Judging A Book By Its Cover

Whoever came up with the quote “Never judge a book by its cover” should have saved themselves the effort. ‘Cause, seriously, we all do it. There are SO many books on the market now. New releases and books that have been out for years. It would be great if we had the time to diligently read the backs, the book blurbs and the reviews. But we don’t have time. So the easiest way to sort through endless titles for something that looks promising to us, is covers.

I write small town contemporary romance. When I first envisioned possible covers for my Scallop Shores series, I thought I’d get something along the line of Debbie Macomber or Susan Mallery, a glimpse of the town, maybe a peek at the shoreline, that sort of thing. But unless you actually ARE Debbie Macomber or Susan Mallery, you don’t really get a say in how your covers are designed.

Crimson Romance told me they had a uniform “look” for their contemporary line. Okay. I get that. My first book, Drawn to Jonah, featured an okay looking guy with an adorable kid on the cover. He looked preppy and much older than the guy I’d written about. Not at all how I pictured Jonah, but this was my first book and I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted.

Pretend he's younger, bigger muscles and wearing a white t-shirt - 'cause he's a handyman.

Pretend he’s younger, bigger muscles and wearing a white t-shirt – ’cause he’s a handyman.

Five of Hearts came out and while again, the guy on the cover did not match MY version of Dean Patterson, this guy was pretty hot. Sales for FoH were doing much better than sales for DTJ. Was it the cover, or was it the fact that it was a new release? I needed more info.

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No doubt this guy is hot, but I was picturing longer, sun-bleached blond hair. But he’ll do. He’ll do nicely.

 

Two months later, Wynter’s Journey was released. The original cover they gave me had a couple embracing, and while that was great, the man was SO ugly I burst into tears upon seeing the mock up. They replaced it with a picture of a red head standing alone. I felt it did a much better job representing the story of a woman embracing her new independent life and all the choices that came with it. However, sales for WJ were dismal at best. Was it the story line or the cover?

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She looks confident, ready to take on the world. I had hoped that would resonate with women readers, but… not so much.

 

In the meantime, I was busy cranking out my next book, and didn’t have any more new releases in 2014. So I could sit back and study the sales without wondering if the order it came on the market had any effect. It became more than clear that FoH was the best selling of any of my books. By far. And to be honest, I think that story is the most “out there”, in terms of story lines. He used to be in a boy band, for crying out loud! I really didn’t think that would interest anyone but me. Go figure.

Then I got the cover artwork for my latest release, Trapped in Tourist Town. I cried tears of joy this time! It featured the lighthouse from the town I grew up in. This book was the nearest and dearest to my heart and the cover was the perfect representation of that. And people dig lighthouses, right? They’ll see that gorgeous cover and ‘one click’ like mad people, right? Wrong.

Maybe if I hadn't hidden his cute face behind a camera???

Maybe if I hadn’t hidden his cute face behind a camera???

January sales for Five of Hearts beat out the new release of Trapped. February sales beat it out by FAR. So now I’m convinced it is the cover of FoH that is selling the book.

And with that in mind, I will push for a hot guy on the cover of my June release, Always My Hero. Because readers do judge a cover. And in this over saturated market, I need to find a way to compete. Unfortunately, I’ve set a precedent and my sweet books just wouldn’t look right with a shirtless man (more’s the pity!) on the cover. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a smokin’ hot guy to play the role of Ryan Pettridge, ex-football quarterback and single dad. Let’s see if Ryan can beat Dean for top spot in Scallop Shores’ hottest heroes.

I've had this taped above my desk as inspiration for Ryan.

I’ve had this taped above my desk as inspiration for Ryan.

Jumping On The 50 Shades Bandwagon

Yeah, I’m not too proud to capitalize on a market trend. Writers have to do what they can to be seen in an industry as oversaturated as the romance genre. Right? Cool. If you’re looking for my opinion on FSoG (the book), that’s not what I intended to post about. Nor will I be reviewing the film (I have no interest in seeing it – no strong opinions, just no interest.)50shades

What I wanted to discuss is the spectrum – the wide scope of choices in romance that range from inspirational to erotica and beyond, and where I fit into things. Yes, I say beyond. There is 50 shades… and then there are the stories being published about dinosaur sex and unicorn sex. Seriously. It’s out there. And I think “beyond” is exactly how to describe that particular subgenre. *shudder*

Trying not to judge... but seriously - who reads this stuff???

Trying not to judge… but seriously – who reads this stuff???

Ever since I learned I was to be published, back in the summer of 2013, my RWA chapter mates referred to my books as “sweet”. “Jenn writes sweet romance.” “Oh, Jenn’s books are so sweet.” And while I never told them that, I found the term offensive. I write sex scenes. They’re detailed. There might be only one or two in a book, but they’re there. Legally, my publisher has to classify them as “sensual” to warn readers of graphic content. So how could my friends call them sweet?

Me... apparently.

Me… apparently.

I was recently asked to join a few other chapter members in a magazine interview that explored the romance genre from the writers’ perspective. http://www.theeastsidescene.com/news_features/290581411.html When I read the final interview, I realized the journalist did a great job choosing authors from a wide variety of subgenres – and that really gave the article an authentic representation.

This made me stop and think about what I write. Does it matter if I’m labeled sweet? If I am writing what I want to write, what I feel comfortable writing, then no. I read some erotica. I read m/m. I read menage. There are certain levels of heat or content that I shy away from. I feel like I should be up front about this because I made a vow (a New Year’s resolution to myself) to try to review every book I read this year.) So while it might look bizarre for a “sweet” small town contemporary author to review something out of her writing range, the author that was brave enough to write it still deserves a review that helps them reach their own unique group of readers.

Channing Tatum. Yummy, much?

Channing Tatum. Yummy, much?

Everyone has preferences. And everyone knows what they are willing to read and what is just too much for them. The great thing about the romance market is that there is something for everyone. And instead of feeling offended that I’ve been labeled “sweet”, I ought to feel confident that I have found my niche in this market. I need to embrace it and spend my time looking for readers who enjoy a quick sex scene or two, instead of a book that wouldn’t be complete without the hero and heroine hooking up in every chapter. To each his own. Let’s just enjoy the heck out of reading, in general.

What is your favorite go to in the romance genre? I *love* time travel romance and have to give major props to authors that can pull it off. That’s my guilty pleasure because I KNOW I could never write a time travel. I leave it to the professionals. 😉 Way to go, ladies (and men). Thank you for the countless hours of reading enjoyment.