|You can tell it's a swords-n-sandals epic of vast deserts, clashing armies, and the ancient temples of dark gods, can't you?|
|To be honest, that works just fine.|
So I thought I'd write about what I, as a reader, like and dislike about book covers ... though I'm mostly going to stick to heterosexual romance/crossover genres just to keep it focused. It's entirely about my personal taste. And I want to make it clear that none of the examples I'm going to cite in any way reflect on the text content of the story within!
So here's what I hate.
- I hate anything that looks like it was photographed or painted back in the 1970s:
|Would you believe this was published in 2012? Sorry Madelynne, but I think this is the worst cover I've seen in a decade.|
- I hate bloated guys with hairless chests.
|"Gym Bunny ... standing naked in a tunnel. Huh?"|
FFS, grown men have body-hair! Fact! Baby-bald chests look preened at best, and downright stupid at worst. Over-muscled cover models look similarly artificial - and I don't want to read about guys who spend all their life in the gym in order to maintain a narcissistic ideal. I like muscle, but it needs to look like it belongs on a human being, not a bullock.
|"Oh god no. I actually feel embarrassed looking at this."|
- I hate (almost) anything with faces on.
|"Oh god, he looks like Starsky."|
I'm going to have to explain that. The problem with romance and erotic romance, in particular, is that people depicted on the cover are implicitly understood by the reader (though, Christ knows, not by the publisher) to REPRESENT THE CHARACTERS IN THE STORY. As a reader you're being told: "these are the people you will root for, and feel for, and fall in love with." Now, if I take one look at the cover models and think "Not my type," or "Ewwwww!" then no matter how likely I am to enjoy the written story, I have already been put off investing emotionally or financially in the book. End of.
|"He might be okay in ten years time. Ugh: she won't..."|
So if you are going to show faces - show partial faces. Leave room for the imagination!
So what do I like?
- It turns out that I like arty, but not painted. Digitally manipulated is best.
- I like books where it looks like the publisher and art editor gave a shit, and didn't just pull a stock photo out of a drawer.
- I like symbolic covers that leave room for the reader's imagination.
- I like eyes, and body-parts, but not whole faces.
- Unless you're really good, less is more.
Enough complaining! Here are some (mostly) genre cover pics I love!
|Seriously: great cover. Haven't read the books.|
|Text and marginal art, no central image. Terrific.|
|Hopefully Madelynne will have forgiven me by now.|
|Again - no face!|
|Technically a YA zombie novel with romantic elements...|
These two are examples of a genre-standard design type: the layered montage. Yet somehow - and almost uniquely - Tabitha Rayne has managed to get a look that's classy and expensive, and could pass for a mainstream historical novel. I can even forgive the faces.
And it's not actually romance, but ... I love this too: