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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Going Under Cover

Some people may argue that today, in the age of e-readers, cover art isn't as important as it once was. I am quite firmly a Kindle girl, but for the most part, I still like the pretty pictures. That said, there are a couple of books I've read in the past year or so that I have NO IDEA what sort of covers they had. Did that detract from my enjoyment of the book? Probably not. Similarly, I've read some books that had either really simple or really...uh...unattractive/not anatomically correct covers. Again, I don't think they affected how I felt about the actual content. (For example: I loved Heather Killough-Walden's The Game, and that's some pretty basic artwork on the cover. I'll also argue that the dice have little to do with anything that actually happens inside.)

I write erotic romance. In my readings in that genre, as well as my participation in relevant discussion groups and online forums, there seemsto be certain elements that appear in most covers. Back in the day of the paperback "bodice rippers", the formula was simple: Pale woman with long, flowing hair and a low-cut dress clutches at or is clutched by a tanned, shirtless muscular man (also with long, flowing hair?) who is either brandishing a weapon, standing on a rock as waves crash behind him, or steering a boat. (Possibly all three of these.) It was so formulaic, my college friends and I even took the time to mock it on film back in the day.

Identities obscured to protect the overly silly.
Come on, you know they all looked like that. But you know, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you picked up a book that had people posing like that on the cover, you knew exactly what you were going to get. Inside, these characters are not going to be sitting around sipping tea and discussing quantum physics or the meaning of life. And if you picked up the book based on that cover, you probably wouldn't want them to.

Today, things are a little different. I know the "bodice rippers" still exist, and the covers haven't changed all that much. These days, actual erotica is a bit more mainstream, and those covers reflect that. Instead of the low-cut corseted dress, the heroine wears maybe just the corset and a thong on the cover. Instead of being on a ship being rocked by the turbulent seas, maybe they're on a bed with satin sheets. Either way, the end result is the same - when you pick up that book, you have a pretty good idea of what's going to be inside.

That brings me to the topic of my covers. Now, I had zero input with cover design (as is the case with most publishers, I believe), and there were some sleepless nights where I worried that I was going to hate them. My friends will tell you that my nightly mantra before the Searching the Skies release was "Please let her boobs look real, please let her boobs look real...." Let's take a closer look:

Fierce! (And real!)
I love this artwork. Even though the book is mainly about scandalous activities, this depiction implies that she is more than an object to be ravished. She may have her fun between the sheets, but she will also go out and shoot things in the face with that badass gun. Score!

Next up is The Edge of the Sphere. Again, I had no idea what the cover art for this book was going to be, and as I admitted on the day of the release, I was initially a little surprised:

What's inside the house in the woods? I'll never tell!
Ooh, mysterious. Without revealing too many plot details, both our main characters do, in fact, live in homes that look just like that. There's a certain dreamy, mysterious quality that reflects the tone of the first section of the book. It looks like the forest is filled with secrets. I like it.

With both of these covers, there's nothing about them that screams "THIS BOOK IS FILLED WITH DIRTY SMUT", for better or worse. Me personally, I sort of like that there aren't any scantily-clad lovers with their pouty lips parted as they delight in their passion on there. (Also, friends have told me that they like being able to read the paperbacks on public transportation without getting any odd looks.) However, it could be argued that readers looking for a certain kind of book might pass these over if they feel the covers don't reflect what they're looking for. Would I sell more books if the covers followed the trends? Who knows. But I'm happy that my characters are sealed inside covers that convey their depth.

(Can't post this without acknowledging the awesome team at Double Dragon Publishing! All the covers are amazing there, not just mine!)

1 comment:

  1. I also prefer this type of cover on a smutty book. There's nothing wrong with a more overt cover, but I do feel that this kind of packaging lends it a little more depth -- as if the publisher and the author (and therefore the reader) are aware that it's about more than just the sex. Though I'm sure all the sex is good.