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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The "Pretty Face" on a Book Cover

I freely admit that I check a book cover first before buying a book. I look at the blurb and consider if the book sounds interesting. Excerpts and reviews fall far behind the first two things I do before purchasing a book.

Ugly/weird faces/people on covers would probably not entice me to check further and not even read the blurb.

A "pretty face" can apply to both heroes and heroines. Images have to be enticing, likeable. And sometimes, there are no faces. Perhaps it's a cover of a place or thing. Or, it's a faceless torso with rippling muscles. Or bodies intertwined in sensual positions.

Not all those mentioned above will catch my attention. I want a "hero/heroine" visual; something to take residence in my head as I read the blurb. I'm more likely to buy books with "bodies/body parts" on the covers as opposed to places or things.

I made a mistake with one of my book covers in NOT asking for people on the cover...and it's my favorite book! Street of Dreams should have shown the hero and heroine. Instead, I asked for a "street" scene...and I think killed my sales. It received a "4" from Romantic Times, but has had the fewest sales of all my books.

And, it's the only one without people/body parts on the cover.

To the other extreme: one book cover goes beyond what I'd wanted and shows too much "body". This can be a "turn-off" for some is for me. Although not happy with the cover, Sexy Games sold better that the one shown above with no people on it.

I'm happy with my other covers...all have people on them and perhaps you can't see faces, but you see "body parts".

What do you look for in a cover as a reader? What do you ask for as an author?

Marianne Stephens/April Ash

Photos: Flickr: !borghetti, Skate-in, Corruptkitten, and Lord Khan's photostreams.


Katalina Leon said...

I will admit I've bought books simply because the cover was so interesting.
One of my least favorite book covers continues to sell well. I was convinced the poor cover would hurt sales, but it hasn't. If there's one truth about the romance genre it is people on the cover sell!

PaulaL said...

Body parts covers, I HATE them, hate, hate, hate, HATE them--they remind me of the splatterpunkish nightmares I used to have long ago. Body parts on a cover? My automatic reaction is to look away in 'revulsion, not look further at what's beneath the cover. I'll take a landscape anytime over a body parts cover....

Body parts covers unless the book is splatterpunk and has dismembered bodies in it, in addition to eliciting really horrible bad nightmare memories, don't tell me anything I as a prospective reader/buyer [speaking for myself here, not anyone else necessarily] want to know about the story, such as the setting, the plot, character information.... to me a good cover has insight into any or all of setting, the story plot, -who- one or more of the characters are and what drives them... a body parts or a generic here-are-a-mostly unclad-individual-or-couple-and-no clues-about-where-and-when-the-story-takes-place annoys me intensely. I want the cover to be illustrative, literally, about the story, and not be false advertising. Bad covers hurt books by misleading not only readers whose expectations of plot, setting, characterization, and content aren't what's in the book, but by misleading people who if the cover WERE an accurate clue to the book content etc. would have looked more closely at the book instead of dismissing it as "yuck!" or "This cover reflects nothing I am interested it" --or which unconsciously causes the person to ignore the cover and overlook it.

The change from science fiction mainline artists' artwork to romance embracing about to mate appearance couples covers, seem to be a main cause of at least one author being dropped by a publisher.... I showed the romancey covers to a bookseller in advance of distribution of the book with the cover, and his reaction was finger-down-throat gesture indicating that his customers who were buying the earlier books' editions, would not go for that type of cover at all...

Roxy Boroughs said...

I like something that's clean that gives me an idea of the mood or genre of the book.

Tabitha Shay said...

Hi There,
You're right, judging by the two covers you posted, I wouldn't buy either book and I highly doubt I'd take the time to even read the blurbs,(but that's just me). I detest street scenes and full nudity such as the cover you shared, however, I love hot, steamy and a flash of skin, but leave something to my imagination.I don't mind body parts, such as a cover that reveals the couple from the shoulders down etc., but I prefer a good shot of the hero and heroine as a couple or one or the other. I love background scenery such as mountains, etc. that gives me an idea of the setting. Now those kind of covers grab my attention and these are the type of things I usually tell my cover artist I want. TG, she's an excellent C.A. and gets me...Hugs...Tabs

Melody Simmons said...

This is an interesting discussion. I am glad to see that there are others that appreciate a good image of the hero/heroine on the cover. I have seen some comments from a popular ebook cover expert who denounces having a heroine or even a person on a cover! Apparently it interferes with a reader's imagination...Personally I love covers with people on them - it makes it - well, more personal!

I also feel that it depends on the genre - romance books look more romancy with people on them, but suspense or mystery books or horror books can often look better with no people. No people can create a colder and impersonal feel, which can be fitting to a certain type of book.

And those headless erotica books - well, what to do? Some are nice but because the market has been flooded by them it is becoming stale. For erotica though the body may be more important than the face. Some also prefer not to put any naked human on the cover (think 50 Shades of Grey) and I have heard it encourages women to buy erotica books without feeling shy (no one can see they have erotica on their screen).

Though generally I think there is a trend to moving back to the type of cover that accurately portrays the leading characters and environment rather than the cover being an abstract inaccurate sales prop.

It'd great to hear what other think...more comments please!

Melody Simmons

Melody Simmons said...

Ooops! I meant what "others" think! I hope the authors and editors that visit this site will not nail me for my grammar and typos...Oh, Marianne - I definitely think the first cover you have needs a face and the second one just needs a bit of adjustment - the man's butt seems to be the focal point...

Rose Anderson ~ Romance Novelist said...

Interesting topic Marianne. Covers don't draw me one way or the other. The title and the blurb/ back cover story info are what grabs me.

Johanna Lindsey had those wonderful "many faces of young Fabio" covers back in the day. Now she just goes with plain covers, even on her new books. Those Fabio covers have all been replaced in her re-releases with plain ones. Diana Gabaldon never had bodies on her Outlander covers, to my knowledge.

On a personal note, I have three erotic romance novels out now - Dreamscape and Hermes Online and both covers have semi-naked bodies. My recent Loving Leonardo has Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man on the cover and has outsold in one month what both of the other books combined sold in a year. To be fair the Vitruvian Man IS naked too but I don't think that's the draw. lol

Molly Daniels said...

I'm also a fan of tastefully done covers. Hinting at nudity is ok; but I don't want it 'in my face'. And I don't want any blatant nudity on mine, since I display my covers in public, family-oriented places and don't want parents shooting me angry looks as they whisk their children by, holding their hands over their eyes.

One of my books shows a bit more skin than I was comfortable with, so I asked my cover artist make me a PG cover for display purposes, and thankfully, she did:) But I don't want to take advantage of her kindness.

Rebecca York said...

Good topic. Yes, covers are important. I admit to sometimes picking a book because I like the cover. I've had several indie books out now, which gives me control of the cover, and I find it very difficult to get it right. Someone here mentioned "clean," and I try to go for that look. Not too much clutter. I've been trying for the look where just the hero is on the cover which is difficult because there aren't that many great looking guys to choose from--at least guys who haven't been used over and over. And then there's the nudity question. For DARK POWERS, I love the guy, but he's got a shirt on, which doesn't tell you the story is fairly sexy. I then started looking for guys without shirts, but I decided a couldn't do that every time. My new DARK MOON cover (which may not be on Amazon yet) has him w/ a shirt. I think the headless look came in so cover artists wouldn't have to worry about the guy's face. This adds another layer of what the author has to think hard about.

Harlie Reader said...

I'm completely turned off by the April Ash cover. I don't like nudity on a cover. For it screams porn and yes, I know its erotic but I don't need to see it in my face like that.

The second cover, I would buy. Since I know the difference between the two lines within that particular publishers, it reflects the line and its pretty.


Renee Vincent / Gracie Lee Rose said...

I'm with you Marianne. I don't care for blatant nudity on a cover, but I do like the obvious flash of male skin (say a chest, back, or rippling stomach.) I don't mind nature scenes without people on them, but I must admit I don't gravitate toward them when it comes to hooking my interest for a sale.

I've been lucky to have many great covers. I love each and every one of mine and with them out for the world to see, I still would not change them. Each one of my covers portrays exactly what I'd want from my books. I've been very fortunate to say the least as I know many authors who've been disappointed by their covers.

Great post and discussion. It was awesome to read everyone else's opinion on this matter.

Tina Donahue said...

I like the hero/heroine either embracing or kissing with a look of ecstasy on their faces. That's what gets my attention. I don't mind if there's only torso shots. One of my fav covers for my books is "Sensual Stranger". I really like it and from my sales figures, so did my audience.

BTW: I like the cover for Street of Dreams. It's beautiful.

Jane Toombs said...

I dislike ambiguous covers that tell me nothing about the book.Like your sreet scene, but I might pick up the book anyway. I do not pick up anya book that has too sexy a cover, like your second one, because that gives me the feeling the book will be all about sex and I like plot.I do like a cover that gives me some idea of what the story is about. For examle, my cover for Deception's Bride shows a young woman 's face with an older type ship behind her. This to me says historical, and if I like that genre, I'd pick it up. Since your street cover looks sort of mysterious, hinting at paranormal, I probaby would go so far as to read an excerpt to find out. But I believe I'm in the minority of those who are not attracted by a couple embracing--unless the cover also shows something else--like a old mansion in the background with a sinister look. Jane

Naomi Bellina said...

The scary thing about the cover is, most authors don't have that much control over what goes on it. If you have a good publisher and artist, you can give your input and end up with what you want. If not, you're stuck with what you get. Great discussion!

Rebecca York said...

The author has NO control over the cover unless it's an indie book. Then she had the job of figuring out what will attract readers to the book.

Liz said...

well i would at least pick up the book with the neekid man butt, however I am not sure I'd automatically read it. I don't buy books based on their covers, but on the blurb on the back of the cover. I have had more arguments and frustrations than I care to admit over this and now that I've landed with a publisher that listens to me I am taking all my covers in completely different directions sans as much body parts as possible. Now that I have a bit of name recognition I don't think it is as crucial to capture readers.

Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole Morgan said...

Wow.. interesting post, Marianne. Until you pointed it out to me I didn't even realize I very rarely will pick up a book if I don't first find the cover enticing. I'm a shirtless guy with fantastic graphics kind of gal. But, I'm thinking I may be hindering myself by not paying more attention to the blurb than the cover. You know what they say, you can't judge a book by it's cover. ;)

Carrie Ann Ryan said...

My cover artist, Scott Carpenter and I usually have this discussion:

Scott: Okay, I know the blurb, the way you think, so what do you want?

Me: For my Holiday, Books, keep it similar, each book has a Cooper Brother with the backdrop of Montana behind him.

Scott: Shirtless?

Me: If needed. Needs Pants.

Scott: And your other covers?

Me: I like guys on my covers, but if you can find a girl in stock photos that doesn't look like she's having sex, go for it.

Seriously, no nudity, no sex, no butts, no hookers.

That's our motto. I judge a book by its cover. If its a cute cover, I'll ask a friend what she thought about it. If its a fugly cover, I ask a friend about the content.

If its an author I love, I don't care about the cover beyond wanting that wow factor when they reveal it.

But really, no nudity, no sex, no butts, and no hookers.

That's how I like my covers LOL

Paris said...

I know what you mean about covers. My experience with this is that the book with my least favorite cover, has so far, generated the lowest revenue. So, it sort of lined up, lol!

Paris said...

As a reader, I look for a cover that conveys the mood of the book. Nudity doesn't really bother me but it doesn't necessarily make me want to buy the book. Being an author, I tend to ask for the same thing. I want the mood conveyed by the characters on the cover.

I tend to buy books based more on the interesting blurbs and excerpts. If the voice grabs me, I buy the book.

jean hart stewart said...

Another thing I've never quite figured out. One of my favorite covers hasn't sold well at all. I will admit it's pretty, but that isn't enough. My sexier covers do better. 'Nuff said.

Tracey H. Kitts said...

I always want the mood of the book to be hinted at in the cover. As an author under contract, that doesn't always happen. However, on my indie books, I take a lot of time and care in selecting the photos that I feel are right for the book.

Being an artist has served me well in that I can do my own covers for my indie titles. So far, readers have said they find them very appealing. They ALL feature the hero and heroine or both on the cover.

Personally, I look at the blurb as an afterthought. I have always been drawn in purely by the cover. If the cover is not appealing to me, I don't even read the blurb.

I like to see people, but nothing raunchy. I'm okay with some nudity, but no naked butts or breasts. I'm all right with the breasts being covered by a hand or something, so I suppose I should say no nipple. LOL I want the cover to look romantic, interesting, and sexy. I also like color. Something striking on sites like Amazon where a small thumbnail is shown, catches my attention more quickly.

Great topic. :)

Janice Seagraves said...

I like real people on the cover and not those weird CGI characters.

Lena Loneson said...

For me it's not so much about people or body parts on covers as about colours that appeal to me.

I'll definitely pick up a book with earthy colours -- rich earthy browns, dark leafy greens, deep sky blues, bright autumn oranges -- over any other colours. Reds, pinks, and purples, though they're certainly found in nature (particularly flowers) don't pull me in at all.

That, of course, doesn't help the author or designer at all -- because it's simply personal preference and what catches my eye.

Cara Marsi said...

I love the pictures you chose for this blog, Marianne. Very funny. Your cover with the house is beautiful. The hot cover is scorching. I think it's too graphic though. I like people on the cover too. I'll buy a book with a scene, like your house, if the blurb catches me. But mostly I look for people, or parts of people. I don't like blatant nudity. I'm getting tired of seeing men's torsos. I think the covers on some historical romances with the back of a woman wearing a beautiful gown are intriguing and definitely get my interest.

Marianne Stephens said...

Wow...I'm glad I asked for comments since there have been some varied ones!
Thanks to all who commented. Everyone seems to have a different slant on covers and what appeals to them.
The blatant "in your face" nudity of the one cover doesn't appeal to me...I like to leave that up to a reader's imagination! I asked for no total nudity and wasn't listened to. The pose is also "odd" and has nothing to do with the story.
The house/street scene didn't gain much attention, although it's the "book of my heart" and has great ratings. I think no people in it didn't appeal to many people.
Just my opinions...and thanks to all who gave there opinions!

B.C. Brown said...

I shy away from both kinds of covers - bodies/parts and street scenes. While I enjoy steamy sex scenes, I don't want that to be the reason for the stories. Covers that display the "sex" or body parts relate to me that the author focuses on the sex, not the storyline. On the other hand, a street scene, unless focusing on a particularly well-known address, tells me nothing about the book.

I enjoy people on my covers but want more of a "representative" scene for the story. Give me the hero/heroine but also give me something about the plot with them.

Out of the four covers I have, my most popular sellers are the three I have body parts on, however. But the fourth one (the publisher chose the cover as it's an anthology) has an unrelated "scary" woman on it - since it's a horror anthology. That one sells the least; the two with hands on the front, sell best; followed by the one with an idyllic scene and floating eyes in the sky.

But a cover is very impact to me. I prefer abstract covers that entice me to read the blurb to figure them out.

B.C. Brown said...

I meant "important" to me - not "impact". Sheesh. lol

Sandy said...

Interesting post, Marianne. I usually hope the cover gives me some idea of what the book is about. I think the reason my publisher is changing my book covers is because two of them didn't have people on them.

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