Judging a Book by its Cover (Model)

Four years ago, I eagerly awaited the publication of my first book. The cover for A Kiss of Cabernet was sweet and appropriate—the hero and the heroine sat on a bed of golden leaves kissing. It was a Love in Wine Country book. What could be better?

I loved the cover, the only thing making me slightly uncomfortable was the age of the male cover model. Wasn’t he a tad bit young for a company CEO? I shrugged it off. My publisher chose this cover and heck, they knew what they were doing.

Should cover models reflect the characters in the book?

I’ve been pretty lucky with my covers. If you are traditionally published, as your release day nears you fill out a form describing hair color, eye color, whether you want one or two people and any other important details. The cover is supposed to be representative, but honestly, I sometimes wonder if anyone is paying attention.

I read a contemporary romance recently published by a respected house. The cover featured a blond, blue-eyed young heroine with a clean-shaven hero hovering in the background. Cute. Then I read the book. It was about a dark-haired woman—about to become a grandmother—who falls in love with her bearded neighbor.

Self-published authors have a different problem. Several sites offer thousands of photos for sale for use as covers. They claim to remove the picture from circulation once it’s sold. Not so. At a recent book-signing I wandered the aisles and stopped in front of a woman who had a pile of books with the exact same cover as one of my self-pubs. At least we could laugh about it.

When I switched to the historical romance genre I really began to worry.

If the historical romance features a single woman, she is generally in flowing gown with long or upswept hair. Pretty ageless.

But if there’s a man in the shot, the time-periods become problematic. Most of the guys look like they stepped off the cover of GQ. They may be in a period costume or a state of semi undress. Their bare chests might draw the reader’s eye. But a buzz cut in 1811? And then you say “aha” I’ve seen this guy on the cover of a book about Navy Seals.

I was lucky with my first historical, Scandal’s Child. I specified a single woman and my publisher chose a cover that looked so much like the heroine I was astonished.

The cover for Shadow of the Fox also has a single woman. I would have liked a younger model. My heroine is a strong, rebellious 20-year-old who defies her culture to get what she wants. But I didn’t get to choose.

I’m told the cover, the description on the back, and the first few pages sell the first book. The book itself will sell future books. But let’s get those covers right.

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