I am one of those people who is obsessed with book covers. Bad covers are a particular pet peeve of mine. I know some people couldn’t care less what the cover of a book looks like, especially now that so many of us read electronically. And I will admit, now that I don’t have to worry about random folks the next treadmill over seeing what I am actually reading in public, it is less of an issue. But I must say that romance novel covers still make me crazy, primarily because many of them are SO BAD!
Ok, so the first thing that makes me crazy is when the people on the cover look nothing like the characters in the book. If the hero is blond and small, don’t put a huge bulky torso on the cover. If the heroine is described as slightly heavy with brown hair, don’t give me a waifish blonde. And the biggest offender, if one of the main characters is described with some sort of physically distinctive feature (tattoo, scar, eye patch, funky hair color), put that on the cover! With all the photoshopping that is done to these cover images, how hard is it to add something like that and at least give the appearance the cover has something to do with the book?
Which brings me to pet peeve #2 – interchangable cover models. I realize romance publishers put out a lot of books and the pool of models is apparently small. So I can even deal with the fact that the same models appear over and over again. Those of us who read a lot of romance will recognize our favorite models. Here is one I see all the time – the Pricks and Pragmatism guy (also known as the Slave Boy guy).
But the thing that kills me is when they not only use the same model, they use literally the same photo! This is my favorite example because not only is it the same guy in the same photo, one is a m/f historical and the other one is a m/m contemporary! That is a pretty impressive white shirt that it remains in style for so many years! (By the way, if you have not read Breathe by Sloan Parker, get that remedied right away.)
If you are like me and find this stuff amusing in addition to exasperating, check out the blog Stumbling Over Chaos. Chris does a recurring series called Misadventures in Stock Photography which shows a bunch of covers with the same model. One of my personal favorites is #87. I love the last photo which is the same shot we’ve seen over and over of the guy in the leather jacket with his head tilted. But the best part is they flipped the image and put him right next to another guy to try to make it look like he has his head on the guy’s shoulder. Kills me! It is SO BAD!
Ok, so why do I even care about this? It is probably partly because I do editing in my real life and I notice these types of details and inconsistencies more than most folks. I am sure it is also because I am a type A, OCD crazy person about certain things and for some reason this is one of them. But mostly it is because I feel like this lack of effort just trivializes romance novels. What other genre would use the same cover images over and over again on multiple books? It bothers me that publishers can’t make the effort to craft a unique cover, to care if the cover matches the book, etc. It is like they think every romance novel is interchangeable. Got a historical? Insert one woman in low cut flowy dress, one man in unbuttoned (but tucked in) white shirt, and you are good to go!
Now I will say I have seen some beautifully designed covers that wonderfully enhance the book. One of my favorites is No Souvenirs by K.A. Mitchell. These guys look exactly like they are described in the book, right down to Shane’s red hair and freckled shoulders. And the setting in the background perfectly matches the story. Not to mention the super hotness! And some artists do gorgeous covers time and again (Anne Cain comes to mind).
So just for fun, along with my reviews, I will frequently toss in my thoughts on the cover.
All right, what do you all think? Anyone share my cover fascination? Or maybe you couldn’t care less and think I am a total nut job? Feel free to share!