to check to see if his water bottle is filled and he’s wearing his sunscreen.

    Man of the year should be more manly.

  3. Grace
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 07:28:03

    The second Eternal Kiss of Darkness is awful. First, it looks like someone left the book out in the sun, and the cover color was bleached out. Second, the blood looks like it was added in with a Sharpee marker.

    I realize a preference in cover art is subjective, but that’s just sloppy work.

    The Man of the Year cover? I’m with Janet. The model used looks like he still brings his laundry home from the dorm each weekend for his mom to wash.

  4. Hot Like Sauce
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 07:49:53

    The dude in Eternal Kiss of Darkness looks like he’d much prefer a bottle of True Blood to his victim/love interest(?) Amidst the many thingsgonewrong with the cover, it would be much improved if the man was actually looking at the lady’s neck rather than the dead deer in the headlights bored look he’s got.

    As far as Man of the Year, I’m nodding with everyone who says he looks too young. This cover reminds of that children’s book series about baseball.

  5. Carin
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 07:54:47

    Eternal Kiss of Darkness. I wish we could see a version with no blood at all – that might work. Or maybe just two puncture points. I really don’t need the blood on his mouth. I also think it would work better for me if our hero wasn’t looking at *me* during an intimate moment with his significant other. I don’t mind the darkness of the cover, but the voyeur aspect bothers me.

    With Man of the Year I don’t mind that our man/boy is staring at me, as he’s not groping someone else at the same time. I agree that an older looking model would help. Also getting rid of the “Kraft 4th of July recipe inside!” would help. I don’t mind the smirk. It’s the only thing telling me the book is about more than baseball and recipes.

  6. Missy Ann
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 08:18:11

    Um… no. The internet picture of the cover doesn’t look good. I don’t know why people keep saying it does. The pose is awkward, and the blood is blazingly stupid. (Please note, I am not making any commentary on the content of the book, I have not read it.)

    If I knew nothing of Frost’s work I would laugh at this cover and pass it by without a second thought.

    Lucky for her this is a continuing series and her readers will buy it in spite of that cover. And when I get around to reading this series I will buying this one in e-edition for sure so I won’t have to see that cover.

  7. Jen
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 08:40:27

    Authors are hit over the head with how important promo is, but I think the truth is a good cover sells more books than anything else. I’ve passed up books with awful covers because whether it’s true or not, the art does reflect on the work inside.

  8. Karenna Colcroft
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 08:42:08

    The Frost cover just looks icky to me, I’m afraid. Blood dripping during an embrace? Yeah…no thanks.

    As for the Man of the Year cover, am I the only one who thinks the model bears some resemblance to Doogie Howser?

  9. Meril
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 08:46:41

    It’s not enough that Man of the Year appears to take place in an alternate universe where the Pacific Coast League became the 3rd major league, but it also had that horrible cover. IIRC the pitcher hero was in his 30s. His coloring’s right on, though. (no surprise, I believe Harlequin authors are asked to fill out a cover details sheet.)

  10. Kelly L.
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 08:57:58

    The cover for Eternal Kiss of Darkness is not great even in the online image, but I agree, it’s in person that it really looks awful. I think the “bleached” look is just glare, as the cover really is a nice saturated blue, but the blood drops look awful in person. They look badly Photoshopped in, and they clash horribly with the pink font.

    The baseball player reminds me of a poster that was in the restroom at the sandwich shop I worked at in my early 20s. It was a picture of a kid in football gear grinning at the camera, and the caption talked about how he couldn’t wait to eat our chain’s food when practice was over. But he always creeped me out because he looked like he was grinning at me while I used the facilities. He was about eleven. And he looked just like this guy. It’s a personal memory that probably wouldn’t resonate with anyone else, but it would make me run far, far from this book based on the cover art. I would just have a mental block keeping me from finding him hot.

  11. Tamara Hogan
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 09:12:59

    oh, dear. The baseball player’s hat and glove aren’t broken in AT ALL, and the angle he’s standing at gives me a mild case of vertigo. The cover model looks young enough that he’d still be embarrassed to be seen buying condoms – or that an adult woman would rightly be arrested for perving on him.

    However, there’s no such thing as bad publicity! I LOVE sports romances and I wasn’t aware of this one! (Thanks for the age reference, Meril.) Chalk up a sale for Lisa Ruff. ;-)

  12. jmc
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 09:51:24

    The entire stadium looks tilted to me in the second cover. The hat and head look photoshopped in and just off. Not a book I would pick up, despite loving baseball.

  13. Joan/SarahF
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 09:57:18

    @Karenna Colcroft: Yes! OMG, that’s all I can think, too. Not that NPH isn’t hot NOW, but it looks too much like Doogie Howser on the cover.

  14. Heather
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 10:25:58

    @Karenna Colcroft: Nope, not alone at all. That was my first thought too.

    As for the Frost book, I have to admit, what I find most off putting is how much is differs from the covers of her Night Huntress series. This cover and the previous one set in the world look so cheesy that I haven’t picked them up, although I enjoyed Cat’s book.

  15. Lori
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 11:24:02

    I don’t think the baseball player looks that young. I just think he’s hella unattractive.

    Ugly men don’t sell romance covers.

  16. JenD
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 12:28:48

    Ho boy that second cover is..uhm.. youthful.

    I’d photoshop in some stubble, darken the overall colors (gritty equates older to me for some reason), straighten the stadium, give his glove some wear and break in the bill of his cap- perhaps even shave some from the top so we can lose the Trucker Suave look.

    I don’t mind a smarmy look on a man- but a on a boy it just makes me want to pinch his cheeks and see if he wants a cookie.

    The first cover bothers me for the same reasons that Every Single Vampire Shot bothers me- they are messy eaters. Anyone who can’t figure out how to shove food (of whatever variety) correctly into their pie-hole automatically turns me off.

  17. Jessa Slade
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 12:45:25

    I think cover designers should have to wear their designs as temporary tattoos on their foreheads for a week. Then I think they’d have a better sense of the hope & dread an author feels, knowing that –somewhere at an undisclosed location in New York City (I imagine cigar smoke and pistols close to hand, but I could be wrong) — your story is going up for cover conference.

  18. SylviaSybil
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 16:51:48

    The Frost cover looks like it was done by an intern in ten minutes. Take a stock photo, give it a blue wash, and then have a three-year-old draw on it with a red crayon. When I got the book in person I could not believe how horrible and amateur it looks. I wish I could get the internet image on my book, since that’s just boring instead of eye-stabbingly fake. And it’s truly unfortunate, since the book itself is great.

    The Ruff cover is creepy but since I’m not into sports I wouldn’t pick it up no matter how well it was fixed.

  19. Lisa Ruff
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 17:41:46

    Well, the only person that liked the Man of the Year cover–that I believed, anyway–was my husband. He said it looked like him. When he was twelve.

    We authors don’t get a lot of input on the final cover, though we do fill out pages of information for the art department on hair color/eye color, distinguishing features, pertinent scenes that might work for the cover, etc. (The cover was not a scene I described, btw.) I think they had a tough time with the cover because there weren’t any of the usual hooks in the book: no children, babies or family.

    I wish the art department had gone with my suggestion: the first “meet” between the hero and the heroine. He’s wearing a damp white towel. And a smile.

    Keep the comments coming. I enjoy reading them. -Lisa Ruff

  20. Jayne
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 19:48:13

    @Lisa Ruff: “I wish the art department had gone with my suggestion: the first “meet” between the hero and the heroine. He's wearing a damp white towel. And a smile.”

    Oh, hell yes. Give me damp, wilted towel over Boy Wonder.

  21. Lynn
    Aug 19, 2010 @ 22:46:00

    Have I bought a book because the cover was gorgeous and/or caught my eye? YES. Have I bought a book even when the cover was horrible? YES.

    BUT, after having read romances (and other genre fiction) for more than 20 years and participated in Romance Land on the Internet, I know that the authors usually have no control over what their covers look like. “I” know that what is important is whether the blurb interests me, or whether the 1st chapter grabs me, or whether the story received a good review online, or whether a friend recommends it.

    I do cringe when I see a “bad” cover either online or in a bookstore mainly because I know that probably a majority of readers will be influenced to purchase based on the cover — not totally swayed, but influenced. And a bad cover on an author’s work might discourage a reader from ever reading that title or trying that author in the future — and that is a shame.

  22. Sarah
    Aug 20, 2010 @ 08:57:02

    A man wearing just a low-slung damp towel and a confident smile would have been hot (as long as he looked like he was older than 25, of course). I didn’t notice the stadium and the young man were tilted until Jane pointed it out, but then again, my DH says I’ve got crooked perception, lol.

    As for Eternal Kiss, the vampire looks scared. Like his mom caught him with his hand in the cookie jar (or with a dirty mag). The art department needed to take Man of the Year’s smirk and slap it on the vampire.

  23. kaigou
    Aug 20, 2010 @ 13:48:24

    The cover comparison makes me wonder if the real-life version isn’t wonky due to some kind of printing issue. It’s the same image, after all, but perhaps someone in the printing/cover department thought it needed a bit more “contrast” to make it show up better on the shelf — so you get those lurid highlights and the blood really pinging off the picture, instead of being a little more subtle (per the original photograph-version of the internet one).

    On the other hand, the image itself is hardly anything exciting, and in fact is pretty cliched and static… but it’s not nearly as bad as the second smirking high schooler. That is to say, the first image (book or internet) wouldn’t make me pull the book off the shelf, but it wouldn’t make me put it back if someone else were to put the book in my hands.

    Worst cover ever, though, has to be that (in?)famous romance cover where the heroine has three arms.

  24. silvia
    Aug 21, 2010 @ 19:35:11

    @Lisa Ruff:
    “I think they had a tough time with the cover because there weren't any of the usual hooks in the book: no children, babies or family.”

    See, what’s what needs to be advertised! (Don’t ask me how you’d do that, though. There should be stickers. LOL) I’m always interested in a baby-free romance.

  25. Lynn
    Aug 21, 2010 @ 22:20:10

    kaigou said : Worst cover ever, though, has to be that (in?)famous romance cover where the heroine has three arms.

    This is Castles in the Air by Christina Dodd — you can see the cover and read about what Christina has to say about it here

  26. Myranda
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 18:06:55

    I totally agree with you about the Eternal Kiss of Darkness cover! I received the book by mail and had never seen it in person before it arrived. I was shocked! I thought the same thing about removing the hideous fake pink blood overlay-thing. It would’ve made the cover sooooo much better. Also, I had seen the cover when Ms. Frost first posted it and loved it, of course that was before the blood was added!

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