Part of my love of romance novels is bound up in their literal bindings! Today I'm sharing some of my favourite covers and talking about what makes them so effective.
There's something about a really good romance cover that draws you in. Whether it's the cinch of the couple, the intensity of the colours, or the setting, romance covers are great marketing tools. You can tell whether a book will be sweet or sultry, contemporary small town or urban fantasy. And despite the saying You can never judge a book by its cover, we invariably do.
So is there a secret to a good cover?
I'm going to introduce you to some of my favourites, and tell you exactly why I think they work....
I have a real soft spot for old school Mills & Boon covers from the 60s. The rose in the top left hand corner, the sweeping brush strokes of the artwork, and the knowledge that the hero will be so alpha he's almost slipping into alphahole territory...
There's something about these covers that shouts romance to me in a way that Fabio never really did (Fabio covers never quite made it across the pond in the same way), and they're painted. I love romance covers that aren't just manipulations of photos. I think it makes them that much more magical...
The gorgeous illustrations that Julia Quinn's historical romances get in the UK editions, hark back to those old school covers.
The pastel colours and the watercolour artwork deftly highlights the fact that these are romances from a time gone by - perfect for a historical setting.
And they feel softer, somehow, than a photo.
There's a deftness to the simplicity that really appeals to me, and also makes them stand out on bookshelves that are often filled with harsher palettes.
But many contemporary romances are all about photos - and that's definitely not a bad thing.
Here, the connection between the hero and heroine is emphasised by their pose - something that evokes warmth, strength and protection, and the setting is clearly highlighted. Beach romance.
I'm also a big fan of how many linked romances, and romance mini-series, now highlight the fact that they're not just a standalone novel, with the series title being prominently displayed on the cover. It's a great way to tell your readership that there's more to come!
But not all contemporary romance covers are painted in pastel covers. The darker the colours on the cover, often the hotter the romance!
Alisha Rai's cover here, is a perfect example. We have a shirtless hero, up close and personal with his heroine. They're set against a black background, which makes the figures in the foreground pop, as well as intimating that this is a private, sensual moment between the two of them.
Not all contemporary romances focus on the faces of the protagonists though. Sometimes, as in this cover, we have a part of the body in the foreground, with more space given to set the scene.
I really like the contrast between the two heroes here - one clearly all suited up, and the other in scruffy jeans and converse shoes. The difference in status or outlook emphasises the characters' differences, and I think that's a great way to draw in your readership.
Then you have the urban fantasy novel, complete with shapeshifter lion. Note the muted colours and the post-apocalyptic skyscrapers in the background.
Also, the other giveaway that this is urban fantasy and not another paranormal romance, is the focus on the female character on the cover, as opposed to a couple. And she's badass, with a leather jacket, sword and jeans - all of which scream rebel and outsider.
This is the first cover to also have a quote from another author as well (Patricia Briggs being another urban fantasy author) - a clever way of connecting with a potential readership through a similar author.
And finally we come to the classic romance.
Yes, there are plenty of these which are essentially covered with old paintings from the time period that the novel is set in, but I'm a fan of the more modern takes.
This version of Persuasion uses the silhouette - a stalwart of the classic romance, but pairs it with the setting of the novel, and with a military uniform in the background (oh Captain Wentworth, how I love you).
It's a modern take that oozes class and manages to capture the muted and restrained tone of the novel.
What are your favourite romance novels covers? Do you base your buys on different types of covers? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!
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