Wearing my writer hat for a minute here, but this isn’t about me. It’s about the face of romance fiction, the garish and the glorious, the tasteful and the terrible, and everything in between. If you guess we’re talking cover art, then you are right.
Cover art comes in many forms, and pretty much everybody has an opinion on every one of them. Often, those opinions are not the same as the next randomly selected person, which can provide for some lively discussion, and, in the right combination, an enlightening education, as well.
So, where does my author hat come in on this one? Last night, a message landed in my and my co-writer’s in-boxes, showing us a proof of the cover art for our first co-written contemporary romance, now in the galley stages. For those unfamiliar with the term, a galley is the last chance to catch any errors the previous rounds of edits missed. This is where we find characters’ eyes that switch from blue to brown, mid-chapter, the hero’s brother being named one thing in chapter four, but another thing in chapter thirty-four, misplaced commas that change the entire meaning of a passage, etc. I’m talking the “let’s eat, Grandma,” vs “let’s eat Grandma,” kind of thing. Not the most glamorous part of the process, but trust me, it is essential.
Also essential, at that stage of the game, is a jolt of something fun and exciting. Cover art absolutely fits the bill. I can’t show it yet, but it is gorgeous, everything my co-writer and I wanted, and we could tell, right away, that was our hero and heroine, in exactly the scene from the book we’d told the artist about. The cover gods/fairies/powers that be have been very, very good to us.
Cover art has always been an important part of the romance genre for me. As an artist’s kid, I was hardwired for this stuff, right out of the box, but it’s more than that. Longtime Saturday Discussion readers will probably remember one of my earliest posts, where I shared my favorite romance novel cover of all time, Skye O’Malley, by Bertrice Small. The cover to the sequel, All The Sweet Tomorrowshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/624043.All_the_Sweet_Tomorrows, isn’t bad, either.
Neither, however, is by my all-time favorite romance cover artist, Elaine Duillo. No, she is not the artist for this new book of ours, as she is enjoying a well-earned retirement, but I have had the pleasure of talking to her, on more than one occasion, and can verify that this woman knows her stuff. Here are some examples of her work, from a career that spanned decades:
Covers have changed, more than a little bit since the glory days of hand-painted covers that wrapped around from front to back, and even had step-back covers with a special surprise inside. Okay, there are still some of those out there, but as the genre has exploded, and every book (even e-books) needs a cover, some things have to change with the times. Cover models, far from being out of work, are arguably in higher demand than ever, and the role of computers in creating new covers, and new types of covers, continues to grow.
Does this please every reader (or writer?) Well, no, because it can’t – there are too many kinds of us, from those who long for the good old days of tooled leather covers, to those who won’t be satisfied before covers are holographic and/or animated, to those who would truly be happy with a solid color cover with the author’s name and a tasteful title in generic font. Which one of those cover wishes are the most valid and/or appropriate for a true romance fan? All of them!
Whereas some outside the romance genre can name precisely one cover model. (Hint; he’s male, Italian, and has been retired from modeling for a couple of decades now) those in the know can sweep an arm, spokesmodel style, across any romance shelves, to show off a wide array of cover aesthetics, and a wide variety of models who appear on them…or don’t.
What? A romance novel without people on it? Yep. I’ve had two of them, so far, and they are gorgeous.
Adirondack chairs, high-heeled shoes, a lone pair of cufflinks, a paper fan, a sword on a swath of plaid, a castle in the mist, or a wild mustang rearing against the setting sun, steampunk gears, caution tape in the glow of flashing emergency lights, idyllic beach scenes, and other images, can let readers know, without a clinch, face, or torso in sight, what sort of story they might find beneath that cover, That’s useful when picking a book on the go, or even for a friend who might have different tastes than one’s own.
But what, you might say, about those covers? You know, the ones that we have nothing against, personally, but don’t want to haul out in front of our mother-in-law, boss, clergy, children, public transportation seatmates, etc? A person is entitled to read their book without having to fend off remarks about cover art by those who have no idea who they’re talking to, y’know. Oh, I do know, and I have been there, many a time. E-books are for sure a way to keep covers under wraps, and so is the act of, literally, keeping a cover under wraps. A quick search of Etsy will provide a literally endless array of custom book covers, which opens a whole new world of possibility.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. What sorts of covers do you prefer to see on your romance novels? Pull up a seat in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.