Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Cover Identification

Given that the 2007 Cover Contest voting is underway, I thought this would be the appropriate time to post my cover post. Because this is an image heavy article, you’ll have to click the “more” link to read the entirety of the article. I’m talking about trends in covers and cover identification today.

There was about a year in which it appeared Avon historicals were all getting similar treatment. They all had this painterly look (broad brush strokes). It wasn’t my favorite look but it was very distinctive. I thought that the point of the look of the line was that if you liked one book that had a painterly cover, you would like these other books with the painterly cover.

Having said that, it appears that Avon is moving away from the granular art cover as the batch of summer arcs had more of the glossy, clean edged finished. Julia Quinn’s fall releases (which feature an overlapping storyline) have a more realistic cover look, maybe playing off the Jane Austen craze. In comparing the two, I prefer the painterly cover.

At Berkley/Jove/Signet/NAL, the art is distinctive per author rather than per line. Each author’s books have a distinctive look so that a reader liking Nalini Singh’s book need only remember the type of cover – chest with tattoos and wild cursive font – to identify with another Singh book.

Meljean’s signature look changed in her last book, likely in an effort to increase sales. The first three books had a softer tone featuring a couple. Her February release, Demon Night, sported a darker, edgier look with man titty and no woman. The font, however, remained the same.

Pocket, Bantam, and Warner seem to follow the Penguin path in creating a certain cohesive look for the author with the covers, rather than being line specific. Kresley Cole’s books covers have evolved from the classic paranormal clinch to a slight comic book feel to book 3 to the lone man titty with this spring/summer’s back to back releases.

Michelle Rowen’s books feature a type of cartoon cover. It has the feel of a cartoon cover even though it does not have the look. Honestly, Rowen’s covers don’t encourage me to buy her books. I bought them because of word of mouth.

This trend toward comic realism is carried out in the repackaging of Jennifer Estep’s novels. I understand that these covers want to convey fun and lighthearted reads but without the retail death that must be inflicted with a cartoon cover. Frankly, though, I like the old comic/cartoon cover than the realism.

For me, the realism covers often speak of movie tie-in books. Julia Quinn’s above book reminds me a bit of an Austen movie book. When I saw CJ Lyon’s book, I thought it was a fan fiction/tv tie in for Grey’s Anatomy and passed. TV tie-ins never seem to interest me (although they do appear to be good sellers). I can’t tell with the Quinn book whether they are intentionally trying to invoke the Austen feel or whether it is simply happenstance. I’m leaning toward the former.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the stepback cover. I think it is needlessly wasteful and I don’t particularly like the scenes inside the cover that often have nothing to do with the story. There’s an overabundance of filmy curtains in these stepbacks that never seem to make an appearance in the pages of the book. Covers that I haven’t liked included many of the Avon contemporary books which often look very dated to me.

The covers of Aphrodisia books or even this upcoming Ellora’s Cave hardcover are so explicit. I had to laugh when I saw the cover of the Penthouse Letters in comparison.

One book cover that really caught my attention was Erin McCarthy’s Fallen. When I took it out of its package, I literally gasped out loud. The color is this old gold and the back has alternating light gold and dark gold wide stripes. The angel looming in the back is both ominous and sexy. The green is striking offset to the more muted colors of the angel and the background.

I also love Sherry Thomas’ covers. These are the dreaded stepback but the initial cover is quite lovely. I appreciate the there is a lone female on the cover and wonder why the covers can’t be more female centric. I suppose the answer to that is sales.

Readers come to associate certain things with types of covers. I never found cartoon covers to be offensive, for the most part, and even thought some were cute. I certainly thought Estep’s old covers captured the essence of her books quite well. At some point, however, we readers decided the whatever was beneath a cartoon cover wasn’t worth our money. The pink covers of the chick lit books with purses, shoes, and flirty skirts also seem to have a negative connotation.

Man titty tells us its a romance. Nearly fully naked man titty tells us its a erotic romance. The running couple tells us its a romantic suspense. But will these covers go out of style once we’ve read our glut of romantic suspense? Covers, I think, both lead and reflect our reading tastes. I’m interested in hearing what you readers like in terms of covers. Do you notice that you gravitate toward a certain cover and why? Do you like the broad brush strokes in the Avon covers or the trend toward realism? Do contemporary covers seem to struggle for the right balance more so that paranormals or historicals?

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. Maggie
    May 13, 2008 @ 05:37:43

    Well, I shop at Loose Id a lot and since they have phenomenal covers, I’ll use their covers as examples.

    I'm interested in hearing what you readers like in terms of covers. Do you notice that you gravitate toward a certain cover and why?

    I used to like man titty covers but lately not so much. I see it everywhere and it bores me to death. Covers with naked torsos (male or female) don’t tell me much about the books.
    You don’t know anything looking at this cover.
    It takes place in a … city?

    I can sort of accept man titty if the cover is interesting in other ways.
    Maybe the blade and feather means fantasy?
    I actually like this one a lot because the font is distinctive and combined with the landscape of the mountains, it tells me that it might be an action/adventure or a suspense or a thriller.

    Some of their latest covers that I’ve really enjoyed are these:
    It’s just really interesting. It looks like it’s a sci-fi setting and the couple is bathed in red light. It’s just very attractive.
    OK, it’s a silhouette, but it’s a very expressive silhouette.

    Lately I’ve found myself gravitating towards Christine M. Griffin’s covers. They look sort of like they’re oil paintings or done with brushes. They’re just very very beautiful and makes me want to buy the books just to have the covers.

    One cover I saw a couple months ago that I really loved was Anne Douglas’ Accidentally Were?

    That cover (by Anne Cain) was very memorable because it was very appealing and it was both sweet and sexy at the same time.

  2. Jana J. Hanson
    May 13, 2008 @ 08:02:23

    I too was disappointed in the covers for Jennifer Estep’s mass market re-releases and her new book Jinx. I still plan to buy Jinx because I enjoy Ms. Estep’s writing, though I really enjoyed the trade paperback covers.

  3. Tracy
    May 13, 2008 @ 08:25:56

    The running couple~that became a joke on another board I frequent. Every single book that came out for about a year had the running couple on it!

  4. Tawny
    May 13, 2008 @ 08:48:11

    Personally, my eyes prefer simple covers that have a single (stunning/interesting) central image. In general, I prefer realistic photographs over paintings/drawings/CGI, however I agree–Erin McCarthy’s cover for Fallen is outstanding. It caught my eye right away.

    The main issue for me is whether the cover is misleading.

    I don’t care for a picture of a modern woman wearing current-day clothes on an historical novel, or a cute cartoon on an erotic novel (and yes, I’ve seen both of these). If the story inside is a paranormal romance, I want the cover to say “paranormal”, historical to say “historical”, erotic to say “erotic” and so on. Because as I stand at Borders, my eyes sweeping over the shelves packed with books, I’m looking for certain visual cues, depending upon what genre I’m in the mood to read.

    Finally, I know trends come and go, but I’m not tired of man titty yet :)

  5. Angela James
    May 13, 2008 @ 08:54:06

    I have never read her books, but I was in the bookstore last weekend and the cover of this book caught my eye: Gone with the Witch by Annette Blair

    It’s cover (and that of the first book in the trilogy: are like a cross between a cartoon-type cover and a Suicide girls pin-up calendar. I liked it.

  6. Lisa
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:30:21

    I have liked the J.R. Ward covers because they’re distinctive and they include a version of the clinch without being over the top. I like the duotone treatment to the photography so that extraneous details are de-emphasized and that the clinch part of the design doesn’t take up the entire cover. It’s highly suggestive and clearly a Romance, but not in your face about it. The recent redux of Linnea Sinclair’s covers take advantage of this duotone effect. The new covers firmly place her in the Romance genre whereas older versions seemed much more Science Fiction. I imagine the goal is to draw in new Romance readers.

    I read a lot of Science Fiction and Fantasy in addition to Romance, and I like the Kim Harrison, Marianne de Pierres and Elizabeth Bear (Hammered trilogy) covers as well. I don’t mind the male torso covers since I see those as a rare example of the Female Gaze — it turns the camera around on men instead of where it’s usually focused, on women’s bodies. The HQN covers for Susan Grant take advantage of this angle, but without an actual pectoral pictorial.

    For Historicals, I liked the covers for Julia Ross’ Night of Sin, The Seduction, Games of Pleasure and The Wicked Lover. I also enjoy the trend in Historicals of adapting fine art and classic masters paintings. The Word Wenches were just discussing covers yesterday after an article that came out in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how publishers are marketing books to women.

  7. Jane
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:33:20

    Lisa – thanks for the link. I’m sorry I hadn’t read it yesterday. I could have incorporated some of that in the article. Thanks.

  8. Jennifer Estep’s Blog » Blog Archive » Cover art comments …
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:35:43

    […] Dear Author has an interesting post up today talking trends in cover art. […]

  9. Leslie Dicken
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:44:26

    I counted Nathan Kamp in five of the covers you listed here. That man sure does get around. ;-)

    As I mentioned to Lisa regarding that Word Wenches article on covers, so many have recently lamented what they don’t like about Romance covers (especially that columnist from the Philly Inquirer) but don’t say what they DO like. What DOES make a good cover? And isn’t it as subjective as any art?

  10. Jane
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:48:13

    Leslie – I do like the female centric covers although I don’t know if the Fallen book applies. It is just gorgeous packaging.

    One thing I forgot to mention is that whether it is a female or male dominated cover, I generally don’t like faces because the artist’s rendition is not what I have envisioned in my own mind.

    I’m curious what people think of the Quinn cover, especially, or the Lyons’ covers as these are a bit of a departure from what we usually see on our romance books.

  11. Lisa
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:49:26

    The other day Jane mentioned how Kresley Cole “takes very traditional tropes and reverses them completely. For example, Cole's books are female-centric with the female myths playing larger roles.”

    While I like the Cole cover examples in this post, I don’t see that subversion being shown in the artwork. I wish the covers were more representative of that, because I definitely would have bought those books by now if I’d known that.

  12. Lisa
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:54:42

    The Lyons cover I would have assumed was a Grey’s Anatomy tie-in and skipped it. To me, the one brunette looks just like Chyler Leigh who plays Dr. Lexie Grey. That cover also says Women’s Fiction to me not Romance. I see the similarities between the Quinn and Becoming Jane covers, but I likely would not have noticed it if you hadn’t pointed it out first. I do think it succeeds as a Romance cover with a fresh variation on the clinch.

  13. Jane
    May 13, 2008 @ 09:58:23

    Lisa – I agree with you on the Kresley Cole book covers. I was disappointed to see them go to the straight up man titty particularly when her books are so female centric. I wish that the publishing houses would experiment a bit with that, just to see if the female centric cover would sell just as well.

    As for the Lyons’ book, yes, I agree it looks like Women’s Fiction. I think alot of that could have been ameliorated by just having one woman instead of the four on the cover. I’m generally not reading romance for the ensemble cast, but for one main character and having four women suggests a drama regarding four and not a romance.

    The Becoming Jane is actually the cover for the DVD but it was so similar in my mind, I had to put them side by side. I don’t mind it at all, but I did wonder if the Avon department was trying to bring over new readers to Quinn who liked the Austen-inspired movie.

  14. Lisa
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:04:18

    Jane – Regarding female-centric Paranormals like Cole’s books, I’d really love to see a female vampire biting the neck of the hero instead of the other way around like we’re so used to seeing. It would basically be woman-on-top, wouldn’t it? :)

  15. Trout
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:04:32

    Aw. You guys beat me to it. I was actually mulling over posting about the different covers I was seeing and their evolution and here you guys gone done it for me :)

    I was a fan of Cole’s first cover but didn’t care for the cover of Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night. I’ve been ambivalent about the latest one simply because it looks too Sherrilyn Kenyon.

    The Erin McCarthy caught my eye in the bookstores – I’ll give it that! I may go pick it up later this week.

  16. Jane
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:10:33

    Lisa – Yes! That’s a great idea. Your mouth to Pocket’s ears.

    Trout – would love to hear your thoughts. Obviously I don’t think we’ve evolved very far, but its interesting to take a look a them.

  17. Jennybrat
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:20:44

    I prefer painterly covers in finer strokes. The realism cover are a bit too movie-poster for me. I also like covers that focus on the man’s face provided he has an intense or interesting expression (think Sherrilyn Kenyon). Female centric covers can work very well too, like Cheyenne McCray’s books by St Martin. Cartoon covers don’t usually appeal to me but the ones for Katie MacAlister’s dragons are cute and appropriate. The Erin McCarthy cover is gorgeous!

    I notice when the subject of cliched covers comes up, erotica covers would invariably crop up but many of them are so badly conceived that I would not consider them remotely close to being a cliched romance cover. Even though the cover should indicate the explicit subject matter, there’s no need to be so in-your-face that it makes you cringe.

  18. Jody W.
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:24:41

    Covers don’t influence my book purchases, but they do influence which books I read outside the home. I don’t tote a book cover with a lot of nudity and near-sex into the public arena. While it may go unremarked, there is always a possibility, especially here in the Bible belt, that someone will say something. I feel zero shame for my reading choices, but even confrontations where I know I’m totally in the right tear me up.

    Oddly enough, while I was in the middle of composing this comment, two adult females knocked on the door to talk to me about reading the Bible at home. I considered telling them I had a book THEY needed to read and handing them one of my clinchy Red Sage anthologies but decided against it :).

  19. Leslie Dicken
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:29:52

    Jane – Regarding female-centric Paranormals like Cole's books, I'd really love to see a female vampire biting the neck of the hero instead of the other way around like we're so used to seeing. It would basically be woman-on-top, wouldn't it? :)

    OMG, that would ROCK! You’d think someone would have thought of that by now!

    I don’t have a problem with most of the covers listed here, actually. The only ones which really bother me are the real clinch covers with clothes falling off and bizarre poses. I kinda like the Avon contemp covers, which give me an idea if the book is quirky or sensual.

  20. Maddie
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:36:28

    I have to agree with you Angela I love the cover for Gone with the Witch.
    I have yet to pick up any of her books but this as well ad Fallen by Erin McCarthy, very stunnung.

  21. Cheyenne McCray
    May 13, 2008 @ 10:59:39

    On the Ellora’s Cave cover my friend said the pink looks like a woman’s “muff.” LOL. I think it’s one of the worst covers ever–a joke. You have to stare at it to figure out exactly what it is. It’s supposed to be EC’s first harcover, believe it or not. Unfortunately we signed that contract in 2004 or 2005 or a few of us wouldn’t be in that anthology.

  22. Corrine
    May 13, 2008 @ 11:31:40

    I dislike any face showing on my covers, mostly because it so rarely matches up with what’s in my imagination.

    I miss the covers similar to some Julie Garwood re-releases: all white with a landscape and a person just far enough in the distance where you can’t really discern anything about his/her appearance.

    Blatant man titty or clinch covers really repel me as a reader, as in I won’t buy them unless I absolutely love the author.

    One change that I really disliked are the new Dark Hunter re-releases.

  23. Karen
    May 13, 2008 @ 12:04:58

    I’ve noticed a trend in covers recently – chick lit books will be released in trade paperback with cartoon covers, and then will be re-released in mass market with more traditional romance covers.

    Here’s the cartoon cover of Mouth to Mouth by Erin McCarthy (which I find quite cute, actually, with the kissing fish)

    And the couple cover that came out in mass market (I like this one too, I think it’s very sexy.)

    I noticed this cover in particular because both versions were nominated for the cover contest (in different years). The second one came close to making the finals, but the first one was hated by just about everyone. That surprised me, because I thought it was quite cute for a chick lit cover. (But then, our committee is made up of romance readers, not necessarily chick lit readers.)

    I guess that the market for trades and mass markets is so disparate that it’s cost effective for the publisher to pay for two separate covers? The trade covers must attract a very different kind of reader than the mass market.

  24. Sabrina
    May 13, 2008 @ 12:23:04

    I agree, Erin McCarthy’s cover is absolutely beautiful, it makes me want to read it. If I do not know the author then yes the cover needs to catch my eye. When I get a bag of books from a friend, I go thru and judge by cover first, read the back second and make my stack in order of what gets read first vs last..all in a just a few moments.

    The cartoon/real look(Estep and Lyons) do not appeal to me at all, I would only read them if they came in the “bag” and I can almost bet it would be at the bottem. I like being able to look at the book and know if it’s paranormal, and if it’s a triology, being able to tell the books apart.

    Yasmine Galenorn does awesome with her covers, instantly knew it was paranormal and can tell her series apart. With paranormal I like to see a picture of at least the woman on the book so I can form it in my mind while I read it(only with paranormal since sometimes they are not necessarily all human). Her covers depict what the main woman looks like, and the character matches that cover..very nice, easy read.

    I know Nora Roberts’ covers, hers are very distinctive, along with Julie Garwood’s historical(still depressed about her last book). But when Ms Garwood went to modern day it blended in with all the other books, would never had read them if it hadn’t been for the fact that I knew the author.

    I have also read Sherrilyn Kenyon but the books all started looking alike in the Dark Hunter series–eventhough they actually don’t, but when you are standing in the store(chasing kids), they all kind of blend, then I get confused on what I have read and what I have I just stopped reading all together(if that whole comment makes any sense–it does in my mind:).

    Last but not least, if it is a series, make sure it is on the cover(somewhere, anywhere). I despise reading a book to only find out it is in a series, and I’ve pretty much ruined it because the characters from the previous books I already know point in reading them now.

    Being a mom with a 4yr and a 6yr old, I do not have time to casually thumb thru every book at Barnes and Noble or even Wal Mart..using the “Mom Voice” to tell them to stop constantly breaks the concentration on reading the back of the book. If I haven’t read the author before, or haven’t heard thru word of mouth(or this website), the cover is the most important to me.

  25. (Jān)
    May 13, 2008 @ 12:37:39

    The McCarthy cover really is gorgeous. I’d pick the book up because of that one. That rarely occurs with me and a romance cover anymore. They’re better than they used to be in terms of taste, but I think they’ve gone from tacky to boring.

    I don’t really have any suggestions for the covers. There’s only so much they can do. But the McCarthy cover shows that there are some people out there with original thoughts and concepts who are capable of turning out some fantastic stuff, and I’d love to see more of that.

  26. Robin
    May 13, 2008 @ 12:40:17

    I liked the cover to Chase’s NQAL a lot, and ditto the Sherry Thomas covers. That Erin McCarthy cover is really eye catching, and in a good way. There really are no words for the EC cover, although I must admit that it’s probably registering even worse to me right now on the heels of the whole RT thing. Still, though, when I think about that cover in contrast to the Kink cover featured in the cover contest *worst* section (a cover I thought should NOT be in that category at all), I’m thinking that maybe I’m not in the majority as far as covers go.

    For the most part, I hardly pay attention to covers anymore, especially in picking books to read (it’s all about the blurb), but I have to say that I an really glad that Kresley Cole’s covers got a makeover, even as I admit to disliking the mantitty (although a nice male torso can be just fine, lol). I’m not really partial to either of Meljean Brook’s cover styles (and not blown away, either).

    I do think it’s interesting that more covers are featuring the solitary female figure, though. I wonder how they’re selling, especially as compared to the mantitty and the clinch. Can they be the new Romance code?

    As for cartoon covers, they definitely say either chick lit, YA, or paranormal Romance to me, depending on the configuration and particulars of the cover art. I don’t like or dislike them as a group, although I definitely expect a somewhat lighthearted book when I pick one up.

  27. Robin
    May 13, 2008 @ 12:44:46

    Oh, one more thing: the group of covers I’m most bored by are the Romantic Suspense covers. Just look at the covers offered at the cover contest as “best of,” for example. Along with the contemp covers, it’s an exercise in the repetitive and forgettable, IMO.

  28. K. Z. Snow
    May 13, 2008 @ 13:03:56

    I confess,the face of that man on Cole’s Dark Needs cover just makes me melt. Damn, he’s beautiful. Has a certain mystique, too. Invariably, it’s the male models’ faces that capture my attention, not their bodies (which all look alike after a while). Most clutches prompt that “seen it before” yawn as well. But some faces are just so bewitching, they make me instantly curious about the characters they represent.

    I also tend to notice unique or striking composition. Exceptional cover artistry won’t get me to buy a book, but it will certainly persuade me to take a look.

    Conventional chicklit covers, especially cartoony ones, instantly turn me off. Instantly. I see them as a form of shorthand for storylines and characters I know would make me gag. Sorry, but I’d quickly bypass the Sherry Thomas books.

    Hate to say it, but a lot of erotic-romance ebook covers are off-putting, too; many could benefit from a lighter, defter, more imaginative touch. Readers might very well share this attitude. My most luminous and whimsical EC cover, with nary a nipple in sight, has made that fantasy a consistent seller.

  29. LizA
    May 13, 2008 @ 13:45:58

    Re the female gaze – I think this is a good point in theory. However, it does not work in my case as I find non of those beefcakes without body hair particularly interesting to gaze at. Looking at those overly sculpted muscles makes me wonder how they can move at all.
    I also dislike the “female fussiness” of many of the covers. I really hate to be pigeon-holed like that – not all females like pink and lace and soft pastel colours.
    I do like period paintings (or covers done like them) for historicals, and I prefer plain writing for contemporaries. Maybe I am not a very visual person at all, but I do not have to, and in fact prefer not to, see details of the book (or not) on the cover.

    Basically I tend to buy despite, not because of the covers….

  30. Robin
    May 13, 2008 @ 13:50:11

    Hate to say it, but a lot of erotic-romance ebook covers are off-putting, too; many could benefit from a lighter, defter, more imaginative touch. Readers might very well share this attitude. My most luminous and whimsical EC cover, with nary a nipple in sight, has made that fantasy a consistent seller.

    I was struck by the difference between the Penthouse cover Jane posted and the other two erotic titles. I had this visceral sense of the *overselling* of eroticism on the other two covers, which frankly makes me less inclined to buy a book, because I am so wary of the old bait and switch. At some point, those erotic covers virtually scream ‘trying too hard,’ which not only makes me wonder at the contents, but also too often clash with my own taste preferences. Not that I prefer covered up covers — but I think it takes some real thought to be provocative on all levels, and few erotic book covers accomplish that for me.

    I agree about the cover model for the Cole book, too. There are a few models, especially of historical Romance, who don’t appeal to me at all. But this guy is really sexy, and not in a sleazy way. And he fits the book, too. I hate it when the cover models aren’t even the right coloring, etc. as the hero and/or heroine.

    Is that the same guy on the latest Brook cover, too, or someone different?

  31. Leslie Dicken
    May 13, 2008 @ 14:08:56

    I confess,the face of that man on Cole's Dark Needs cover just makes me melt. Damn, he's beautiful. Has a certain mystique, too. Invariably, it's the male models' faces that capture my attention, not their bodies (which all look alike after a while). Most clutches prompt that “seen it before” yawn as well. But some faces are just so bewitching, they make me instantly curious about the characters they represent.

    Here’s more pictures of Nathan and where you can find a link to his portfolio! Yummy!

  32. Sherri
    May 13, 2008 @ 14:11:18

    It seems it’s looked down on for readers to “judge a book by its cover”. Well why go to all the effort to make an artistic cover if it doesn’t matter? It’s part of my total experience. I’ve seen Rowen’s name come up quite often in reading lists, but those covers keep me away from her books. I also don’t care for the photo covers, unless they’re digitally decorated, like some of Juno’s covers:

    I’m usually drawn to covers with weaponry too, but I don’t remember seeing very many heroines with them.

  33. Susan/DC
    May 13, 2008 @ 14:29:42

    Covers shouldn’t be important, but if I don’t know an author and have only a short amount of time to spend browsing in the book store, then I’m definitely going to pick up a book with the interesting (to me) cover and skip the one I think is cheesy. I’m torn about faces, because if I find the model(s) attracive it pulls me in, but if I don’t, it has a negative effect. For example, I just read and very much liked Sherry Thomas’ book. However, I didn’t find the cover model out-of-the-ordinary pretty, and she certainly did not give off the sensuous vibe that Gigi is supposed to have in spades. I felt the same about Claudia Dain’s first courtesan book, where I thought the cover model was quite plain. I then have to expend energy to overlook that image when imagining a woman who men view as highly desirable, and unless the book is very good, I’m not willing to work that hard. Since I actually do think the male and female models on the new Quinn are attractive, that cover works for me, whether it’s a copy of “Becoming Jane” or not.

    The comments on the female gaze are interesting. I recently commented that I didn’t like the cover of the new Elizabeth Hoyt because as a straight female I’m not drawn to covers with a woman falling out of her dress. At least some of the old clinch covers had the man in an equivalent state of undress (all those unfastened shirts blowing in the wind!). I liked Hoyt’s prince trilogy enough that I’m going to buy her book anyway. It does bother me, however, that the publisher will think I like the cover when it’s just the opposite, and if I wasn’t already favorably disposed to her writing I’d definitely have skipped it.

  34. Emmy
    May 13, 2008 @ 14:40:21

    I’ve run out of space in the library for print books, so the majority of the books I’ve read the last 2 years or so have been ebooks. The rare print books I do get are all reference materials, and lemme tell ya, those could seriously use some man titty.

    I’m a huge fan of Anne Caine’s work, especially her yaoi themed covers. Her boys are just too cute for words. As a whole, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to the cover of a book. I buy based on whether I like the author, the genre, or the blurb. I did get all confused once when I saw the same photo of a model used for covers of two different authors. I had already associated him with the main character of the first book, so it was a bit off-putting to see the guy pictured as the hero of another story. Coincidentally, they were both m/m. Guess he made good gay eye candy.

  35. Robin
    May 13, 2008 @ 14:43:05

    Wow, so at a minimum, that’s Kamp on the new Enoch and Quinn covers, the new Cole cover, and the Toni Blake cover. Here’s a sampling of his covers, including a Cassie Edwards!

  36. Wendy
    May 13, 2008 @ 16:08:39

    I liked the old Cole covers of the couple, and I also like Dark Needs’ cover – hello? Nathan Kamp! Need I say more? But what I don’t like is the next book’s cover, really don’t like it which sucks because I love her books.

    Fallen’s cover is beautiful! Love the angel.

  37. cin
    May 13, 2008 @ 16:19:11

    Today your post the was the first one I saw discussing book covers. Following the links, upon links — quite the explosion of posts recently on the subject — I’m trying to get to all of them.

    I stopped in at B/N and saw a blurb on Cover Stories so I thought I’d add to the explosion.

    Books as seen through the eyes of those who design them
    This week – John Gall – Vintage & Anchor Books
    Coming Soon:
    Stephen Youll – Science Fiction Illustrator
    Judy York – Romance & Fantasy Illustrator

    Now to catch up with all the links and comments.

  38. Angela James
    May 13, 2008 @ 18:04:34

    I'm usually drawn to covers with weaponry too, but I don't remember seeing very many heroines with them.

    For Sherri:

  39. Lisa
    May 13, 2008 @ 18:09:10

    Oh, Angela. That Steelflower cover is great!

  40. Angela James
    May 13, 2008 @ 18:27:29

    Thanks, Lisa. It’s by Anne Caine, I think someone mentioned her earlier. She does a lot of our fantasy/paranormal covers.

  41. Janine
    May 13, 2008 @ 19:14:04

    I love the McCarthy cover also. Other than the angel, what struck me about it most was the way the title is printed slanted.

    What do people here think about covers that are taken from famous paintings? A few years back I loved the cover for Susan Carroll’s The Dark Queen. The cover of Pam Rosenthal’s The Slightest Provocation was also lovely. And ditto Lauren Willig’s covers.

  42. Angela
    May 13, 2008 @ 20:10:44

    I prefer covers either inspired by paintings, or of the actual painting itself. They convey the mood for historicals more than clinch covers do.

    When a certain cover model begins to appear everywhere, I usually hesitate to pick up the book he is on because it’s annoying. I remember that one model was the hero for two of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books–the model portrayed the hero for a Bridgerton sister on one cover, and the other cover was portraying a Bridgerton brother, so it came across as though the Bridgerton sister and brother were love interests. Plus, I don’t find any cover models very attractive.

    I watch Avon’s covers because I’ve heard they put a lot of money into finding out what entices the average romance reader. Berkley–their live action covers can look really cheesy. Bantam–hasn’t had enough authors to have an opinion, but I’m meh about Sherry Thomas’ covers. Too plain for me. Signet–tends to have very beautiful covers. St Martins Press–switches between live action covers and “painted covers” and do a pretty good job. Kensington and Dorchester–more misses than hits. Pam Rosenthal’s Bravas were the best I’ve seen from that line. Not a fan of a male cover model’s torso and face being used.

  43. che
    May 13, 2008 @ 21:30:07

    never mind

  44. K. Z. Snow
    May 14, 2008 @ 00:35:10

    Here's more pictures of Nathan and where you can find a link to his portfolio! Yummy!

    Holy jamoly, that IS Nathan Kamp? Whoa, he must have like 328 different kinds of gorgeous looks! I’ve been all fangirly over him for months now, but I didn’t make the connection.

    (Sorry, now I shall go squee in private.)

  45. limecello
    May 14, 2008 @ 01:02:15

    I’m being bad and not reading all the proceeding comments for once :X. I’m probably in the minority, but in a way, I’m done with the half naked men. I know what I’m reading, and I don’t need an uber over buffed up man to tell me, thanks.
    I like the artsier covers… and I can see how you associate the cover of TLDoW w/ the Jane Austen “craze.” I agree. I’m not that big of a fan either. My favorite up there [by] far and away, is of Fallen. Sadly, I didn’t like the story as much.

  46. Sabrina
    May 14, 2008 @ 02:57:26

    I went this evening and picked up Fallen, not what I usually read, but I do love the cover. I guess I will see how the book goes:)

  47. taiki
    May 14, 2008 @ 12:00:13

    I’m usually not a fan of man titty but that Nathan Kamp is truely yummy. Not that i would have known his name if i wouldn’t read this blog, lol. I love the covers with the solitary female figure. The one with the backside and no face like the Sherry Thomas covers. I’m not so much for the couple covers. Mostly because the couples don’t look like i imagined them from the book. I also prefer covers like the Mary Balogh ones. Either with scenery and beautiful colors like the ‘Simply Magic’ cover or her other covers without a single person on it like her new ‘Web of Love’ cover. I also like the covers of Linda Winstead Jones books like “The Star Witch’. Very pretty.
    And if you wanna talk about pretty cover, Mercedes Lackey, a well known fantasy writer, her book covers are gorgeous. Jody Lee draws the most beautiful covers!

  48. the cover expose « Collection Developments @ Sno-Isle
    May 14, 2008 @ 19:48:31

    […] 14, 2008 · No Comments Jane over at Dear Author takes a look at some cover trends over the last year in the romance genre and what appeals.  the Smart Bitches have dedicated a […]

  49. deputman
    May 19, 2008 @ 20:02:34

    It seems that, as in many areas, romance readers’ tastes are too varied to stereotype.

    My favorites up there are far and away the Sherry Thomas covers, I love them and can’t wait to hold Delicious in my hands. My mind never matches the cover to the character so that isn’t a factor for me.

    I’ve enjoyed Kresley Cole’s book but hated most of the covers. On the first, the guy looks anemic and HELLO, it’s the girl that’s the vampire. The second is too generic. Nathan is pretty but I prefer no man titty (it rhymes). I’d say the third is my favorite because it does feel slightly unreal, otherwordly, and fairy tailish.

    Can’t stand Meljean Brook’s covers, except the fonts. I love fonts when they’re well done. I’d take Demon Night over the first two.

    I tend to avoid the cartoons but didn’t realize it until I thought about it now. I’m not terribly fond of the Fallen cover–odd woman out here.

    I find the terribly realistic Quinn strange but I think I could get used to it.

    Other recent favorites have been the new Hoyt and Mine before Midnight. That’s probably enough with the Thomas covers to declare my preference to be beautiful, non-painterly woman alone in a state of undress.

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