Monday, September 24, 2012

The Romance Cover Rut

Sinead's post on Friday and Smitten Kitten's comment on how bad the titles are on some romance novels made me think about titles in general and also covers and how deep the romance packaging rut is.

Now, it works. Right? To some extent is works. Art teams comes up with covers that attract the eye of The Romance Reader - I don't think the mandate for the art department is to gather new readers. there have been so GORGEOUS covers out there lately - I'm thinking of Meredith Duran's Your Scandalous Ways and Carrie Lofty had some total stunners - but they're romance covers.

You look at the covers of Meljean Brooks absolutely fantastic Iron Seas series, and they make me scratch my head. Trade paperback - which is usually the siren call for non romance readers, or at least the indicator that the publisher is going after that demographic - with naked man chest.

The success of Fifty Shades and Bared to You has unleashed it's own tidal wave of masculine covers that still somehow create the impression of intimacy. I loved the cover for Bared to You - but we've seen a lot of similar ones.

The last cover that really really worked for me in romance was that second Courtney Milan book with the hero staring off the page right into my eyes - can't remember the title, but that cover MADE ME BUY THE BOOK.

Now, I understand, I'm no longer the reader that buys according to cover, or back cover blurb. I buy strictly on author name and recommendations. So this isn't a fair assessment. But what about you? What was the last book you bought because of the cover? Romance or otherwise?


Stephanie Doyle said...

I am not a cover reader at all. In fact what's really embarrassing is more often than note I can't tell what a good cover is from a bad cover. I mean maybe if it was something really extreme.

I just am not visual that way. And given that all my purchasing is done digitally. The cover I think is becoming less and less important.

Where name recognition is now even more so.

Sarah said...

As a reader, covers used to be huge for me in all genres. However, now that I primarily eread, they're less of a concern. Good design (and by "good," I mean eye catching and unique with good quality imagery and typography--I'm so sick of every cover being nearly identical) still attracts me to a book, and will prompt me to give a book a second look. And, what I perceive as "bad" covers (same old, same old, unreadable typography, cheesy taglines, waxed man chest) will often turn me off of a book, unless it's recommended to me by someone whose opinion I value or I read a review that piques my interest. FWIW, as someone who reads lots of genres, I find the traditional romance covers off-putting. They don't convey anything to me beyond, "This is a romance! And one or both of these characters is very physically fit and deeply committed to personal grooming!"

I actually think the 50SoG inspired covers are kind of boring, probably because they're pretty similar to what's been going on in general fiction for awhile, but I do think the packaging that's different from traditional romance covers has helped those books grab some attention on the shelves.

Anyway... to answer the question: The last book I bought because of the cover was Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken (a YA), which, it turns out, was created from original papercut artwork.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great response, Sarah! I too am off put by most romance novel covers and as a result didn't get into reading the genre until I met this group of smart, talented women and realized what I'd been missing out on.
Still the publishers' marketing departments insist those covers work. the more man-titty, the more cliche, the more it screams ROMANCE the higher the sales.

Go figure.

I bought a small pile of books yesterday afternoon based on the covers... (mostly)

But they were all $1. I was at Toronto's Word on the Street and happened by the Harper Collins tent just as they were shutting down and the staff didn't want to repack any of the books, so they were selling everything for a dollar... I bought some I'd heard of but wasn't curious enough about to buy... but one I bought on the cover. I think the title was Quiver, but a quick glance on Amazon and I couldn't find it... Will check when I get home. It was a striking cover. Mostly silver.

Molly O'Keefe said...

For my fellow drunk writers who might not now Sarah, of the message on this post runs a book review site called Clear Eyes, Full Shelves (Can't Lose). That's right, book review and FNL! Check it out.

Eileen said...

I was bookstore browsing on Friday night and it was still author recognition that made me pick things up. I'm jaded, I guess.

Now wine, on the other hand, I buy based on pretty/funny labels all the time.

smittenkittenorig said...

I read across genres so I do respond to a decent cover (& title). If I'm being fair, the historical fiction is in a bit of a rut as well. For romance, I am inclined to agree with Sarah & Maureen regarding taglines & man boob. Those repel me & the only thing that gets me to give them another look is a rec from someone I trust.

The minimalist covers of the 50 & Bared series are aesthetically pleasing to me. I couldn't stand Twilight but I've always thought it was packaged in a tantalizing way. For me, I think less is more.

I'm a huge fan of Alma Katsu's "Taker" trilogy & those books have had some sort of cover schizophrenia. The first evoked a deep, dark romantic theme that the series has. The second book came out looking like a YA novel, complete with long-tressed brunette girl in long flowing gown & another with a brunette girl hidden behind a mass of feathers. I'm sure the second book sold more than the first but I was so put off by that marketing choice that I was glad I had an arc instead. I would be just as repelled by those covers as some cover with fainting chicas & man boob.
I don't know what the solution is to the unfortunate title problem.

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