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Cover Workshop > Romance Cover Questions

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message 1: by Laine (new)

Laine Belle | 1 comments Hi everyone,

I've recently switched from long-time ghostwriting to publishing my own work in the romance genre, and I'm struggling with how to approach marketing covers for my books. In the past, books I've ghostwritten have ended up with sensationalized, plot-irrelevant titles I never would have picked (not using real examples, but think "Five-Alarm Thirsty Firefighter," "His Throbbing Desire," etc.) and nondescript covers with generic shirtless male torsos or the same stock model couples undressing that I see all over every other book in the genre. Now that I'm writing on my own, I know that covers like that are not what I want. They seem to be the norm for the genre, though, and I don't want my work to not sell because my cover doesn't appeal to the conventions of the market. I paid for a freelance artist to design the cover of my current book, but I feel like it might not be sending the right message about my book either. Specifically, this book is an opposites-attract plot about a couple who get together at a 10-year high school reunion, and while I'm happy with the cover on a purely aesthetic note, I worry that its lack of overtly sexual imagery may be accidentally hindering its marketing by making people think it's a YA novel about teenage characters.

I've thought about a cover redesign that pulls bold symbols from the story - something like a varsity jacket or letter styled in a more sophisticated adult manner, the title done in a varsity font on a fake event banner backdrop - or uses imagery that splits the difference with overt sexuality, such as silhouetted bodies in an intimate position. I also have some ethical trouble with the idea of automatically assigning ethnicity to my characters by using the same handful of white stock models I see on every cover in the genre, but fear that avoiding this by varying the skin color of stock model chosen from book to book will only end up with people buying my books for racial fetishization reasons. In general beyond that, many of the models you see on book covers in this genre just don't actually look like the characters described at all or have anything to do with the tone of the story itself. Spending a lot of time being told by editors that my work "needed more alpha male drama" as code for "real men don't healthily express complex emotions"/"verbal and emotional abuse are romantic" is a large part of the reason I wanted to strike it out on my own in the first place, so I'd really rather avoid doing so only to continue reinforcing other similar tropes.

Then again, I'm aware that this is a convention of the genre, and I may be sacrificing significant marketability by not just giving in and getting over it and making my stories the best I can but not caring about what's on the cover. Have other writers in this genre had similar issues and found a happy medium to this somehow?

message 2: by Angela (new)

Angela Maher (angelajmaher) | 43 comments If you want to go against the norm of shirtless men, go for it! A different cover will be much more memorable among the forest of torsos.
Genre can be suggested by font, as well as imagery and the title. Red elements in the design can suggest sexiness. Definitely use images that reflect the story line, where you can, that will help readers looking for a particular sub-genre to find your book. If you use images of a person or couple, match the image to the raunchiness of the book. It might be obvious, but for example don't have a lingerie clad woman on the cover of a sweet romance, or a sweet looking, fully (and/or conservatively) clad couple on the cover of an erotic romance.
Romance covers don't need to be overtly sexy, especially if that's not the overall feel of the book. Match the cover to the mood, the genre, and the story. Selecting the appropriate categories and writing a good description will also steer the correct readers to your book.
If you feel the cover is too tame for the book, at the very least warn readers in the description that it is explicit, although it's true readers of hot romance will look for a raunchier cover.

message 3: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Pannetier-Alabert | 5 comments For my part, I like that the cover of a book evokes its atmosphere. A magazine photo only appeals to an erotic fantasy that does not make you want to read the book. You can use several symbols if the book is complex. Good luck

message 4: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Thatcher (jenna_thatcher) | 132 comments Ok, I absolutely loved your made up titles. I keep giggling - thank you!
Just some personal experience from my end:
I tried making my own cover for my romance novel that had nothing to do with shirtless men, and frankly I just sold more copies with an actual person on the cover. It's said that a man (shirtless) without a face sells best for romances but I just....couldn't. So I went with a girl and hoped it looked clean and wholesome but still interesting. And in the last 9ish months, it's done reasonably well, which considering my low online presence I would attribute to the cover/packaging.
I really really love the covers for Cindy Anstey's romances. Yes, I think they're billed as YA, but they could most definitely be adult. And frankly, I loved the cover so much of her first one (Love, Lies, and Spies) - coupled with the title and blurb I was sold. So yes, if you can at all go that direction, please do!

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