Even though many authors have some say in the lids slapped on their reads, almost every scribe you ask has a horror story about their Cover from Hell.  

Take as an example NY Times bestseller Christina Dodd's Milady Trois Bras, the unfortunate depicted on the front of Dodd's medieval romance, "Castles in the Air." As you can observe, for all her charms, Milady's a bit grasping, with one hand on terra firma, another at her right hip and still another clutched lovingly by her tempting Templar lover.

Yet Dodd's had myriad cover success stories since, and the majority of romance-fiction book toppers work because nobody in the industry knows how to move attractive reads to consumers like romance.  In addition to raking in $1.37 billion in sales in 2008 - the largest piece of the fiction pie -- romance fiction also was the top-performing category on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists.

That's a heap of lids in front of a whole lotta' eyeballs that make initial info-gathering judgments like so many of us: based on covers. So what covers are catching my notice these days?

Monica Burns' "Kismet," a lush illustration evocative of Burns' gorgeous Middle Eastern-set story of adventure and self actualization, especially in the art director's powerful choice of female-superior pose and sensual fabrics. The painterly quality of the piece creates movement and the palette and font choices intrigue.  "Kismet" deserves such a dynamic cover.

Anything but classic romance-novel cover, Charlotte Stein's "The Things that Make Me Give In" is stunning and alluring in its stark communication of intent to meet readers' expectations.   The bold photographic background and palette attract and attach the eye to the clean, crisp font and tagline, "Desires that remove every inhibition." The moist, open, feminine mouth is a dynamic, seductive image for the erom reader, a placeholder icon that promises what this book delivers: one of the sexiest erotic-romance reads of 2009.

Readers: What about a book's cover catches your eye and makes you buy it or pass it over?  Authors: What's your cover success story -- or favorite cover nightmare that you can talk about now w/out becoming apoplectic?

Check out Michelle Buonfiglio's take on romance fiction every day at BN.com's Heart to Heart blog and at RomanceBuyTheBook.com. Catch more of her Unabashedly Bookish romance fiction posts here.

0 Kudos
by Author BearMountainBooks-Maria on ‎11-10-2009 01:30 PM

Oooh, pet peeve topic of mine.  I don't mind the traditional romance covers--I think those are somewhat expected and just part of the history of the genre.  Are they overdone?  Of course. What I'm not so fond of is the "real" people photos--or the vampire type photos with blood dripping down fake teeth (charlaine harris' new covers come to mind--not that the old ones were that great either.)   It's one thing to have the half-photo/half drawn *almost* cartoon look of the older romance cover styles, it's another thing to have photos of real people half dressed in shadows (or giant lips as in the one above.)  I don't care much for covers that seem to be tawdry or just going for the She's NAKED! or He's NAKED!  look.   Romance or whatever genre--some cleverness and class is appealing.


On the covers in the fantasy genre, I've been known to complain heavily about women that supposedly fight in high heels or use swords while in a bikini.  I mean, come on.  No "warrior" woman is going to wear scant covering--no more so than a man would go to battle in his underwear.  I love and read a lot of Urban Fantasy--some of the best covers are ones like John Levitt's Dog Days or Ilona Andrews "Magic Bites," (Burns and so on).  Just imagery and decent photo shots.  I love Patricia Briggs work, but the cover to Moon Called (and so on) are just not something I want to pick up.  It took me months to read that first book because I didn't want to take a book with some half-dressed woman covered in tattoos onto a plane.  Not because I'm shy, but the book just looked...silly. SILLY.    I've yet to meet a female mechanic that goes around with her coveralls unbuttoned to her waist.





by Author Kate4queen on ‎11-10-2009 01:50 PM

I've had a couple of covers that have made me go 'huh?' , for example when the heroine on the cover is depicted as having highlights, mascara and a bra slip when it's a Regency. But I try and concentrate on the overall look of the cover and just hope to god that because its a series, readers will see the link between the covers and buy it because they just want to read on LOL

I"m not a fan of those pastel covers with the flowers and general non-offensiveness. I love Monica's cover for Kismet. It is old school with a modern twist.

Kate Pearce x

by Author PortiaDaCosta on ‎11-10-2009 03:25 PM

Oh, I still giggle when I see the three-armed lady cover. But I suppose, in a way, it's been good promo for the book as it's drawn it to the attention of lots and lots of readers. :smileyhappy:


I love the two other covers featured, both so different yet so eye catching. Gorgeous colour combination and sensuality on Monica's cover... and that startlingly erotic, but not explicit mouth on Charlotte's. Both wonderful examples of design that would definitely tempt me to buy, even if I didn't know already that the books they enfold are special treats!


Must admit, I have a little bit of cover nightmare of my own going on, although I'm hoping it'll be resolved soon. I've got a reprint of my book Shadowplay coming out shortly, and somehow, a lot of the online retailers have been sent a very early draft copy of the cover that has another author's name on it! I'm sure it'll be corrected in the near future, but it's a bit of a worry at the moment.

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎11-10-2009 04:37 PM

OOOOOHHHHH!!! WOW!! That's me up there! My COVER!! WOOT!! Thanks for putting the cover out there Michelle. Muwaah!  I love this cover. Like Kate said old-school, but not with the heroine on top. She's the one in charge. *grin*


I remember Christina telling the story of the three armed lady at a NJRWA several years ago. She said no one noticed it right away, and I could tell why. I didn't even realize it until someone pointed out the error to me. Something about wiring in the brain I think!! LOL


As for cover horror story. The only one I can think of was my cover for Love's Portrait. When I described the type of cover I was looking for, I mentioned I wanted one of those lounging odalisque type of covers, elegant and s*xy.  Scroll Down for Lovely Picture at this Link


What I got was something a little too brazen and not as elegant as I'd hoped. On the other hand, all my other covers from the same publisher were pretty good. Obession in particular caught people's eye and it was a beautiful cover.


And I totally psyched about my Sicari series coming up next May and Oct. We're talking WOWZA hot covers. Already had some readers comment they're buying the book strictly because of the cover.


So guess cover art has a LOT to do with the sale of a book. Thank you again for putting Kismet's cover up on the blog, Michelle. That was a lovely thing for you to do. Hugs, Monc





by Charlotte_Stein on ‎11-10-2009 05:37 PM

"one of the sexiest erotic-romance reads of 2009." Holy moley...I don't even mind if you didn't mean it- hearing Michelle Buonfiglio say that made my entire decade!


I'll echo Monica, too, and say thank you for putting my cover out there- and for the lovely comments on it! It was one of the main things I was worried about. You never know if you're going to get three arms or as Portia said, the wrong name. And then you get your cover, and there's months of wondering if people are going to like it, or if they're going to wonder where the cigar she's meant to be smoking is. And it can make or break a first time author, like me!

So this is all very gratifying to hear.


And thank you, Portia, for saying this:


"Both wonderful examples of design that would definitely tempt me to buy, even if I didn't know already that the books they enfold are special treats!"


I'm all a-flutter. Mega famous important people saying lovely things about my book!

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-10-2009 07:34 PM

Kismet has a gorgeous cover! Monica, the cover gods were with you!

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-10-2009 07:49 PM

I remember one cover that confused me - I think it was a Kresley Cole where the hero was badly scarred, and on the cover he is flawless.

by RoroRM on ‎11-10-2009 08:01 PM

Hi Michelle! Becke said you were blogging about covers, Monica's included, so I had to join the fun.


Monica! You know how much I love Kismet's cover. The fact that she's in the position of power drew me immediately.  I can't take it off my FB page.  And the Sicari cover--DUHROOL!  *cover envy* Can I have it?


But seriously, most of the time,covers pull me in for the sale. This scares the hell out of me because I'm awaiting my own first cover and I'm nervous I'll hate it. What if it's horrible?  What if I can't use it as my FB profile picture?  Friends, will you put it on your FB page if it's *gasp* ugly?  Gotta go have an antacid.

by Brandy_W on ‎11-10-2009 08:14 PM

I love Monica's cover. I know the first time I saw it I was drawn in. the colors are vibrant and the overall look is sexy and appealing. Its sure to drawn in readers. Covers catch attention good and bad. This is a great example of good.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-11-2009 09:17 AM

Hi, BearMountainBooks.  If you find one of those female mechanics, don't expect to get your car fixed anytime soon, cause the line of men in front of you will be wicked long.  I think you're among good company; so many readers find covers frustrating. On one hand, we love to ponder them and, if we're not e readers, many of us find a certain tactile enjoyment in them.  On the other, if we're the sort who want covers to reflect the novel's content, we can be crazed when the creatives get it "all wrong." Since I'm not much of a fantasy or UF reader, I'm really interested by your observations because when I look at the new UF and UF/romance covers, I wonder whether female readers find the sexy/strong/tough/tatted women depicted attractive and good placeholder material, whether they make readers want to buy the books. I wondered whether there was the same concern among those readers as among some romance readers about whether the covers didn't depict the sub-genre well,etc.


by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-11-2009 09:23 AM

Ah, the generally non-offensive cover, Kate! What about the real-estate covers that were so popular, with just a bridge or a manor house?  Remember when they were popular, yet covered wonderful, sexy historicals?  I like romance covers that are ballsy, like the genre, so I'd rather a cover be terribly "trite" or old-school, than inoffensive. Which isn't to say I want offensive.  I'd just rather not see covers be sanitized because folks who don't dig romance don't understand the genre, or folks who don't understand one sub-genre are offended by the way that sub is sold.  And your Simply series is very lovely w/the strong colors and silhouttes, btw, so the Cover Gods smiled.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-11-2009 09:31 AM

Yes, Portia, I hope all the purveyors get your "Shadowplay" release cleared up.  It's available here in the states as of today, I know, and I'm looking forward to it.  Yours, Charlotte's and all the Black Lace line have a very distinct look, just gorgeous, that consumers have come to identify with the BL style of erom.  I know they sell magnificently in the UK, and we in the States have come to love them in the past few years of the British invasion.  We're very saddened the imprint is closing, and are looking forward to following BL authors as you join new houses.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-11-2009 09:39 AM

Hi, Monica. Yes, there is an old-school look to "Kismet" that celebrates the style that we can be proud of.  and I've seen the Sicari, which are very hot, too.  Your point about your "horror" story reminds me that some e-covers are digitally illustrated, and in the past especially, sometimes the artwork was not as reliable or realistic as it is becoming.  That ws really unfortunate, especially becasue so much of e-romance was/is erotic, and it took away from the quality of the writing and stories of many e-pubbed authors writing erom.  Since I'm not a digital illustrator, I can't say why it happens, only that it's really unfortunate.  In the past, there were  covers I'd not have been able to post for some companies I'd written for because the lids simply were too risque for the general audience. I don't think that was censorship as much as respect for the ocmmon denominator viewing a news product.  If I were writing for a site all about erom, it would've been different.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-11-2009 09:43 AM

Welcome, Charlotte.  I think we all feel for authors on the cover sitch, especially when it's the debut of your stand-alone. I know you've pubbed lots of successful shorts.  And we can't guarantee that everyone will feelt he same about a cover, of course.  I knw sometimes I find a cover a mess, then hear lots of folks talk about loving it.  But generally I think romance publishers understand their markets, and, as I said, BL does really fine work for eroms.  Congrats on the novel, which is the most important part.

by Author Terri_Garey on ‎11-11-2009 09:48 AM
Oh, those fickle, fickle cover gods! As someone whose covers have run the gamut between cartoonish, to a lone woman (no tattoos, thank goodness!), and a lone shirtless man, I've learned that the author's vision rarely matches that of the art department's, even when the author is asked for their input. (I can honestly say that I've liked all my covers anyway, so I have no horror story to tell.) Monica, the cover for Kismet is gorgeous! Really beautiful, and I'd definitely pick it up and check it out if I saw it on the shelf or new release table. Congratulations! My personal pet peeve about covers is when I pick up something that looks like a contemporary, only to find its an historical. I love historicals, btw, but I want them to look like historicals! Terri
by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-11-2009 09:51 AM

Becke, I'm not sure I've ever seen a scar.  One of my fave 'you've gotta be kidding" stories was from Nita Abrams.  Her cover was gorgeous with a buxom blonde in a fitted emerald silk empire gown, looking like she's in the throes of passion, wind sweeping through her hair and a Corinthian in doeskin breeches at her side.  Nita says: My heroine's got dark hair and is a highly devout Jewish woman who never uncovered her hair and went so far as to kiss the hero once near the end of the book. Could they have gotten it more wrong?


Hi, Ro-Ro M!  Think positive thoughts!  I can't remember the last time I saw a truly "bad" cover.  And, really, have you seen what some people post on facebook?

You've got it, Brandy.  I wonder, do you still check out a book even if the cover's bad?  I know I do, cause I assume the story still is good...

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎11-11-2009 10:00 AM

Ah the covers of romance novels. And the genre wonders where the cliche came from "bodice rippers" and why educated women tend to hide their various and assundry titles inside, oh I don't know War and Peace.

Well I for one proudly display all covers of my romance read of the day for all to see, but that doesn't mean I always like them. I ditto the comments made where the cover doesn't depict the characters properly. I mean how hard is it to find a brunette model when the character inside the covers has brown hair and yet everytime you look at the cover you see platinum hair, or like where the character is scarred but the cover depicts him as not. Since I'm a reader only, couldn't write if my life depended on it, I don't feel the anger that you authors must feel when seeing your hard work abused like this.

But since I mostly get my new romance novels and authors from recommendations made by all my friends here covers don't usually make me choose or not choose a book.

But I have an idea, instead of having a book burning, let's have a lynching of those that screw them up!

Kudos to all of you romance authors who make my days a lot more bearable then they'd be without you!!


by PrincessBumblebee on ‎11-11-2009 02:57 PM

Hey, girls! How funny you are talking about covers. The always wonderful Nalini Singh just had her cover artist guest blog at her website yesterday! Fascinating stuff hearing about the covers we love straight from the horse's mouth, as they say, hehe. Oh, and her covers are just great! Especially the newest one in her Guild Hunter novels coming in February 'Archangel's Kiss'. Not only are they flat out awesome covers, but seem to be pretty spot on about the characters. Love it!

Becke, I think you're probably talking about KC's "If You Decieve". One side of his face is scarred but the side they show is not, just to clear it up! Love Kresley Cole and her covers are pretty darn awesome, as well. Especially her newest where the guy is tied up! Need I say more?

Indeed, covers are important. The only reason I bought Nalini Singh's 'Carressed by Ice' was because the cover was so gorgeous, not to mention the guy on said cover, and I just HAD to buy it. Those cover artists know what they're doing, hehe. At least, most of the time!

Monica, beautiful cover! Love the colors!

Oh, as for the one with the lips, if anyone doesn't look at that and think about sex, they must be living in a cave!

by Author BearMountainBooks-Maria on ‎11-11-2009 04:11 PM

Michelle, great discussion going here!


Many of the UF covers seem to go with the "half-dressed" theme that is quite common in fantasy covers (for females).  In general when I buy an urban fantasy, I'm actually much more interested in the mystery segment of a UF than the romance, although having both is fine (I prefer the focus on the mystery, which is why I read UF) 


There are those that are meant to be romance, mind, and I expect the covers to reflect that (and I do read those as well, but I want to know which is which.)


Where it gets confusing as a buyer is when you get what appears to be a paranormal romance...and it is in fact UF.  If the cover is too steamy and I'm looking for UF...I'm not even going to pick up the book!  I've heard a few readers complain about this as well.  From the cover, the two sub-genres are often impossible to tell apart, so we go with word-of-mouth. 


Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against romance--but the covers get so darn misleading at times (publishers trying too hard to "cross-over" to different audiences?) 


Another cover that I liked was Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series.  The cover pretty much depicts that you're getting modern UF.  Patricia Briggs  "Cry Wolf?"  Looks like a paranormal romance to me.  I *own* the book, but I haven't bothered to read it yet--and yes, because of the cover.  I keep getting torn with the "am I in the mood for paranormal romance?"  (And I do read PR and Romance.)  Then I look at the cover and I have no idea if it will be UF or romance or...and it goes back on the shelf.  Because I like Briggs' work I'll eventually read it, but the covers for her work lately have just been "off" for me as a reader.


Lisa Shearin has some good covers too--they are very reminiscient of fantasy covers and that is what attracted me to them in the first place.


I happen to like cartoonish covers (I read cozy mysteries quite frequently).  I love the original Elizabeth Peters covers, the original Janet Evanovich covers (with just the zany bullets or the almost cartoon gun and hte words/colors.)


Mercedes Lackey orginal covers for Jinx High and Burning Waters--Great covers (Those are UF).





by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-11-2009 06:19 PM

That's really interesting, Maria. I get a little disgruntled when publishers seem to dress one sub-genre in another's costume, as it were.  Sure, "genre blending" is sometimes unavoidable, and often by design, but I'm all for consumers understanding clearly what they're getting. Couple years back, some romance was being dressed as chick-lit or 'flirty' women's fiction.  And the opposite was happening, too.  Whether someone thought, 'hey, if one group of chicks dig it, all will, ' I dunno. But I felt it was confusing and romance readers didn't love it.  Same with sensuality content.  I think it's the Berkely Heat line, can't remember, but they have a cheeky 'warning" like, "Contains very hot material" on the back that makes it clear w/out being overbearing that the stuff inside is erom and super sexy.  But all in all, I really think the majority of "straight" romance covers work and help readers find what they like. The para and blended-genre ones really are making it a little tricky for readers, though, as you say. Glad to know it's not just me.


Those Lackey covers are great, I've seen them, and I think the Evanoviches are totally effective in the way you're saying.  I also like the fantasy covers w/the -- and this will sound silly and I hope not condescending, cause I don't mean it to be -- the elven maiden warriors and magickal stuff.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-11-2009 08:07 PM

Oh, I'm with you 100% Princessbumblebee -- I'm a huge Kresley Cole fan, and her covers are gorgeous. I must be remembering the cover wrong -- I just remember thinking, "Hmmm. So what about the scars?" Actually, I tend to prefer faceless covers, no matter how gorgeous the models are. I like to use my imagination!

by 1lovealways on ‎11-12-2009 12:54 AM

Hi Everyone!


Thousands of covers are what you see when you enter a book store.  Some grab your attention and some don't.  This can be a double edged sword, because although some books may not grab your attention by the cover that's shown, they can sometime be a diamond in the rough.  So, covers can sometime be taken only at face value.


I'll admit that I'm a sucker for a beautiful cover.  Vibrant colors that pop right out at me suck me in every time.  The cover that I'm in love with now is Nora Roberts Bed of Roses.  That is one of the most gorgeous covers ever!  I've read several of Nora's books, but I'd buy this book just for that cover.  I'd have to make an exception to my own rule where this book is concerned and buy it just for the cover instead of the content.  I still love the classic covers too.  The clench still makes a beautiful cover to me and with the updating of it, I think it's even better.  The heroine alone on the cover with a beautiful dress is just breathtaking!


The new trend seems to be covers with only the male model on the cover.  These are so hot and drop dead gorgeous that they just lure you in.  These guys are so buffed, beautiful, tatted and sometimes kilted, their hard to resist!  That guy on the cover of Highlander Christmas is to die for!  Being a lover of the Scottish hero, it doesn't take much to convince me!  This cover is oh, so hot!  If they had found a way for him to speak with a Scots brogue, it would be even better!


Even though these beautiful covers draw my attention, the synopsis on the back, is what forms my idea of how the hero/heroine is in my mind.  So, the cover has no influence whatsoever in that area.  No matter how many books I read, this still holds true for me.  Keep the beautiful covers coming, because they are definitely wonderful to look at!  :smileyhappy:



by Author Eva_Gale on ‎11-16-2009 07:32 AM

A lush,evocative cover will make me buy a book even if I've never heard of it. Yes, I'm THAT easy. :-) Something like Monica's or Charlotte's would be snapped up. Weirdly the nekkid man covers don't really do it for me. I'm much more into couples/women covers. 


The Heyer's rerelease covers are gorgeous, did you see them on the HQN site? Ohh you know who else gets AMAZING covers? Victoria Janssen. Moonlight Mistress and The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover.


I feel SO BAD for authors who get cruddy covers. It's like getting dressed up for a ball, but forgetting to get your makeup done. All that hard work and it (the book) goes out without a pretty face. 

by PrincessBumblebee on ‎11-17-2009 02:16 PM

Becke, I love those covers, as well. That way you can imagine exactly who you want. Sometimes the models dont' quite match up, hehe. Although we loves us some bare-chested mens!

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