Recently I started looking at novel covers with a whole new perspective, mainly that of an author versus a consumer. What cover designs sell novels and what do they say about the publisher’s understanding of readers?
To put it bluntly, romance novels are given some of the cheesiest and most stereotypical cover art in the industry. I know I can’t be the only reader that has passed up buying a new book because the cover was so “mommy porn” looking that I would be embarrassed to ever be seen reading the novel. Who wants to have to defend their reading choices to strangers? Unfortunately that is just what some of these ridiculous covers force the consumer into doing.
After doing some research I discovered a few important bits of background. Romance novels are often written at a higher reading level than say a spy novel or adventure series. I also discovered that not only do smart women read tons of romances (okay, I already knew that one, duh) but some super smart Ivy league PhD type women have penned some of my favorites. Which brings me back to my final ugh of the day, why can’t the covers be less cringeworthy?
Well, apparently the industry has determined that most readers want to be able to determine the basic time period and tone of the book by quickly looking at the cover. So if you love historical novels then you should be able to tell the period — regency, gothic, etc.– by simply looking at the cover costumes and architectural background. A certain color theme and image will also be indicative of the “heat” level of the story. Finally, elements in the cover allow the audience to determine whether or not is has a supernatural element, a dark side or is a romantic comedy piece. I wish the publishing houses would be a bit more creative than all that but it turns out that over half of the fiction bought is from the romance genre so something they are doing must be working. These two sites had an interesting take on the whole thing and are more than worth checking out.
And finally, for a humorous look at the whole cover thing check out this website: