This past week I’ve been working with Rebel Ink Designs (http://rebelinkdesigns.com/) regarding covers for two romances from my backlist. Creating covers has been a relatively new experience for me. My first romances were published by Harlequin and the only input I had regarding the cover was a “Cover Art” sheet where I described the main characters and setting and suggested a possible scene from the book. What appeared on the book was up to Harlequin’s art department.
In the ‘80s the term bodice ripper was almost always used by the media to describe romance books, and most of the historical romances did have covers where an ample amount of bare breast (or bare chest on the males) was shown. My first two Harlequin Temptation covers fit the stereotype. With No Room for Love it looks like the hero is about to rip off the heroine’s blouse.
I don’t know if it’s true or not, but we (the romance writers I talked to) always figured the covers were designed to appeal to the marketing reps, distributors, and booksellers, who were generally all male. Or maybe the publishing houses’ art departments figured all women held the rape fantasy and would be enticed to buy a book that showed the woman having her clothes ripped off. Whatever the reason, most romance writers didn’t like the term “bodice ripper” and one of the initial movements by Romance Writers of America® was to stop the use of that term.
I can’t say we’ve totally succeeded in eliminating the term “bodice ripper” or the covers that perpetuate the idea, but covers have definitely changed over the years. Now if a shirt is being ripped off, it’s often being ripped off the man. Bare chests, ripped abs, and low slung jeans often appear on romance novel covers. Which, to me, makes a lot more sense since it’s primarily women reading romances. If I’m going to have a fantasy, I want HIM in it.
Many of the covers today play on the viewer’s imagination. Yes, we still have covers with the couple in an embrace with lots of bare flesh, but we also have partial images (waist down, shoulders up, just the legs and feet) and images of objects or settings (which, I assume, relate to the story). Fifty Shades of Grey certainly proved you don’t need a clinch on the cover to sell a book.
Nowadays, with most books being available in electronic form as well as paper, the cover design must be one that can be viewed postage-stamp size as well as larger. That means the title and author’s name, as well as the image, must be easy to read no matter what the size.
Large publishing houses may have an art department to create a cover. Smaller publishing houses and writers who self-publish must depend on independent cover designers. This creates the possibility that the image used for one book might end up on another book’s cover. Most independent cover designers go to the same on-line sites to “buy” images. I know I’ve seen the image used on one of my e-books on another e-book. There were a few differences (my cover artist for that book created a different background), but it is definitely the same guy in the same pose. And finding the right image isn’t easy. If we had the money to hire models to pose and professional artists to create covers from those poses, all would be easy. Instead cover designers must scan through hundreds of images looking for what they want. And what I’ve found, while doing this, is even though you might have hundreds of images, often it’s the same model or models simply taking different poses.
Anyway, this is what Rebel Ink Designs has created for Storybook Hero. I love it. What do you think?