Ramblings from the Desert

The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. ~Benjamin Franklin

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Location: New Mexico

Author of the urban fantasy novel, The Music of Chaos, and the paranormal romance, The Canvas Thief.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Steroids in Romance Fiction (Covers)

Puttering around on the web, one link led to another and got on the topic of ugly or bad bookcovers.

Ran into these two Worst Covers pages--2003 & 2002.

This led to the Cover Controversy in Romance fiction (about half-way down the page). It seems some readers actually like the "clinch" covers. You know, the ones where the busty maiden shoves herself up against the bare chested, uber muscled hero? (Also on the same page is a link to best covers of 2003, which includes the winner in the worst category. Go fig.)

I'm on the "thumbs down" side. Honestly, I'm not sure I've ever read a book with a clinch cover all the way through. When I was younger (a lot younger), I do remember thumbing through them looking for the naughty bits.

Some people find reading a book with humping protags on the cover embarassing. I just find the covers unappealing. Since it's romance, we know the hero and heroine will get together. I don't need to see it on the cover. So much for sexual tension; there they are, going at it like crazed weasels on the cover. And...the men ick me out. My tastes lean toward tall, lean men, not Fabio types. A man with bigger boobies than me is a turn off.

Forget baseball. Congress should be investigating the overuse of steroids in romance cover guys.

But...in the artists' defense, the artwork on clinch covers is good. The people look like living people and the gesture (sense of movement and tension) is good. Unlike some covers put out by some electronic or small publishing houses. Note I said "some."

The trend for covers in these markets seems to be toward computer-generated people. Now many contemporary illustrators use the computer to enhance their work. Here's a how-to link from a favorite artist of mine. Interesting even for non-artists.

The stuff I'm talking about looks like something from a video game. The people are caught in stiff poses (terrible gesture), with strange, dead "Final Fantasy"/"Polar Express" eyes. The lighting is often weird, coming from impossible directions and the characters' skin is slick and shiny. I suppose some might say that the art has a "luminous" quality, but I find it more like "radioactive."

There are some good book covers that utilize the technique. But the best seem to stay away from portraying the characters and rely on atmosphere or symbolism. (The same can be said of covers from the big publishing houses.)

I prefer covers with crisp, professional [looking] graphics. Like some of the covers listed here.

It's all a matter of taste, though.

(The notion that book covers don't sell books is just, well...naive. While I will not buy a book based soley on its cover--it has to pass the first page test--the cover is often what gets me to pick it up in the first place.)



Graphics and Content Copyright © Patricia Kirby 2005