Thursday, September 27
I've always been attracted to book covers, most especially romance book covers :) What's not to love? After all it is a visual representation of the love story inside....that is until recently.
There is no doubt that Fifty Shades of Grey has been great for the romance & publishing industry in general, but it has also led to what I call "The unromanticization of the romance cover" with book covers that represent not a person, but an object, and I am very saddened by this trend. I know some may not agree with me, but I can't help it. I hope with all my heart this trend dies a quick death. Let me explain.
Because of the success of Fifty Shades, publishers have been scrambling to redo book covers to give them a "look" that doesn't say "Hey I'm a romance book", but is instead a visual, "If you liked that, then you'll like this too, so buy it!". The Fifty Shades covers are a lessen in less is more, much like the original Twilight series. And I am sure this was no mistake.
The Twilight covers focused usually on one object that had a tie in to the story, as well as featuring a prominent color (red) against a dark background.
Then we have the Fifty Shades covers. Again featuring one object, significant to the story, and a prominent color, this time in a gray blue....for obvious reasons. I've done some searches to try and see if the book covers were changed when they were acquired by the larger publishers (as often happens), but I've never been able to locate an alternate cover from the original publisher which leads me to believe that this is the look they gave the books originally. I could be wrong about that, regardless though I think it was a brilliant way to market these books considering it's origins, and frankly very economical.
It's kind of hard to argue with that kind of success. You have a series that is wildly popular and has been made into blockbuster movies, and you have a derivative of that that was also HUGELY successful so why not ride on it's coattails? I guess it should come as no surprise that this recipe for success is being replicated by publishers left and right...and backwards.
The first book that I noticed to get the Fifty Shades makeover, much to my disappointment, was Bared to You by Sylvia Day. Keep in mind that Ms. Day's book was already a very successful seller before being acquired by a NY publisher and given a new cover. So it's not that it's sales weren't good.
I for one really loved the first cover. I loved the colors, the visual representation and the fonts. I thought it was a stunner! I'd click on that one again and again to read more about it. The new one....I'm ambivalent towards. Nothing about cufflinks says "Romance" to me. But obviously it's not a far jump from the Fifty Shades tie cover to the cufflink cover. Still I would probably pass over it if it didn't have Sylvia Day's name on it.
A cover that I was kind of shocked that got a makeover was Lora Leigh's Wild Card....the first book from her Elite Ops romantic suspense series (which just so happens to be one of my favorite Lora Leigh books ever). We went from a book cover that is very typical of this sub-genre of romance to a romance cover a la Fifty Shades. Muted colors, an object significant to the story...at least this time they did at least keep the dog tags from the original :) Again it would be the name that would give me a clue that is a romance book, not the cover.
Then there are Megan Hart's covers. I have to admit that I thought that the makeover the publisher gave The Space Between Us, before it was even published, was a complete crime against book covers. I really loved the first one, not necessarily for the colors or the fonts used, but the visual representation of the image of the two people and how it related to the title. I loved it. Then they gave it a Fifty Shades/Twilight makeover and I hated it. Megan Hart's story are so far from Twilight in sensuality, and extremely complex emotional issues, that the two should never be associated with each other! Even if it is all in the name of marketing.
Did you notice the tulips with the red tips? Does it remind you of the Twilight series cover. It should. To be somewhat fair they gave several of Megan Hart's books flower makeovers. And while Georgia O'Keefe was known for her flower paintings and their erotic representations...these covers don't quite achieve that same sensuality. This is what they did :( They went from this, which I thought were beautiful and relevant representations of the stories:
*sigh* I hate the new covers ;( Not because they are bad designs, but for what they represent....or their lack of representation. The originals in each of these instances had personality...and that is what I really hate about these new covers. They lack personality and any connection to love. These are love stories, involving two (or sometimes more) individuals with emotions...so what is so wrong with having an actual Human Being representing that love, something beyond impersonal inanimate objects? We are talking LOVE, and there is nothing more personal than that. There is nothing wrong with that. So why try to hide what the books are about?
I think the visual representation of what love is, or could be, is incredibly strong. Just look at the recent story that I first read on Jill Shalvis' blog. A love story told in 22 pictures. They didn't even need words to convey this couples' journey that just so happened to go viral very quickly. They were even on the Today morning show because of that post. You couldn't tell the same kind of story using the types of images they are putting on some romance covers today because they lack that human connection and emotion. The books themselves don't lack emotions, so why should the covers, just because one book made it big?
I understand why publishers are doing it, it's why generic brands often have very similar packaging to name brand objects (not to imply that any of the books are generic versions of Fifty Shades...far from it actually), it's just the point I'm trying to make. And it's not a new tactic. But I also have to wonder if the redesigns are more than just a Fifty Shades fall out, they make me wonder if publishers are courting new romance readers more than their core audience with these covers and if this is a trend that will last, or will only be around until romance readers ask for the days of Fabio back, LOL :) (not really but hey, you can't deny the man ruled the romance book cover for almost a decade!) Don't get me wrong, I think all of the new book covers are fine...but whose eye are they trying to attract? And do they also not realize that from a marketing perspective that Human faces sell more than other methods? (see here for just one example.
While they may be riding Fifty Shades coattails now, will they be doing themselves a disservice in the long run when readers go back to wanting covers with people on them...as human nature dictates will almost certainly happen? Let me say one word to you. Facebook. It's called that for many a good reason :) And it's also very popular :)
What about you? If you were to pick a favorite from each match up, which one would you choose? Regardless of my feelings, what do you think about this new trend in book covers? Because trust me there are more out there, and coming your way.
p.s. You may wonder, since I also design book covers, will you see me create any looks like this, regardless of my feelings? The answer is...yes. For one simple reason. Demand. If that is what someone wants to buy, I'll be more than happy to provide it :)
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