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Guest Author Post: Cover Art Development by Joan Swan and Pamela...

When Joan Swan contacted me and asked if I was interested in an author guest post, I replied that I would be as long as it wasn’t promotional in nature. She reached out to author Pamela Palmer and together they have presented this piece on cover art.

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As with everything in the publishing process, the development of a book’s cover art follows a similar path and, our course, that journey takes turns here and there based on more factors than I can name–different publishing houses, various authors, different genres…etc.

Generally speaking, thoughts of a cover begin about twelve to fifteen months before a book’s release date, at which time an author often receives an “art sheet” or something similar.  Here, the author may describe a character’s physical attributes, any scenes in the book that might aid in creating the cover art or themes within the work that could be portrayed on the cover.  The author might also be asked to provide a two to three paragraph blurb of the book so the art department can get a feel for the book’s plot.

Once that information is turned in, all goes quiet on the subject for several months.  Around the eighth month mark prior to release, an author may get a peek at the rough cover art.  Or they may not.  It’s not unusual for publishing houses to keep the cover under wraps—from both editors and authors.  Sometimes authors get to request, and see, changes made.  Often they don’t.  Interestingly, many authors have no input into covers.

This may surprise many readers out there.  It shocked everyone in my circle of family and friends (those outside publishing that is).  They assumed that because I wrote the book, I would have significant input in the design process.  But that’s (generally) not how it works in traditional publishing – and there’s very good reason for this.

fever bookmarkArt – all art, including writing – is subjective.  And publishers are looking at cover art from a very different perspective than an author.  While an author may have an affinity for one character over another, desire to highlight a particular theme very close to their heart or portray a certain professional image, a publisher’s goal, first and foremost, is to sell that book.  With the strong emotions of love and hate, likes and dislikes surrounding books, we often forget that publishing is a business.  If we as readers don’t purchase books, publishers don’t make money.  If publishers don’t make money, they close.  If publishers close, they don’t make books.  If they don’t make books, we can’t read.  So covers that sell are beneficial to everyone—publishers, authors and readers.  What will sell?  Well, that would bring us back around to the art is subjective statement.

I have a bachelor’s degree in design.  I’ve worked as a corporate and small business web designer and graphic designer and I know first-hand how hard people can be to please.  Myself included.  Not because any of us are intentionally trying to be difficult, but because the process of manipulating an idea into words is still such a crude and inaccurate process and telepathy is so very unreliable.  I prefer osmosis, myself.

Rest assured, marketing, sales and publicity professionals are just that—professionals.  As writers study articles on craft and promotion, they stay abreast of the latest sales figures, target markets and buying patterns.  And they apply all that knowledge when designing a cover around an author’s story.  Ingenious really when you stop to think about it.

Let’s look at how Kensington took aspects from FEVER’s storyline and combined them with marketing trends and ideas to create FEVER’s cover.

From the storyline:

  • My hero, Teague Creek, is extremely physically fit—not only because he’s sexy and FEVER is a hot romantic suspense, but because his character is an escaped prisoner, and his bulk and strength kept him safe from attacks inside prison.  Hence, the uber-hot guy on FEVER’s cover.
  • Teague was a career firefighter prior to his wrongful conviction and subsequent imprisonment.  An explosion at a military warehouse containing illegal, highly radioactive chemicals endowed him with his paranormal abilities.  Hence, the cover background of flames and the over red-orange color theme.
  • Teague’s tattoos play and interesting and intricate part in not only his character in FEVER, but in the storyline as well.

Marketing angles:

  • Male chest images are very hot sellers.
  • The font they used is strong and sharp, much like the storyline.
  • The font they used has a paranormal feel, an element not otherwise suggested in the cover design
  • The V in the font points to his, er…ah-hem…which so many of you astute readers have pointed out, with more than a tiny bit of giddy glee, I might add.
  • The tattoo’s, while not the same as those in the book, are more appropriate for a cover image and convey interest, sensuality, mystery and danger.

As in many of my art courses in college, we could go into lengthy discussions on silent messages, color theory, image placement, etc., and all of that plays a part in every aspect of design.  I’ve only hit the major points here, but I hope you’ve found it interesting.  And I hope you love the cover of FEVER as much as I do.

Now, I’d like to introduce New York Times bestselling author Pamela Palmer.  Since her debut novel in 2007, Pamela has published ten novels and one novella, her most recent, ECSTASY UNTAMED, releasing tomorrow with a stunning cover!  Pamela gives us her experienced view on the subject of cover design.

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Joan:  Pamela, did you have any influence in your early cover art? Did that change as your status as an author grew?

Pamela:  I’ve always had input, but I wouldn’t really say I’ve ever had much influence. In truth, at least at Avon, the editorial team, marketing dept., publicity, art department, etc., all discuss their vision for the cover, taking into account the author’s suggestions. But, ultimately, the cover is in the hands of the art department.

Joan:  What can you tell us about the process of cover art creation from your personal experience?

Pamela:  I’ve published with three publishers and each does it a little differently. At Berkley, where I published two time travels under the pseudonym, Pamela Montgomerie, my editor emailed me with a suggestion for a cover look, sharing the covers of other books that were similar. We went back and forth until we were both happy with the type of look. In both cases, the covers turned out very similarly to what we’d discussed. Avon requests my input prior to the cover conference I described in the previous question. Harlequin asks their authors to fill out exhaustive Art Fact Sheets from which the art department comes up with the cover design. Months later, I’ll get an email from my editor with the actual cover and it’s always a thrill. It’s often like seeing my characters come to life for the first time.

Joan:  What do you think constitutes a killer cover, from both a reader and an author perspective?

Pamela:  A killer cover has to be eye-catching, which is an elusive quality. Of course, what appeals to one person won’t necessarily appeal to another. Some prefer a sexy cover, others prefer romantic. Still others prefer pretty scenery. But eye-catching always wins the day. The cover of Ecstasy Untamed, which releases Oct. 25th, is bright pink with a gorgeous bare-chested man on the cover. This one definitely catches the eye.

Joan:  What is your favorite cover out of all of your work? Why?

rapture untamed pamela palmerPamela:  Oh, this is hard to answer. I’d have to say it’s the cover of Rapture Untamed, book four in my Feral Warriors series. I adore the black and white intensity, the hero’s hard expression mirrored in the face of the lethal black jaguar behind him.

Joan:  Do you think using the same font for an author’s name repeatedly builds that author’s brand for reader recognition?

 

Pamela:  I do think branding is important and the font is certainly a big part of that, especially if it’s a distinctive font. With my Feral Warrior series, I’ve been so pleased that Avon has kept the same basic cover look (the bare-chested male with the animal he shifts into somewhere on the cover). The titles, too, have all remained ‘Untamed’ which clues the reader each book is the next in the Feral Warriors series. I was kind of thrilled when this latest cover, Ecstasy Untamed, had my name larger than the title.

 

What is your favorite aspect of a novel cover?  Any comment or question enters you for a chance to win one of three Pamela Palmer novels and one of ten custom handmade FEVER bookmarks. 

Open internationally.

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Joan Swan is engaging in a  behind-the-scenes tour of what’s involved in getting a debut author prepared for publication. During week one, she talked about getting that call and all that goes into the submission process to make that call become a reality with guest Lauren Dane.  Last week, edits were the topic of discussion with Kat Martin.   You can find out more about the author and her debut book, FEVER, at her website  www.joanswan.com

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

97 Comments

  1. Danielle D
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 04:59:53

    For me it sets up the storyline of the book. I also get an idea of what the hero//heroine look like.

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  2. sandy l
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 06:03:53

    I really like cover that are unique. Man titty is not really a major draw me.

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  3. Sonya
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 06:21:01

    There’re so many man-chest covers out there that there has to be something special about one to make it stand out. These days it can be hard to tell the difference between what’s romantic suspense, what’s paranormal romance, and what’s just a stock standard contemporary.

    My favourite man-chest cover I’ve seen recently is for Cindy Gerard’s book coming out next year – Last Man Standing. It has the hot guy, but it also leaves enough to the imagination, and tells you immediately that it’s military romance. I love it!

    My pet hate with romance covers is that in contemporaries the heroes with long hair almost always have short hair in the picture – I loved Tara Taylor Quinn’s cover for Full Contact, except the hot long-haired biker hero was a clean-cut all American boy. Grrr.

    I hate seeing blond characters as brunettes too.

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  4. Susan Laura
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 06:36:37

    I actually prefer not to see faces on the cover because that allows me to keep the image the author creates as the only one in my head. I am also very drawn to bright color on a neutral background. A woman in a beautiful red dress on a snowy landscape, for example. That will make me stop and look in the book store far more than man titty. (as much as I do appreciate it!)

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  5. Virginia C
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 06:48:14

    Hi, Pamela! You have been cover blessed. How lucky for you that the covers for “Hunger Untamed”, “Ecstasy Untamed”, and “Desire Untamed” all feature the fabulous Paul Marron on the covers!

    I am a cover lover. For me a story is most enjoyable when the cover and back blurb match the characters and the story line detail of the book. It is very disconcerting to be drawn to a book by its exterior and then find that the content doesn’t match. That is a nightmare for authors and not enjoyable for the reader. However, that can be overcome by the skill of the writer in bringing the characters to life. I have read a few books where the appearance of the characters was never really mentioned, and visualizing them was based mostly on their words and actions. Sometimes this will work, but again, it depends on the skill of the author. I prefer to have a clear idea of the image of each character as I read along. Then the added personality elements as the story unfolds enhance the physical image of the character and allow me to really follow them as they move through the story line.

    I enjoy images of handsome men with strong, muscular physiques. Let’s face it beautiful men are…bodacious : ) Headless shots of terrific torsos can be drool-worthy, but they lack personality. I like a face to go with the physique. A face with some hint of the person inside.

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  6. Dana
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 06:55:29

    I’m not very particular about the covers but I do enjoy the art and sometime will even go to the artist website to see more of his work. In a continuing series I like that the covers are related somehow.

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  7. Angela
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 08:12:10

    For me covers need to show the tone, or mood, of the book. I want it to say something about what the book’s about, as it is usually the first thing that will make me pick a book up. Admittedly, a cover that doesn’t draw me will often cause me to not read the book.

    I’m not a fan of cartoony covers, though in some cases they work. I’m also not a fan of faces on covers, because it leaves it open for me to picture the character how I want (in addition to the person often looking nothing like the character in the book – though there are some notable exceptions).

    I like scenes more than just people on a background. Covers that play in the range of one color will always make me pick them up. As will dark covers – probably because it denotes that the book is dark in tone to me, and I’m pretty strongly into that right now.

    Covers that could double as art also draw me. Something I’d want to hang on my wall.

    I actually didn’t read romance for a long time because of all the scantily clad women and men on the covers. Are they nice to look at? Sure, but I’m not going to stare at them all day either, and they weren’t telling me anything about what the book was about – except sexy people having sex. I’ve learned to look past it for the most part. Just as I learned to look past the people on the cover and sometimes enjoy them.

    I’m a mess of contradictions in covers. I can say that I don’t like people on the cover in general, but some of my favorite covers have them – and used them extremely well. Sometimes it’s just a matter of what grabs my eye. I do prefer, strongly, that they are clothed though. Sexiness is more than a bare chest.

    Font is another thing that I like. I do like the title to be a larger font than the author name – though I understand why it’s sometimes the other way around. Some fonts fit the book perfectly. I do like the font, a lot, on the Fever cover shown above.

    Some of my favorite covers: Hounded by Kevin Hearne, Faefever by Karen Marie Moning, Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh, Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward, Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs, Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews, There are a lot more I’m sure, but they’re slipping my mind right now.

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  8. ms bookjunkie
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 08:41:38

    I have a soft spot for those ’90s covers that feature a ribbon, flower, piece of jewelry, castle, carriage or whatnot as the focal point. Because my parents never demanded to know what I was reading when a book had an innocuous cover. Those Fabio covers, OTOH, caused some “discussions.” Oy. *cringes in memory*

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  9. Liz Talley
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 08:48:35

    I’ve found that often an art department takes something that works (like flowing red dresses and bare chested tattooed men) and beats us over the head with it, so it’s always refreshing to find something different. I tend to like literary covers better than romance covers because they often appeal to emotion. I also like color…a pop of color always draws my eyes. Sarah Mayberry is blogging on the super loop today (oddly enough about covers) and she brought up how much her red umbrella drew the eye in The Best Laid Plans. I agree. It was a good cover, particularly for a Harlequin book which can sometimes epically fail in the cover art department.

    I have been fairly pleased with all of mine because the art dept got the heroine right which I tend to be like others and like the cover to reflect content. Hate when she’s blond on the front and then I find out she’s actually a brunette with caramel highlights. Feels like betrayal or something. I’m excited that Harlequin is trying something new with my books in 2012 – a panoramic shot of my three covers. When placed together side by side, they will make one big picture. Hope it goes well because I like that concept.

    Fun topic…and I love those bookmarks, Joan. Very classy :)

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  10. Avery Flynn
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:03:45

    Covers are such a key component to my buy decisions as a reader. They are what makes me pull a book off the shelf or click on it online. Well, that and the author name. Someone I love can have a butt ugly cover and it won’t make a bit of difference to me.

    From a digital first author perspective, I’m agog at the length of the timeline. Everything above is done with digital first also, but the timeline is compressed to about three months.

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  11. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:05:59

    @Danielle D: I agree that the images give you an instantaneous visual of the story’s plot/storyline. I love that as well. Images of the h/h are always a plus…though for me, I like to leave some to the imagination, so less is better.

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  12. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:07:37

    @sandy l: :) Agreed. While a nice body is always appealing, there are many other ways to get my attention on a cover.

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  13. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:09:13

    I prefer clinch covers for romance. Hero-only covers can be great, but they give me the impression that the heroine is a less important character. Heroine-only covers can signal UF or chick lit rather than romance.

    On Twitter the other day I was excited about a new Blaze with sexy outdoorsman cover, only to find out that the hero is a business exec. Letdown.

    Another type of cover I like in sports romance features a shirtless hero & the heroine wearing his jersey.

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  14. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:10:41

    @Sonya: That is a drawback of having an art deptarment try and capture a character…being a little off-track, and I agree as a reader it can leave me annoyed.

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  15. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:12:37

    @Susan Laura: Some of my favorite covers are the historicals for their vibrant colors and luxurious dresses — and yes, aside from the sensual posses :). I agree, Susan, the pop of color is an amazing draw.

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  16. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:14:19

    @Virginia C: “For me a story is most enjoyable when the cover and back blurb match the characters and the story line detail of the book. It is very disconcerting to be drawn to a book by its exterior and then find that the content doesn’t match.” Amen, Virginia. Well said.

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  17. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:16:33

    @Dana: With a background in graphic art, I definitely appreciate a talented artist and I agree with you Dana that when a series has a design change midstream, which I understand can be completely unavoidable, it throws me off stride.

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  18. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:20:05

    @Angela: “Covers that could double as art also draw me. Something I’d want to hang on my wall.” I feel better knowing this isn’t just me. :) You comment on font makes me think of a conversation I was having just last night with my critique partner, Elisabeth Naughton, who is designing new covers for rereleases. The three things that draw us in immediately: color, font and image.

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  19. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:20:51

    @ms bookjunkie: LOLOL, too funny.

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  20. Sarah J
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:22:19

    I expect covers to reflect the mood and contents of the novel. I really like ones with color and cool fonts. I’m also a sucker for pretty dresses. The man-titty covers are hit or miss, since some of them can be really embarrassing (The Spymaster’s Lady, for instance. It was like Superman forgot his costume that day). Also, cover models with long flowing locks and phallic swords are a no-go. I think my favorite cover of the moment is Charlotte Featherstone’s upcoming Pride and Passion. The autumnal colors are pretty, the heroine’s dress is gorgeous, and everyone has their clothes all the way on! The couple’s pose is suggestive but not too clinch-like. Awesome.

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  21. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:23:03

    @Liz Talley: Liz, I love that panoramic shot idea for the three books! Can’t wait to see how that comes out! And I too, love a color pop.

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  22. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:24:51

    @Avery Flynn: Yes, there is that whole timeline lag in print. :) Several rounds of editing, typesetting, printing…

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  23. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:26:38

    @Jill Sorenson: It is nice to see both h/h on a cover for just that reason — get the scoop on both at once so you’re not misled.

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  24. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:28:12

    @Sarah J: “I really like ones with color and cool fonts. I’m also a sucker for pretty dresses.” Oh, yeah…that would be me, too :).

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  25. RebeLovesBooks
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:09:55

    I have to admit that I really like my Kindle because others can’t see the cover of the book I’m reading! Some of the 90s and 80s romance covers were truly atrocious. I do like covers, though. I feel it’s very similar to “branding” – when an author has a series, I want the covers of the books in the series to be similar enough that I know those books are all in the same series but different enough that I can remember which book fits where.

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  26. erinf1
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:16:27

    Great post!

    I’d have to say that I’m a sucker for a good cover. It should be reflective of the book subject and tone, I agree. When I’m browsing in a store, I pick up books based on covers and then read the back blurb. I know, I know, judging the book by the cover and all that and what not :) But I also go by reviews and recs so often I p/u books w/ questionable covers too. The more original, eye catching, the more likely I’m going to pick up a book I’ve never heard of. I remember being at the bookstore one day and seeing a shelf full of UF/PNR and they all had about the same cover. The overmuscled guy in black leather with a sword and flames and etc. Or the Kick butt chick in black leather w/ flowy hair and constipated look. At the same time, I cringe at the cartoon book covers. I love, love , love Nicole Peeler’s tempest series but I hate the covers b/c of that reason. I also avoided reading HR for a long time b/c of the Fabio covers as well (and b/c my mom would have had kittens if she saw what I was reading). They’ve come a long, long way and are much nicer but the stigma still kinda resonates with me. That’s why I love the Kindle sooooooo much. Now I read anything and everything. HR, indie, self published etc. without having to worry about cheesy covers and people wanting to know what I was reading.

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  27. dri
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:18:54

    I’ll confess I have, on more than one occasion, bought a novel based solely on the cover. Just because the textures on those particular ones were so gorgeous, and the composition so classy. Now that I think about it, the romance novel ones in particular were all heroine-only in an absolutely sumptuous gown with her looking directly at the ‘camera’. I love the boldness of that, the unashamed female gaze of it.

    Admittedly, turned out every novel I bought solely for the cover turned out to be utterly awful in terms of quality so I can’t tell you how utterly frustrating that was. Naming no names but one novel actually actually was so execrable that the best thing about it Was The Cover.

    I still have that book. And not for the story.

    Having said that, I’m totally with everyone else on the sheer wonderfulness when the cover matches the story perfectly. That’s also why I have four versions of Jane Eyre. I couldn’t resist the Vintage Classics cover with the red wallpaper and the key hanging on it, just like I couldn’t resist the Pocket Bantam(?) one with the fleur de lis wallpaper and the black and white keyhole. And the Vintage Classics Wuthering Heights cover of the broken window? Brain blistering brilliance.

    One of my pet peeves is when there’s a glaring discrepancy. Like it’s always bugged me that the guy on the lovely lovely cover for Meredith Duran’s Bound By Your Touch — honestly, one day I swear I will make a comment on DA that doesn’t mention Meredith Duran’s books, I swear wholeheartedly — looks like he’s got darkish hair when the book is so vehemently clear that he’s this gorgeous golden blond. When I re-read it, I try not to look that high on the cover.

    *cough* Reading the comments to this post makes me realise I am so not a fan of the mantitty. I’ll accept it when it’s sort of partially hidden by either the heroine’s lovely gown or her back to me. But when it’s the forefront … well, frankly I find it a little insulting. Always makes me think “Look, man, just because I read romance novels doesn’t mean I don’t have class. Aiight?!” Especially when their boobs seem to be bigger than mine and I’m not exactly … well, you get the point. Urk. I always want to put a bra on them.

    Having said that, I really love the green and the black/white covers above. Such a lovely use of texture in the first, and the second one is so striking and elegant even.

    See, this is why I am resisting ebooks and ereaders of all kind. I love to be able to turn my wrist and see the cover, examine the details, sometimes feel the embossed font. And those half/half flap covers that used to be everywhere and now seem to have vanished? Good lord, how I adored them!

    Yeah, I have a sort of love affair with covers. *sighs*

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  28. Jamie Michele
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:28:29

    “Desire Untamed” is in the running for hottest cover of all time. Seriously, you have to see it in person. If I were Ms. Palmer, I’d have that sucker blown up and framed above my computer — or my bed. ;)

    Like Liz Talley, I like unusual covers. I tend to walk by the same-old, same-old, even if it’s well-done. Not that I won’t buy a book with a boring cover, but I won’t pick up a book by an unfamiliar writer with a boring cover (unless it has an amazing title).

    Jeannie Lin’s “The Dragon and the Pearl” breaks a few molds and in the process, makes me want to know more. I hear her mother wasn’t too pleased with the tattoos on the heroine!

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  29. Laurie London
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:31:31

    Interesting post, Joan. I’m fascinated by how art departments morph an author’s story into something visual that captures a reader’s attention and states the genre.

    @sonya My editor told me that the art department cringes a little bit when the story calls for a longer haired hero. Generally speaking, the male models with the hot bodies tend to have short hair. Longer haired models tend to be skinny, like they just came out of rehab (my words, not theirs). I suppose they could photoshop it, but based on some bad photoshopped covers I’ve seen, that’s not always successful. I agree that it’s frustrating when the description inside doesn’t match the cover art.

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  30. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:34:48

    @RebeLovesBooks: I love when a series has a similar look as well. I like being able to simply know what book goes with what series based on a style. And I’ll also admit to “hiding” a few covers behind a purse or jacket while reading in the past. :/

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  31. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:38:30

    @erinf1: “The more original, eye catching, the more likely I’m going to pick up a book I’ve never heard of.” I’m exactly the same way — sucker for great art. I’ve been known to buy many a new-to-me author for a great cover.

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  32. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:42:40

    @dri: LOL, Dri, I too have a love affair with covers. I always will and the thought of losing them with e is heartbreaking to me. The changing times…*sigh*

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  33. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:44:16

    @Jamie Michele: Yes, isn’t Jeannie’s cover gorgeous??? Love it.

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  34. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:46:36

    @Laurie London: “I’m fascinated by how art departments morph an author’s story into something visual that captures a reader’s attention and states the genre.” > Me too, Laurie. It takes a very special designer to get into another person’s head and a piece of work and come out with an accurate, creative, compelling design.

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  35. Gloria Richard
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 10:46:53

    Since I’m not YET at the stage where I face the thrill of seeing what clothes my “baby” will wear to the launch, the idea of letting go of that aspect is difficult. But, I’ve learned (from this post and others) that publishers and their staff know the market and know how to best sell a novel.

    I, too, am drawn to covers and I believe they (like the first chapter) make a promise to me that will be fulfilled in the read. Joan and Pamela, you both appear to have been blessed with a cover design that portrays both a HOT male and a clue about his character. I have a picture in my mind of my heroine/hero. Some authors do collages.

    I wonder how I’ll feel if the cover design for my book doesn’t match the heroine/hero who live inside me. GRATEFUL that I’ve reached the point in my writing career where I have to worry or celebrate cover art is the right answer. Good luck on both of your releases.

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  36. Kate Pearce
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 11:09:30

    What I’ve found over the years is that sometimes my first reaction to a bit of my cover art is ‘what were they thinking?’ and then I’ll talk to readers and they’ll tell me they picked the book up just because the cover intrigued them, so I’ve learned that most publishers know what they are doing-probably better than me.
    The most collaboration I’ve had with covers was from Signet Eclipse for the Tudor Vampires. The artwork they created from my input and their experience was awesome.
    I’ve also found in a series that the cover doesn’t seem to matter as much over time, as readers are already hooked on the content and don’t even notice the cover . :)

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  37. Na
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 11:40:12

    Although, a cover is what first catches my eye, it’s really the story lines that interest me. The blurb is what I really read and decide whether to reada book or not. Of course, it can’t hurt if it had a nice cover. That way if it’s between two books with excellent blurbs, the one with nice cover is going to pull me its way. The covers for Pamela’s books are quite nice, and different from book to book.

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  38. Ros
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 11:41:01

    I get that covers have to sell the book. But as a reader, I want them to sell *that* book. That is, I want to feel confident that what is depicted on the cover relates accurately to what is depicted inside the pages. When it doesn’t, I feel cheated. Sure, you’ve got my money by then, but you won’t be getting it again.

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  39. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 11:58:40

    @Gloria Richard: Hey, Gloria, thanks for stopping by! It’s an exciting time for sure! You’ll be there very soon!

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  40. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:04:37

    @Kate Pearce: Hi Kate, I’ve heard time and time again from readers that once they love an author, their book could be wrapped in old newspaper and they wouldn’t care. :) Congrats on your successful covers!

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  41. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:05:48

    @Na: Hi Na, Pamela’s covers are nice – dynamic and mysterious. Definitely draw you in! Thanks for coming by!

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  42. JL
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:05:59

    I like when covers have more details that one would notice at first glance. Little plot hints and important objects in the background and that kind of thing. I also tend to prefer muted colours instead of bold ones. I avoid man-titty like the plague. I was so grateful Nalini Singh’s Kiss of Snow had a dust cover I could throw out, but otherwise I won’t buy man-titty ever. Funnily enough, I actually prefer the headless syndrome. I like to have my own idea of what the characters look like and don’t want the interference of a distinct cover model influencing that especially when they look nothing like how the character is described by the author. That really bugs me. Sometimes won’t buy a book because I don’t find the cover model attractive and know I won’t be able to get past it. I also get irrationally annoyed when they change cover models half way through an ongoing series, to the point where I struggle with buying the book (I’m also the type who freaks out when things aren’t symmetrical, so make of that what you will…)

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  43. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:07:43

    @Ros: I hear you, Ros. I think the majority of readers are disappointed if they get into a book and find the cover sold them something different than what they got in the story.

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  44. Darynda Jones
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:08:00

    What a fantastic post! I love covers to much. From the cheesy 1970s romance covers to the sexy-as-heck, chesty covers of today. I love them all. I buy books based on the cover and the blurb all the time. That’s one way I discover new authors.

    Nicely done, ladies, and congrats! ~D~

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  45. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:11:41

    @JL: Hi JL…LOL, you’re sounding quite familiar. I’m seeing a few of my own tendencies in your comments – the irritation with inconsistency, need for symetry and balance. You brought up something I hadn’t thought of, but with intricate covers, I’ve found myself stopping in the middle of a story to glance back at the cover to see if a particular element is reflected there. Interesting and fun!

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  46. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:13:32

    Hey, Darynda! Thanks for coming by! Talk about great covers — yours ROCK! Really love Third Grave Dead Ahead. The color, the way they paired the sneakers with the dress…creative, fun and so very CHARLIE!!

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  47. Raonaid Luckwell
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:32:17

    Okay there are some man-chesty covers that make me simply want to cuddle and lick the cover. “Fever” definitely does (The tattoo helps) and Jaci Burton’s too.

    I “like” it better when they cut the head. I seem to be in the minority that prefers long, silky hair on a man. So when I see the full brooding face with military style cuts, it doesn’t nab me like the faceless ones. With those I can use my vivid imagination.

    Now I do not miss the days of Fabio * shudders *

    Larissa Ione has some awesome covers, and Heather Graham I love the scenery pictures that help “set the mood” to the books.

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  48. jennifer mathis
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:42:50

  49. Patrice
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:46:38

    I notice color and sharp, readable fonts first, then I like the artwork. Some of my favorite covers were ones for Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series especially Bone Crossed. That artwork is gorgeous, and it is so evocative of both the heroine and the world in the story. So I guess my favorite thing is when the cover reflects the story.

    I am honestly getting a bit tired of the overwhelmingly buff man covers. I’m sure they sell but personally I’m not impressed anymore. I absolutely hate cartoon covers and will not buy them even if it’s an author I like.

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  50. Gail Nichols
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 12:50:31

    I love a picture of the hero/heroine on the front cover that draws my attention to the book and if I get “hooked” in the first few pages I’ll buy the book.

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  51. Kelly Mueller
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 13:18:19

    Great Post Joan!! No need to enter me. I have all of Pamela’s books and already have a book mark..
    Just wanted to stop by an show my love.

    Kelly
    Books-n-Kisses

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  52. donnas
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 13:23:13

    The colors and images that are represented that once you read the story you can identify them.

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  53. julie barrett
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 13:32:18

    i like the different ones for sure. when the book tells of why the name of the book is important i also super like!

    Julie

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  54. Janet P.
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 13:40:15

    I wonder what it says about me that I don’t like man chest covers as a rule? Maybe it is just that there are too many of them anymore. Who are all these men constantly running around shirtless because I never see them around here.

    My favorite covers are the Patty Briggs Mercedes Thompson series and Nora Roberts (of course) always seems to get great covers. Jeaniene Frost has had some great Cat and Bones covers too.

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  55. Danielle W
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:25:49

    The man chest cover is not what draws me to a new book… usually I look for blurbs with the women on front or the highly emotional/significant to the story cover-art.

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  56. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:34:45

    @Raonaid Luckwell: Hey, Rachel. I’m in on that vote with Jaci’s covers…serious yum factor there. And I’d also vote for the cropped-out face, I like to use my imagination as well. Makes it much easier to apply the character’s features to the cover model. :)

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  57. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:35:36

    @jennifer mathis: Well and simply stated Jennifer. :)

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  58. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:37:26

    @Patrice: I’m intrigued just by the title of Bone Crossed. Going to be looking up those covers now!!

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  59. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:39:32

    @Gail Nichols: You can’t beat the combination of an awesome cover, an interesting back copy blurb and an intruiging first couple pages. Win-win-win.

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  60. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:40:02

    @Kelly Mueller:
    Thanks Kelly! xo

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  61. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:41:24

    @donnas: I agree, I love when the cover grows to mean so much more as you read a book. Somehow adds richness to the whole experience.

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  62. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:42:36

    @julie barrett: Hi Julie, I do love when artists come up with something fresh and different incorporating the book’s theme into the artwork.

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  63. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:44:38

    @Janet P.: LOLOL, Janet! You have me laughing. That is the second mention of Patty Briggs Mercedes Thompson series…interesting. They must be real wowzas. I do love Jeanine Frost’s covers. Unique and fresh.

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  64. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:46:02

    @Danielle W: I love the covers with the tough heroines on the cover, usually so arfully done allowing them to look strong and beautiful at the same time.

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  65. Rhianna
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 16:05:22

    This is a fabulous post! Cover art is very important to me as a reader and a blogger. An eye-catching cover can lure me into discovering a book I may not have noticed otherwise but I never really considered that as being what the art department would specifically desire.

    I’ve found that I love covers where the author has had plenty of input—specifically in the PNR and UF genres—much more. Authors know the details that fans notice such as the leather pants thing. Jenn Bennett’s one big thing I discovered was no leather pants on her heroine since the character would never wear them. The art department listened and her covers so far have worked well.

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  66. infinitieh
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 16:14:13

    Hi, Joan! Of course, for me, I like a hot male torso, especially of my favorite cover models. I don’t particularly like the recent move of historicals to a pretty woman in a scrumptious dress on the cover. I’m really unlikely to buy a book with such a cover even if I’ve been buying/reading the rest of the series.

    A big THANKS to Pamela for showcasing the three covers of hers that I love (because Paul Marron is on them)!

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  67. Nina Nakayama
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 16:50:52

    Hey Joan,
    Another winner of a post here! Like the majority so far, I prefer not to see faces because I enjoy imagining the face from the authors’ writing. I abhor discrepancies (blonde not brunette, etc.). By the by, how timely, Lori Foster also had a page about this as well: http://www.lorifoster.com/books/coverart.php Hmmm, I do find myself reacting to novels differently if the cover has: 1) a man, 2) a woman, 3) both, 4) scenery, or 5) some symbolic item. What catches my eye, what draws me in, and what makes me take a book home have a lot to do with a balance of both sides of the cover, front and back. There have been a few books that seem like night and day…those did not follow me home. Personally, I think art departments have a tremendous task on their hands and as the many, many amazing covers we’ve seen of late have shown, they handle this task very well. But, sometimes there is a disconnect. That’s tough because we know how much judgement of a book is based on its cover. Not that this is something YOU will have to worry about, my dear. Have I said how yummy your cover is this week? No? *gasp* In the case of FEVER, I’m glad to hear you felt a good connection between your cover and the story. Thanks for continuing to share all of these fascinating aspects of the pre-publishing side of things for us, Joan.

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  68. Kim
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 17:22:05

    I like to see some resemblance to the characters in the book. Unfortunately, many covers get the hair color wrong. I also like the step-back covers, especially if you have the headless heroines on the front cover.

    Paranormal covers are a little harder to have a firm opinion on, because you not only have to show the romance, but also allude to the sub-genre.

    If the book is by an author that I read, then the cover could be terrible and I’d still buy it. However, if it’s a new author, then I think a good cover is vital.

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  69. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 17:24:26

    @Rhianna: Hi Rhianna, glad you liked the post – thanks! A good designer knows when to listen to his or her client! And in Jenn’s case, they were right on target!

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  70. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 17:25:37

    @infinitieh: LOLOL, I looooove those scrumptuous covers…but I love a hot male torso too. :)

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  71. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 17:28:09

    @Nina Nakayama: You’re too sweet! Interesting…we authors must all be in some cosmic alignment, because there are a few posts on cover art up this week! :) A veritable virtual round table of experts! Thanks for coming by Nina! XO

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  72. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 17:29:53

    @Kim: Hi Kim, I agree when you get into subgenres or cross genres, it is harder to depict the essence of a book on the cover. It’s a little like summing up 100k novel in a two paragraph blurb.

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  73. Barbara Elness
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 18:59:18

    My favorite aspect is the overall look – it should all fit together with a font that compliments the art and should catch my eye. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hot man, a clinch, a headless couple, or a cartoon drawing, as long as it all works together to make a pleasing whole. It’s a good thing if the cover gives some indication of what the book is about, but I try not to let the cover influence me in any case, I’m more interested in what’s inside.

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  74. Maude A.
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 19:09:49

    For me the cover art is important. I hate when the cover art doesn’t match the story at all. The cover of Fever is totally HOT. Makes me want to pick it up and read it. How a cover looks is what initially draws me in, gets me reading it.

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  75. Andra
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 19:32:21

    I like it when I can tell what a novel is by the cover: couple embracing in period dress? Historical romance. Shirtless guys? Contemporary rom. (usually). Shirtless guys and animals in the background or hints of magic? PNR. It’s trickier when there’s only an image to go by (i.e. Hunger Games).

    That being said, I absolutely love stepbacks (a la Night Huntress). Public-friendly cover and ‘secretly’ hot stepback are my favourite, though there’s not a lot of those going around…

    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  76. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 21:12:09

    @Barbara Elness: Barbara, You’re every designers dream!!

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  77. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 21:13:16

    @Maude A.: Thanks Maude! I worked hard to make sure the story holds up inside as well. There won’t be any big misconceptions between cover and story. :)

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  78. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 21:16:03

    @Andra: Hi Andra, I think there’s an instant appeal to a cover that tells a story. And I agree, the cover is very important. Thanks for coming by!

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  79. Kaetrin
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 22:10:39

    I like all sorts of covers but generally, it’s not the cover which will lead me to buy the book. I very rarely browse that way.

    One cover I did like was the Julie James Something About You cover – I liked the story behind it. The cover had the heroine in a hot pink dress and Ms. James made a slight change to the story – in one scene the heroine had been wearing a black dress – she changed the colour. But otherwise, the cover (and the dress) was spot on.

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  80. JenniferK
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 22:14:51

    I agree that the book cover should display the mood and the content of the book. I’ve found that I’m drawn to covers with handsome men on them or they have an interesting scene with the characters involved. Thanks for the giveaway. I can’t wait to read your book “Fever.”

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  81. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 22:35:12

    @Kaetrin: I also love when the cover reflects something specific in the story. Thanks for stopping by Kaetrin!

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  82. Joan Swan
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 22:37:20

    @JenniferK: Hi Jennifer, I, like many, read for entertainment and escape. If I’m going to escape its going to be with a really hot guy. :) So, yeah, I like hot guy covers too.

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  83. Shannon
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 22:47:11

    I expect the covers to help me figure out what the book is about. I also expect the cover to be visually attractive and all the better if there is a half-naked man on the cover. =P

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  84. Leni
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 23:25:53

  85. DianeN
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 08:40:36

    I’ve found that I care less about covers now than I did pre-internet. I almost never impulse buy anymore, and even if a cover catches my eye I’m not buying the book until I’ve checked online for reviews, blog posts, author info, etc. Because I’ve been burnt in the past by covers that don’t even begin to relate to the actual book–inaccurate clothing, the wrong hair or eye color, etc.–I just don’t trust that what I see on the front of the book will match what’s inside. Like everyone else, I have my favorite types of cover images, but artwork alone will never convince me to buy (or NOT buy) a book.

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  86. Joan Swan
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 08:56:00

    @Shannon: Amen, Shannon! Amen!

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  87. Joan Swan
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 08:58:10

    @Leni: You must be a HQN genre reader. I know just the covers your talking about. There’s one out now with a hunk of a man holding twins.

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  88. Joan Swan
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 08:59:44

    @DianeN: This may be the way of the future with eReaders downgrading the importance of covers.

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  89. Victoria Zumbrum
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 12:30:39

  90. Chelsea B.
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 13:58:21

    I like covers that, after (or while) reading the book I look at the cover again and think wow, they really *got* it. Not just nice-looking for the sake of looking nice, but the cover actually ties in with the book.

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  91. Joan Swan
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 00:46:59

    @Victoria Zumbrum: You are entered, Victoria. Thanks for stopping by!

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  92. Joan Swan
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 00:48:05

    @Chelsea B.: I also love that Chelsea. Enjoy referring back to the cover and thinking…hmmm….

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  93. Joan Swan
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 01:10:28

    WINNERS Chosen by Random.org:

    Pamela Palmer’s RAPTURE UNTAMED: Rhianna
    Pamela Palmer’s HUNGER UNTAMED: Danielle D
    Pamela Palmer’s DESIRE UNTAMED: Gail Nichols

    Bookmarks:
    Diane N
    julie barrett
    Maude A.
    donnas
    Jamie Michele
    JL
    dri
    Gloria Richard
    Dana
    Barbara Elness

    Congratulations Ladies! Thanks everyone for all your awesome participation!!

    Jane will follow up with winners to get contact info. You can always contact me as well at joan @ joanswan . com

    ReplyReply

  94. Anne
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 21:51:17

    I try not to judge books by the cover, but when browsing in a book store – or online – the cover is the first thing you see. A “good” cover will make me pick up a book, read the blurb, maybe try a few pages out. A “bad” cover will make me skip right over the book for something prettier.

    As to what’s “good” and what’s “bad”… I guess that’s different for everyone! I prefer striking covers with clear title/author name, not too much pattern in the background or too stylistic a font. I’m not fond of “man titty” covers – I do most of my reading during my commute, aka in public. It doesn’t matter so much for my ebooks with the Kindle, but it absolutely does for paper.

    I do like the historical trend for women/couples with the partly-undone dress in striking colours, but again, those tend not to make it out the house so often. One of my favourite covers this last year or so is Laurel McKee/Amanda McCabe’s Duchess of Sin. And like a couple of the commenters above, I have a soft spot for the 90s covers with jewelry/scenery/flowers on the cover.

    I actually just finished Mercedes Lackey’s The Sleeping Beauty, which has a very nice (though very PINK) cover that I love… except for the fact that the heroine’s hair colour is completely wrong!

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  95. Joan Swan and Suzanne Brockmann talk about reader love | | UTILITY DOCUMENTSUTILITY DOCUMENTS
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 01:06:17

    [...] Week 3: Cover Art with Pamela Palmer [...]

  96. UTILITY DOCUMENT » Joan Swan and Suzanne Brockmann talk about reader love » UTILITY DOCUMENT
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 02:39:27

    [...] Week 3: Cover Art with Pamela Palmer [...]

  97. Anne
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 13:02:28

    I have yet to see a commercial cover for romance or erotica out there I really like.

    Most of them, including those shown here, are actually so heavy turn-offs that it takes quite some fast talking to get me to buy in spite of them. During the past years I’ve literally bought every book I bought AGAINST my severe dislike of the cover.

    I wouldn’t let a guy like this anywhere near my bedroom. They scream “too stupid to walk straight” quite loudly.

    ReplyReply

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