Thursday, September 19, 2013

Groveling, Flowers, and Pearls

Romance novel covers have always been a little bit ... different. For years they mostly featured the steamy bodice ripper style paintings. I say steamy in a sarcastic tone. For the most part I never found those sexy. The heroine was always groveling at the hero's feet, billowy breasts on full display, while he clutched his sword manfully. Was she begging for the D? Was that what I was supposed to do? And why was there never a wind machine around when I had sex? It was confusing.
A sampling of old school bodice rippers. 

Then the genre moved on to pictures of things like jewels, and flowers, and silks. I thought those were boring.

In the early part of this century, romance novel covers started to feature bare chested men with only a portion of their face showing. I liked those covers. Karen Marie Moning's Highlander series were the first books I saw with that style. The bare chested man made sense. They're marketing those books predominantly to heterosexual females, so it makes sense to put what we like on the cover. And cutting off the face was also smart. I know for me that sometimes when I see an unattractive hero on the cover I put the book right back on the shelf. Taking off the face eliminated that problem.

So what do romance novel covers look like today? The genre is as vast as it ever was and there are lots of styles. But one that is pretty popular is the use of photos of seemingly innocuous objects that somehow manage to make you feel intrigued and aroused. Or maybe they make you go, hmmmm. For example, look at these two covers I found at Barnes and Noble.

At first glance I think, oh pretty. But then I wonder what the covers are trying to say. Pearl necklaces, being served as food and drink? Am I supposed to read a deeper meaning into that? Now I'm thinking this is weird and I don't know if I want to read it. But I know I will, I see them everywhere which means they're popular. And I am intrigued by those covers.

Other covers are down right scandalous. Mostly naked women bound with leather and ropes. And (gasp!) threesomes. I think this is a great example of what has become more acceptable in our society. Or maybe romance readers are all just freaks.

Regardless of the style, most romance novel covers all have one thing in common. Women are embarrassed to be seen reading them in public. Which means I have a dilemma. What type of cover should I choose for my upcoming book? Do I go for the scintillating image of a couple in a torrid embrace? A bolt of silk rippling across the cover? Or do I go with the deep thought image of an orchid blooming next to an erupting volcano? It's so hard to know what will be best received.

I think when it comes time for me to hire a cover artist, I'll do a survey to get your opinion on what makes a good romance cover. I'm counting on you to guide me right. Don't let me down.

*Books shown available at B&N, Amazon, etc. Give 'em a read!

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