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Reader Roundtables, Part I – the Covers

I can't remember when Sarah and I first conceived the Reader Roundtable idea, but we have had a great time conducting these little events, first at Romantic Times and then twice (by accident) at RomCon.   One of the greatest things about having a blog is having constant reader interaction. It's one thing I like about twitter as well.

The reader roundtable was/is designed to bring that conversation from the internet to the physical plane.   Now I am going to give you a summary of what went on so that you can extend the discussion in the virtual realm creating some kind of Escher painting. I know. It's freaky.

First up was the issue of covers.   I always start with the covers because I feel like covers make such a big impact in buying decisions.   Maybe I'm wrong, but even now, I can be drawn in or pushed away by a cover.

Berkley Art Director, Rita Frangie, provided us with layered covers.   The point was to dissect the cover elements one by one.   I loved this and frankly could have spent all day doing this with a hundred covers.

I didn't take a ton of notes on this part as it was in the second session but a couple of things came out of this (and this was echoed in the first RRtable we did):

THREE COVERS

Readers want elements of the story depicted on the cover.   This means that the cover needs to tell something about the book.   In the Madeline Hunter cover, the dress told us that the story was a historical and likely a Regency.   In the Catherine Anderson cover, a reader said that it looked like it was a story set in a small town.   In the Between Friends cover, the readers said it didn't tell you enough.   For one, it looked like it was on a beach but the people weren't wearing beach clothes.   The image of the cover was confusing and too vague.   One person (Kristie J, I think) mentioned she liked Julie James' covers and the images showed kind of a flirty/fun story.

Another person mentioned that they liked Lavyrle Spencer's older covers but many said that they did not like scenery, but wanted people on the cover.   Scenic covers signal something more mainstream.   A couple of readers said that they didn't like stepback covers.   The insides are often tawdry and they rip easily.   I have some notation that says "manswear" but have no idea what that is about. Moving on.

Lion's Heat / Enemy Lover

There is a fierce debate between the headless covers and the covers with facial images.   I'm a big headless cover person.   My vision of what the characters look like never seem to match what is on the cover.     At RomCon, a number of people stated their preference for some face on the cover and one reader, Jennifer, mentioned that she gravitated toward a book that had piercing eyes.   The cover was Enemy Lover by Karin Harlow.   One reason readers gave for liking faces were that the faces conveyed emotion.   Another reader pointed out to me later that having the same model on all the covers ruined the fantasy.   Can Nathan Kamp truly be in every romance story?

One reader pointed out later that if a book has a headless cover and the hero has long hair, then there should be hair around the neck and shoulders.   (that would be kind of eerie).

Kristie J is tired of the man titty and the headless torsos.   (but you can be tired of something like this?)   Actually, I am not a big fan of the man titty either, but this is my exception which I suppose means that it is all about the execution.

The Perfect Play

One reader said that a single female on the cover indicated a heroine with a strong personality and she preferred softer heroines.

Archangel's Kiss

We then moved beyond images to text on the cover.   The first group weren't privy to the slide presentation.   The first group said that they liked cover quotes from authors because it served as an "If you like author A, you will like author B".   The cover quote was like an author recommendation.

cover quote

The second group said that the cover quote did nothing for them, particularly the cover quote on Between Friends because the quote was too generic and from an unknown entity. AKA who cares what Sun Sentinel thinks of the book.   The PW quote on the Hunter cover carried more influence with the small group and, in part, had more personality.

Readers who spend a lot of time on blogs probably know that cover quotes can often be just a friend giving a quote for another friend.   Authors, we rely on these cover quotes, so please be conscious of that when giving them out.

In keeping with the theme of readers wanting   more plot elements on the cover was the tag line on the Madeline Hunter cover:

One the readers in the room had seen the tagline, they were more interested in the book. I think SonomaLass said that she loved marriage of convenience stories (me too!) and thus the tagline would have spoken to her.

One editor shared that taglines were hard because the marketing department wasn't equipped to write them and editors ended up writing them.   Another editor mentioned that authors weren't as helpless as they made it out.   Authors can definitely make suggestions for back cover copy or tag lines or even the cover images themselves.

One reader commented that she would like the cover quote to be moved to the back because the front was too cluttered. Looking at the Hunter v. the Leigh cover, I have to agree.

Leigh v Hunter

That's what I recall about the cover conversation.   Tomorrow I will post about the content suggestions that came out of the reader roundtables.     Would love to hear your thoughts on the covers.   Do you agree or disagree with the points readers made in the roundtables?   Are there particular elements that you like/don't like? Let's have a virtual roundtable.

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

51 Comments

  1. Sami
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 04:44:08

    That truly is fabulous man titty on the Jaci Burton book. You’re right, execution is everything.

  2. Mezza
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 05:32:03

    This is interesting, I was looking at some of my romance book covers for a craft project and am finding that the modern covers have words or empty space or so much man titty that in fact the imagery doesn’t really transfer into another setting or another way of viewing the cover.

  3. Jane
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 06:10:44

    @Mezza I actually like the empty space. I think the Hunter one looks a bit cluttered compared to the Leigh one.

  4. Joanne
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 06:11:01

    A cover can absolutely draw me in to look closer but it’s the author’s name on the cover or the blurb on the back that makes my final decision about making a purchase.

    I would be appalled to see a cartoon cover on one of Robb’s In Death books but I would buy it anyway just as a cover with an image of a Rembrandt painting couldn’t make me buy some author’s books.

    I like a step-back cover. Lisa Kleypas has some gorgeous ones with a pretty scene on the front and something more ‘romance’ on the inside.

    Covers can call to me but it’s always the author or the story that puts the book in my shopping cart. The Blurb/Synopsis on the back cover is Important. Please take the time to get them right.

  5. Deb
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 06:43:33

    I love this “forum” idea, fun!

    I miss the cover art now that I’m reading digitally. Especially covers such as the Jaci Burton cover. Nice way to start the day.

    I can think of 2 books from authors I hadn’t read before, in which the cover caught my attention. I bought the books and they’re both 2 of my favorites. Gaiman & Pratchett’s “Good Omens” and Jenny Crusie’s “Welcome to Temptation”. The title of Crusie’s book also grabbed my attention. Without great covers, I might have missed them.

    While I don’t design book covers, I do design brochures, posters and the like. I pay attention more to color and font. The Hunter book for instance, is a knock out for color. A perfect red; rich, deep, on the darker side, does reflect the tone of the book. The fonts indicate historical. The “R”s in the title reflect an old stylized handwriting R. Great elements, detail.

    I no longer trust referring author quotes. I’ve read enough to understand that the author her/himself may write them. I ran into this with one book and found out later the quote was author written. The book wasn’t great and left me questioning the author who wrote the quote.

    I do pay attention to the awards, such as the RWA award mentions. I found Jo Beverly this way.

    I will cop to being drawn to the attractive male. I really don’t care if the model matches the description of a character; eye candy is always nice. Jill Shalvis’s cover for Instant Temptation is hot, and that Jaci Burton cover really does it for me!

  6. Jessie
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 07:04:02

    I agree with Joanne–I like stepbacks, and Lisa Kleypas’s books always have lovely ones. The reason I prefer about stepbacks is that I love the clench poses, but I don’t necessarily want to walk around in public with that kind of cover out for everyone to see. Clench poses always help me get into the emotion of the story, and they’re just beautiful to look at.

    I also like covers with close-ups of the sumptuous period costumes–another aspect of Kleypas covers, and a draw for the Hunter book. Again, they’re just pretty.

  7. donna ann
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 07:59:16

    I prefer the real sexy (get a room) clench to be on a set back rather than the front cover. Otherwise I don’t have any major preference or dislike as to the picture. I don’t care for the real busy look, a little empty space is good so you don’t become too overwhelmed. While I completely ignore author or other quotes on the cover, a tag line is nice and can catch my interest further. Like others, I don’t buy a book becouse of the front cover, but it may catch my eye so that I look at it further and not completely skip it.

  8. CathyKJ
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 08:16:58

    I agree that the Hunter cover is cluttered – it sort of feels like the marketing department is trying too hard. However, I find it funny that the largest bit of un-texted space on the cover is… the woman’s breasts. Maybe it’s not just mantitty that sells? :D

    I’m not really a fan of the oily man chest cover because it’s becoming quite generic. I’d almost rather a book with a solid color cover and the words “This Book Contains An Attractive Male.” At this point, it would probably stand out more.

  9. Verona St. James
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 08:27:14

    Yeah, that Jaci Burton cover is WORKING. Definitely be checking that book out when it’s available. Yum. Plus, I like football so…

    I have never really bought a book based on a cover, but it doesn’t hurt if a book has a good one.

    I actually did a whole huge breakdown on covers for a week on my blog a few weeks ago.

    For historicals, it seems like nowadays you either get the open-dress, bare back woman or the headless man-titty, and both have their drawbacks. I personally love what the Love Inspired Historicals do, because they’re very good at getting across the time periods.

    I get really mad when the character very obviously doesn’t fit the description. Like when a blonde hero is a brunette on the cover. I’ve heard the myth “blonde heroes don’t sell” but that makes me sad. :(

    I don’t mind stepbacks. I hate the landscape covers on Romance novels. It’s a story about love, not a manor house!

    I agree with the too cluttered comment.

  10. Jill Myles
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 08:27:28

    I have to admit that I love a stepback! It feels like a special treat for when I buy a paper book. I get bonus sexytimes art – works for me!

  11. Terry Odell
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 08:28:39

    I could only get to the first session, but really enjoyed all the discussion about covers (although, as was pointed out, the author is usually unable to control the final product).

    I’m also seeing a trend toward monochromatic covers. I refer to one of my releases as “the blue one” (and doing one’s own promotion–making flyers, chapter books, etc., really sucks up the blue toner!)

    Then again, I’m not much into buying books by covers. Authors and cover copy (not influenced much by author quotes simply because I’ve seen the man behind the curtain on how these operate).

  12. evie byrne
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:07:53

    Re: man titty, I’d just point out that one thing that makes it work is when the head is cut off via cropping out of the frame–as in the Burton cover. IMO its much more awkward when the head is mysteriously banished, as in the Leigh cover.

    Like others, I also love when the cover speaks directly to the story in some way, showing objects or specific scenes. However, this is rarely done well.

    Overall, I’ve come to understand book covers as marketing shorthand, and little else–a satiny prom dress = historical; floating animal eyes/heads= paranormal; bare chest = sexy. It’s a convenient shorthand, but boring. It may help shoppers recognize genre at a glance, but it also makes everything look the same, which may well promote reader ennui. It does in this reader, at at any rate.

    When I was a child I loved the covers of my favorite books. They held magic. I miss that.

  13. Lizzy
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:20:32

    I have to play the fan here and plug Kristy Kiernan’s book. It’s excellent. (Full disclosure, she’s a friend and fellow local writer here in South Florida). Not a romance, though.

    I also echo the commenter who said she loves a stepback.

    While I personally don’t mind the traditional clinch cover look that still seems to be hanging around on a lot of covers, I do think it’s time for them to go. I was reading a post on Jezebel the other day — they were eviscerating an old Catherine Coulter book — and I couldn’t help but feel that a lot of the prejudice towards the romance genre lingers because of the way the clinch cover has also lingered.

    I mean, I could see where it would be hard for the average, non-romance reader to believe us when we protest that romance has evolved since the hero rapist days of Coulter and Woodiwiss when the cover art looks so eerily the same.

  14. Jennifer Estep
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:20:44

    @Deb: Good Omens has a great cover. It’s been a few years since I’ve read the book, but I can still remember the cover.

    Covers can definitely make me pick up a book, but it’s the back cover copy that really sells me or not on a book.

    I generally like covers with a single striking image or colors that really pop on the shelf — simple, elegant, clean designs that aren’t too cluttered. I also hate it when strange colors are put together, like purple and orange, or when the background images look muddy.

    I can take or leave the man titty, but I do prefer headless heroes and heroines or poses where you don’t see their faces. As someone else said, the cover model never looks like what I’ve imagined in my head.

    I think Christopher Moore has some of the best covers around — simple, striking, often tongue-in-cheek images that tell you a little something about the book.

  15. Lindsay
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:23:53

    I second the person who said they like covers with a close up of historical clothing. It may not tell me much about the book, but at least it’s classy and pretty. I don’t mind covers that show the characters, but I prefer them to be clothed, looking like the characters they’re supposed to be, and not looking at me. That last one creeps me out in romance novels – it’s mostly the hero being all smouldering, except I rarely find the models attractive, and so it does the opposite of what’s intended. I agree with Verona St. James that the Love Inspired Historicals have very nice covers.

    Cover copy… I usually don’t notice author or reviewer quotes. Taglines can be nice if they actually tell me anything about the book (eg. that Hunter’s book is a marriage of convenience story). On the other hand, generic taglines just turn me right off. If I never see the words “passion” or “desire” or “danger” on a romance cover again, it will be too soon. The back cover blurb is the same thing. I want it to tell me what the story is about, not just how sexy these people are and how much they want each other. Mostly I want it to be accurate – misleading cover copy has nearly turned me off certain books, and if I hadn’t read an actual description of the contents somewhere, I would have missed out.

  16. Susan Reader
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:34:07

    A bad cover won’t keep me from buying a book by an author I like, but it often stops me from picking up something from a new author.

    I’ve never been much of a fan of half-nekkid man covers, ever since the days of the ubiquitous Fabio. Too often they don’t look anything like the hero described in the books.

    I think one problem with romance covers is the designs tend to get stuck in ruts. One publisher puts an oiled male torso on a cover, or a sweep of flowers, or a lounging woman…it catches the eye because it’s different, everybody jumps on the bandwagon, then all the covers start blurring together. Boring.

    But a good artist can do a lot, even with a stereotyped cover. I still remember the wonderful covers Allan Kass did for Signet Regencies.

  17. Michelle
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:51:25

    One thing I like is for a series to have a similar theme/look. I also don’t like covers too cluttered with the author quotes.

    I love covers that have an animal on the front. Puppies/kittens etc. I am a sucker for the animals.

    (I loved the back cover picture on Nora Roberts the Search.)

  18. Goosie
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 09:56:10

    I know that authors have very little say in who actually appears on the cover but it still annoys me when the people on the cover have very different features than the characters in the books. For example, if the heroine is supposed to be a raven haired beauty and on the cover, she’s blonde, that’ll bother me.

  19. John
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 10:42:52

    The Jaci Burton cover makes me want to watch football. Not for the sport. But still.

    I totally agree with those in favor of the Lora Leigh cover. While I love the red and the font, it looks to be a little much, and the Lora Leigh is like a reliever title. Easier on the eyes. Step-backs are also lovely for me. I love how they can easily hide some cover smut.

  20. Carly M.
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 10:51:49

    Can we throw in e-book covers to this discussion? I skim new releases on the websites of e-publishers I trust first by cover because they do give you a quick snapshot of the type of book and its contents. The quality of the art also gives a presumption of better writing. Beyond that screening decision, though, I don’t really give a thought to covers.

    Take the latest big name authors whose books I’ve purchased. Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn — their covers say little about the book, other than having a sort of classy patina. Non-threatening, light colors, not going to add or detract from the contents of the book at all. And not really going to affect my purchasing decision.

  21. Susan/DC
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 10:54:31

    Once again I’m the odd one out, as I thought the cover of “Between Friends” was beautiful. It reinforced the title and told me that this was probably women’s fiction rather than romance, a story about two women rather than friends-to-lovers. Since I haven’t read the book I could be totally wrong, in which case the cover doesn’t work.

    I think if I bought the Jaci Burton book it would soon be ruined by the drool. As another poster said, it’s better to have some of the head rather than none. OTOH, if I don’t find the model attractive, I’m turned off and need to expend psychic energy to ignore the cover each time I pick up the book and read about the suppodedly to-die-for hero whom I find offputting (he may be ubiquitous but at least I think Nathan Kemp is handsome; the formerly ubiquitous John DeSalvo may be the nicest man in the world but is not, at least to me).

    As for tag lines, “first time in print” is a non-starter. I know that people don’t want to buy a reprint by mistake, but it’s still taking up valuable real estate on the front cover and a cluttered look is not attractive.

    In the end, and again to repeat what others have said, I’d buy my favorite authors if wrapped in newsprint. Covers generally have an impact for unknown authors only. I’ve definitely avoided cheesy covers and picked up attractive ones. But I read a chapter or two before buying, because in the end it’s the words between the cover that count.

  22. eva_baby
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:12:47

    I admit I can’t stand oily man-titty covers. Seriously, Hate. but that Jaci Burton cover simply WORKS. And it would make me pick up the book where I otherwise would never do so.

    And it is not just because the guy has a great body, but because the of the composition of the picture…the glove, the football… it all adds context. Add to that, the pose, he looks a little angsty like he really needs me to hug him or something…or something. That is really quite a brilliant cover.

    I actually really love the Nora Roberts’ wedding series covers. Those books are just eye-catching especially the first one with the full skirted, white tulle dress and that beautiful sandal (and pretty pedicure). It really speaks to what you can expect in the story. Also, and the deckle edged pages and trade size of the book make it look like it would be a luxurious read.

  23. Janine
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:32:19

    @Susan/DC:

    I think if I bought the Jaci Burton book it would soon be ruined by the drool.

    LOL. He is certainly a hunky guy but I wouldn’t be 100% comfortable being seen reading a book with that cover in public.

    @eva_baby:

    I actually really love the Nora Roberts' wedding series covers. Those books are just eye-catching especially the first one with the full skirted, white tulle dress and that beautiful sandal (and pretty pedicure)

    .

    I think that was Vision in White. Gorgeous cover, I agree. I believe it recently won the contemporary cover category in the Cover Cafe contest.

  24. Janine
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:36:12

    @Lizzy:

    I mean, I could see where it would be hard for the average, non-romance reader to believe us when we protest that romance has evolved since the hero rapist days of Coulter and Woodiwiss when the cover art looks so eerily the same.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s true. In the 1990s, there was a time when covers moved away from the clinch, or at least, put it in a stepback behind a more discreet cover featuring inanimate objects like flowers or jewelery. But later the clinch came back, and at that time I remember hearing that it was returning for reasons having to do with sales.

  25. Maili
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:38:16

    My attention tends to be drawn to covers with different perspectives (I can’t think of any new ones right now, but old example: Lindsey’s Fires of Winter) or dramatic portrayals (think Meljean’s Demon Blood or Becca Fitzpatrick’s hush, hush). And also quirky covers like UK edition of Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation.

    So, covers with just oiled shaved male bodies posing as lamp posts and half-clad female models just lying there don’t do a thing for me, really. I’m sure there were exceptions, but I think I prefer seeing movements in covers.

    Fonts – I learnt to develop a blind spot, but it can be useful when browsing in a UK bookshop because it’s the easiest way to spot American romances.

    Author/publication endorsements – I rarely take notice of them. But hypocritically, I used to avoid if it had a mention of an author or publication I have little respect for.

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    Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:43:59

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  27. DS
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:47:31

    One problem with step back covers is in the paper choice. I’ve seen a lot of these books with damaged covers because the second cover page is lighter weight stock. The revealed corners are bent or the entire fore edge is creased over the heavier stock. Sometimes the lighter inside cover completely tears away from the spine.

    Don’t trust blurbs by other authors– been burned too many times. I’m looking at you Jayne Ann Krentz and Stephen King.

    I like eyes and there aren’t enough of them on covers– or heads. I also like rich, saturated colors.

  28. Maili
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 11:50:39

    @Janine: Thank you for that link to Cover Contest. I must agree that the covers of Jory Strong’s Ghostland, Nicole Cornick’s The Scandals of an Innocent, Eloisa James’s This Duchess of Mine (not keen on the stepback), and Nora Roberts’s Vision in White are awesome. None won, but deservedly nominated.

  29. Deb
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:12:54

    For those who prefer simple covers with lots of white space, the Twilight series covers come to mind. I thought those were stunning.

  30. Sunita
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:43:32

    I think the guy on the Jaci Burton cover is gorgeous and sexy, but am I the only one who thought m/m when s/he saw it?

    Oh, okay, then. (slinks off quietly).

  31. Jill Myles
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:45:08

    I admit I can't stand oily man-titty covers. Seriously, Hate. but that Jaci Burton cover simply WORKS. And it would make me pick up the book where I otherwise would never do so.

    It’s because he’s dirty. So, so dirty.

    *fans self*

  32. Estara
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:53:42

    When I browse for books I take science fiction and fantasy covers much more seriously as an indication of content than romance covers, with the possible exception of urban fantasy (like the Mercy Thompson, Guardians, Kate Daniels series books).

    There are some gorgeous ebook covers out there, too, and they seem to have more to do with the story, I feel, than printed romance cover novels (although there are exceptions to this from both sides).

    My favourite fantasy cover artist is Jodi Lee, who does pick up loads of the book content and merges it into the covers.

    Romance covers that have worked for me are the last two Guardian novels by Meljean Brook, the ladies really look like their descriptions (even the bust size on Rosalia is correct ^^ and her whole skin tone and colouration shows that she’s Italian).

    I love some of the older covers on the Silhouette collections by NR, especially the Stanislaskis, because they capture the spirit or the look of their protagonists well.

    An interesting cover can bring me to pick it up, but I always read the synopsis on the back, and in the case of unknown authors and printed books, I brows into the end of the book to see if I might like it. For ebooks I read excerpts or reviews of trusted reviewers.

  33. Janine
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 12:54:38

    @Maili: You’re welcome. I think Vision in White did win in its category. So did the Nicola Cornick cover if I’m not mistaken.

    I loved the Ghostland cover and was very sorry that it didn’t win.

    ETA: The page that shows the winning covers is here.

  34. Vi
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 13:53:35

    I am not a fan of man titty covers but I cannot stop staring at the Jaci Burton cover. This man titty cover recently caught my eye:
    http://www.laurendane.com/books/federation-series/phantom-corps-insatiable/

    This cover is deceiving because it looks like a contemp book cover when it is actually space fantasy-ish.

    Someone above mentioned monochromatic covers becoming a trend. Call me a fan of those . My recent face is still Sherry Thomas’ His At Night. I love the splash of yellow against the dichotomy of the title.

    I am also not a fan of the cover quotes. However, I think they are important for the readers new to romance.

  35. Vi
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 14:33:55

    I hit accidentally hit the submit button before finishing my thought.

    The cover quotes help the new readers because the names behind the quotes are well known. In a way, it’s kinda like if you like my books, you might like this.

  36. Shelia Goss
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 14:55:49

    Jane, as I mentioned in another post, you all did a good job with your presentation. I prefer a tagline either on the front or the back of the book. I love Madeline Hunter’s cover but agree that it is busy. In this case, the tagline could have easily been moved to the back cover and I still would have purchased the book.

  37. GrowlyCub
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 15:20:40

    I feel very lonely, because that Burton cover doesn’t do a thing for me. I think the guy is ugly (aka too much face, I guess).

    The Lora Leigh headless cover is really creepy. It’s one thing when the head is cut off by the edge of the page, but no head in the middle of the page?

    I mostly buy books in spite of their covers rather than because of them.

    Author quotes get cynical laughs, and are more often reason to put the book back down rather than to buy. I don’t look for a tag line on the front cover, as once a book is in my hand I turn to the back blurb right away – meaning I didn’t even know the Hunter had a tag line and I own and have read the book, lol.

    Overall, I like the Hunter cover the best, even though it’s got a lot of stuff on it.

  38. R E G
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 15:51:59

    Am I the only person walking by a book rack resisting the impulse to “zip up” those backless gowns on the historicals?

    Seriously people – those women are falling out of their clothes AND freezing to death. Sure the covers are pretty, but no one ever dressed like that on Masterpiece Theatre

  39. Linnae
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 16:02:02

    I’ve been a part of the annual Cover Cafe cover contest since the 2001 contest. There has seldom been a cover that everyone loved across the board. The basic rule of thumb on cover preferences is still the old adage, “What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

    Vision in White did win the 2009 Contemporary category and ran away with the category. The Scandals of an Innocent also won in the 2009 Two Image cover category. It had a comfortable lead over the 2nd place cover.

    If you see a great 2010 cover or even a worst cover, please visit Cover Cafe and fill out a nomination form.

  40. Grace Draven
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 16:10:05

    I’ve rarely bought a book just for a good cover, but I have not bought a book because of a bad cover.

    If I’m a fan of a familiar author who has a crappy cover, I’ll buy it and wince and wonder who the author pissed off to get such an awful cover. If it’s a new-to-me author, I’ll probably pass it by.

    I like stepbacks, but the interior illustration/photo is printed on such thin paper, it rarely survives intact once it hits the shelves. I saw a lot of this when I worked at a book store.

    The man-titty – sick to death of it. It was fine at first, but the market is saturated with it. It must sell well because we see a lot of it, but too much of a good thing…

    I will say the Jaci Burton cover is an exception, but I think that has more to do with the overall composition of the cover. The gloves, his posture…it speaks of some emotion; a little angst, a little seriousness. I liked it.I could do without the glistening oiled look though.

    I like the cover to reflect something of the book’s content. But something beyond the typical branding. I think that’s partially why I dislike the man-titty so much. A lot of times, it’s a headless guy’s chest and some text on the cover. This tells me absolutely nothing about the book.

    Like review ratings, author recommendations have never influenced my buying decisions. Even an author whose writing I adore may have reading tastes completely different from mine.

    Deep jewel tone colors or even strong, monochromatic designs always catch my attention. I may not like the Twilight books, but applause for the cover artist who understood the human eye’s preference for the black/white/red combination and exploited it to the nth degree.

    A good tag line will sell me faster on a book than an author rec. The artist Melissa Findley did some promotional art for me last year for a romance fantasy novel I wrote. She provided me with the tag line of “Feared by a Priesthood; Coveted by a God; Tempted by a Slave.” If only my publisher would have let me use that on their cover… However, I now know who to go to for awesome tag lines. :-)

  41. Karen
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 17:55:44

    I like men. I like looking at men, especially gorgeous men without too many (ok, any) clothes. If it weren’t for Fabio on the cover of a Johanna Lindsey novel, I would probably never have even picked up a romance novel, and just think what I would have missed! I only buy books with a good-looking man on the cover or stepback. If there isn’t one, I go to the library since it’s definitely NOT a keeper. I am not embarassed about the men on the covers and everybody knows what I read. I always have 3 books with me and I’m reading one whenever I don’t have to be doing something else, such as working, or eating, or driving (though I’ve been known to read while the light is red). If anyone thinks less of me because of the book cover, that’s just not my problem (it is so refreshing to be old enough to know that their opinion means nothing to me).

    That Jaci Burton cover is Scrumptious and oh-so droolworthy! It’s going on my list to buy and keep with my other mini works of art (aka, romance novels with good-looking and perferably shirtless men on the cover or stepback).

  42. Karen
    Jul 14, 2010 @ 17:57:07

    Oops-typo! That should be “preferably” in the last sentence (guess I got too excited thinking about one of them).

  43. KristiJe
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 07:20:19

    I really enjoyed the picture part of the workshop. I just with there had been time for more covers – a good reason for more reader focused events I think. I often buy books based on the cover but none of the examples you used in the presentation were ones I would have got. Now if you had used the Karin Harlow cover – that is one I would have bought on cover alone. In fact, when I was checking through some of the books I got at RomCon, that book was one I got and I was totally thrilled to see it. The chains, the sweaty body – but most of all, the piercing gorgeous eyes

  44. Jane Lovering
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 08:30:00

    I don’t mind how the cover looks, as long as it’s tasteful. Pastel colours, yep, oil paintings, yep. Even reasonably attractive man/woman in mid distant landscape, yep. What I hate is having man (or woman) titty shoved at me. It’s like someone saying “you MUST find this man/woman attractive! You MUST!” I don’t.

    Oh, and completely OT, is there a UK/US discrepancy with the words ‘clench/clinch’? As a Brit, what I see on some of the less-tasteful covers is a clinch, with a clench being something muscular you do when you fear the world is about to fall out of your bottom, or what your fist does when Katie Price manifests on TV for the 470th time.

  45. Teri P.
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 10:15:37

    I have to agree on the Nora Roberts covers. The Search picture on the back cover of Nora with the dogs was wonderful, which draws in all the animal lovers and matches the content of the book. Besides, she was due for a new picture. Same with her wedding series. The cover and inside fold remind me of a wedding invitation. The entire book is beautifully done. I don't often by a book for it's cover, but I just love to hold the wedding series books and admire them!

    The headless, shirtless cover model has been done to death. Give me a real man go gaze at, such at the cover of Sylvia Day's trade copy of The Stranger I Married. The little smirk and eyes are marvelous, and tell me this man is going to be a challenge to deal with. Same for Alison Kent's No Limits . That man could probably talk me in to anything. Last but not least, the cover of Karin Harlow's Enemy Lover. There's a man set on a mission if ever I saw one. If the book is half as hot as the cover, it's probably sold out by now.

    With eBooks, the covers sort of fall by the wayside, and I can live with that. I did buy the book edition of Enemy Lover because I had to – that man got to me. And I grab my Sylvia Day book when I am having a bad day and need cheering up. Heck, I should probably buy another copy of the book and frame the cover to keep on my desk at work! Guess it's fair to say I could care less about the woman on the cover.

    I do like the taglines. This would be the only other thing on a cover I would look at. As someone else stated, I like MOC stories and if the tagline indicates that, I would look twice.

  46. Jane
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 10:18:27

    @Shelia Goss Thank you for coming. Your contributions were great. I loved meeting all the readers (and authors wearing their reader hats).

  47. Maili
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:28:01

    @Janine and @Linnae Oops. My fault for skimming too quickly. Thanks for the corrections, and much appreciated. :)

  48. Lucy Woodhull
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 15:59:54

    I admit that I love me a cheesy clinch cover. LOVE. I buy old Fabios when I find them JUST BECAUSE.

    But I like a really pretty one, too. That “Ravishing in Red” is gorge, plus I like a marriage of convenience, so it’s sold now! Cover lines – they works, I tells ya.

    I like a cover like this one, too, for “Rebel” by Zoe Archer. Steampunk + kickass heroine = awesome. It’s different. Just like the cover for “Butterfly Swords” (our girl Jeannie Lin) is romancey but different.

    We should chat titles, too, at some point. I loves me a title that’s memorable. All the “Passion’s This” and “Chasing Lady” titles just mush together in my head. But “Seven Secrets of Seduction” sticks with me.

  49. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Pick a peck of peppered linkity
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 06:45:21

    [...] Dear Author reports back from RomCon on what readers think about book covers. [...]

  50. denise petrey
    Jul 16, 2010 @ 09:06:39

    I think covers sell. That said, I do like to get a sense of story from the cover, and to have the images convey a sense of character as well. So, headless, turned slightly away, or partially in shadow works for me.

  51. Rhonda
    Jan 18, 2011 @ 17:23:46

    Susan (comment #16) would like seeing my blog of Allan Kass’s book covers.

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