While agonizing over what to title a novelette I’m editing, I took a break to clear my head and catch up on some reading.
This week I finished my friend Diane Benefiel’s contemporary romantic suspense, Shot Through the Heart. Is that not an awesome cover? It really says “romantic suspense”, “intense hot hero”, and “Seattle”–what, who and where!
I also finished a Regency romance, Once a Rake, by an author I met at the RWA national conference last year, Eileen Dreyer.
Two very different books by authors with different voices, and I really enjoyed both. When I went to post reviews, I stumbled across a one star review for Eileen’s book that made me do a double-take. To paraphrase, the reviewer gave one star simply because of the cover!
I quickly grabbed my copy and studied it. Yep. As the reviewer pointed out, the heroine of the story was mostly dressed in drab work dresses and never once in that beautiful red dress. In fact, the character who did wear red was a villainess. I noted also that the hero should have flaming red hair and be a bit more tattered than the man on the cover.
And I’m sure none of these are the author’s doing. Traditionally published book covers are a whole different animal than the covers commissioned by self-published authors, though the goals are the same: branding and sales. The above covers created by the publishers’ art departments do their job. Eileen’s cover may not match the inside of the book, but it screams Regency. Diane’s cover signals Romantic Suspense.
We instinctively pick up on Romance cover branding. Covers with shirtless men (or as I saw them labeled on a recent Facebook post “Dudes Who Lost Their Shirts” covers) mean a high heat level, until you reach the highest heat level of all, and then the publisher sticks a pair of handcuffs or a tie or something on the cover.
Publishers don’t necessarily match dresses or hair color to the story inside. It can be annoying to some readers, true, but mistakes happen, and what’s an author to do?
In Christina Dodd’s case, she took this famous 1993 cover of “the heroine with three arms” and turned it into publicity gold.
I noticed a more subtle publisher’s error (well, to me it was an error) in the covers of two books by Joanna Bourne. They used the same cover model, and almost the same pose, for the tall, powerfully built Grey of The SpyMaster’s Lady and the smaller, wiry Hawk of The Black Hawk. I know, I know, I’m being too picky maybe, but her writing is so good, the publisher should have expected fans to buy all her books and notice.
There are some small compromises in my book covers, but none that I can’t live with. I know what I like and not necessarily what the market calls for, so I surrender to the wisdom of an experienced cover artist!
What about you? Do mismatched covers bother you? Do you have a favorite type of cover, or conversely, a style of cover that you hate?