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Covers, models and chest waxing

May 31, 2011

I’ve been thinking about covers a lot.  As a new author, the big first hurdle is getting people to pick up your book and try it.  When I saw the gorgeous layout Winterheart Design did on Life Lessons I did a little happy dance, because I knew that would be a big factor in making people stop for a second look.  I owe the art folks a huge thank-you for that one. (And thank-you, thank-you to MLR and Winterheart for showing me the first drafts of it and changing the first Mac, who didn’t fit the story, to the second choice, whom I totally fell for.  Letting the author weigh in on the cover is an enormous courtesy.)  Now as I put in the cover request for Breaking Cover I have my fingers crossed that they have more photos of those two gorgeous guys.

Because for me the cover of a book is pretty critical both in picking the book up to begin with, and in enjoying it completely.  I’m a little obsessive about getting things right. Even with some of my favorite books there is a niggling little voice in the back of my head that says, “Except she’s a brunette, not a freaking blonde”, or “Yes, but she has all these tattoos on the cover that she doesn’t actually have in the book.”  It doesn’t ruin the story or anything (I’m not that nit-picky) but I wish the artist had been given better directions.

And realism.  Even in wish-fulfillment light-weight romance (which describes some of what I write so I can call it that), let’s try to have a little logic.  I can’t pick up half of the historical romances out there, just can’t, because I look at a sixteenth-century brawny highland warrior with big muscles, long hair and a… waxed chest!  I’m sorry, the mind boggles.  All I can think is Fabio, and then I start laughing.

For me, photo realism or a well-done realistic painting makes me look twice at a book.  (I’m really hoping there isn’t a great book on my to-read list with a cartoon-style cover, because I may never get to it.)  I like angst in the books I read, and look for moody cover art. I picked up Tere Michaels Faith and Fidelity on the cover art and blurb alone, and got exactly what was promised.  Great book. But there are other great books out there with other cover styles. Tastes differ, I guess.

I occasionally wonder what the models for book covers think of the finished product.  OK, when you’re a model you sell your image and lose a lot of control over where it goes.  So do straight models ever catch sight of themselves on a m/m cover and think, “Everyone who buys that book is imagining me kissing that guy”?  Do they care, or just enjoy the fact that people are looking at their face and breathing harder?  With a painting of course, you’re not doing forced dating on your book cover. (Hmm, story idea?  Straight male model sees himself photoshopped on a cover with another hot guy, goes to his agent to complain but can’t stop taking looks at the picture, which he tells himself he bought just so he’d have documentation, of course.  And he wonders if the other guy is as…offended by this as he is, and decides to track him down and ask him…Hmmm.)

Anyway, as I pick through my to-read list, which is getting long thanks to the great reviews on Goodreads, I’ll be looking at covers.  And thinking about how a finished book is very much a group project and not a solo turn by the author. And mentally passing along a thank-you to all the people out there who contribute to our books, and get less credit than they deserve.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2011 9:05 am

    Speaking of covers, I just got done reading Suzanne Brockmann’s “Get Lucky” and found out that the earliest editions had one of the worst romance covers ever. The female lead was all wrong, and the hero, the handsomest man on the SEAL team, looked (as one reviewer put it) like a PUD. It was so bad, Brockmann had a repair kit: you sent her a SASE and she would send you a happy-face sticker with directions how to apply it over Lucky’s face on the cover. Which is pretty resilient and imaginative of her. Fortunately she was fairly established as a writer by then. The later editions were much better (and she already sold well enough to have later editions.)

  2. Riverbella permalink
    June 7, 2011 2:30 pm

    The cover is very nice and that does make a difference. I was just as attracted to the book (which I finished this morning) by the blurb. It sounded like my kind of story. And it was. In spades. Not only was it a great balance of romance and crime drama, it was a polished, professional novel (something I pay attention to because I do contract copy editing myself). Everything fit. The pacing was great. The plot was believable and consistent. The characters were vivid and sympathetic. And the romance was both sweet and hot. The hostage suspense at the climax was as suspenseful as anything I have read in (good) mainstream crime thrillers. I am very pleased there will be a sequel and possibly more. I like these characters and the way you write.

  3. June 7, 2011 4:07 pm

    Thanks for the good review. Sometimes I think the blurb is harder to write than the whole novel, so I’m glad it caught your attention. I’m having fun with Mac & Tony, so there will be more to come. (After all, in real life, especially with kids in the mix, happy ever after is a journey, not a destination.)

  4. Christie permalink
    June 9, 2011 8:59 am

    I must admit I don’t like the cartoon-style covers either and the blurb has to be extremely enticing to get me to explore any further. At least with an ebook you’re not constantly putting it down and having an unappealing cover staring back at you–yes, I’ve purchased various book covers to hide the offenders (and not just the cheesy romance covers with the wax-chested heroes and heaving-bosom heroines).

    Then it’s onto the excerpt. The thing I like about ebooks is that the publishers I look at offer the opportunity to check out the author’s style before purchasing and that can be a deal-breaker. The excerpt for “Life Lessons” really pulled me into the story and instantly made me want to read more. I have to echo Riverbella’s praise–I also like these characters and the way you write.

  5. June 9, 2011 10:11 am

    I’ve been thinking about that as an advantage to e-books. You can read things in public without worrying about what the nice old lady across the bus thinks of the two half-naked guys on the cover. And I love that excerpts are available, both for my own reading (so many books, so little time) and for my work when I don’t feel like the blurb says it all right. (Aargh, blurb writing. I just did the ones for Breaking Cover, and hopefully they convey the sense of the book but it’s not one of my favorite parts of publishing.) Thanks for the good words about LL.

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