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My Observations on Series covers

Results of the series voting were very interesting. Enchanted’s cover, in first place, appears to have won not only because it was an attractive cover, but also because it led with voters who hated all the series covers and decided to pick this as their universal default cover. With that qualification on it, I really don’t have any idea what it tells us about covers for series romances other than those readers who hate series romances, liked Enchanted’s cover. We can, however, infer, that our voters liked its “single title” look as well as its combination of landscape and characters romantically looking out over the ocean from their perch on the rocks.

Some of the negative comments we received about the series covers are that:

  • They look like magazine advertisements
  • Though each series has its own style and colors, they end up looking too similar
  • They look tacky, gaudy, and cheap
  • The colors, banners, and shapes are mismatched

Perhaps Harlequin/Silhouette is hearing this directly from consumers; the Desire line recently went through a mini face-lift. The red has been toned down into a more muted burgandy, and the “Desire” name is printed in a less loud dark-golden tone. I won’t go so far as to say it looks good, but it’s less bad. Here are some of the comments on Enchanted:

  • Maureen wrote, “If there was one well done cover, it’s this one.”
  • A newly published Regency Romance author wrote, “The Enchanted cover is only just acceptable, but it is the best of all of them.”
  • Mary Alice echoed those thoughts with her own: “Most series covers are terrible. This is the only one that’s halfway decent.”
  • On a more positive front, Karen seemed to actually like the cover, writing, “The image is thoughtful, with the two figures looking off into the distance. It makes me want to know what they are thinking as they look off into the ocean.”


Silhouette Intimate Moments
Steve Brennan

My interpretations really must start with the second place cover, The Admiral’s Bride. Those who voted for this cover really liked it, and since it features a brand-new look, that’s a coup for the design team. This Silhouette Intimate Moments is a romantic still-life assemblage but even readers who normally like people on covers say people on series covers embarrass them. Walking up to the cash register with ease figured prominently with these readers.

Silhouette Intimate Moments
Peter Carras Comments regarding The Admiral’s Bride include:

  • Kate wrote, “It struck me as being both romantic and understated, which is an appealing combination.”
  • Jaycee doesn’t generally care for series covers or for objects on a cover, so she was surprised when this was her favorite.
  • Christine, who, like our publisher, finds too many series titles’ covers reminiscent of Young Adult novels, found this cover offered a “tasteful” change of pace

However, for third place we are looking at the most overtly sexual of the people poses. It is Tall, Dark & Texan with the naked man in bed with his Stetson. Sex sells, there is no use pretending that it doesn’t. Sandi placed this cover on the ballot at the 11th hour because she felt it made the series ballot more representative of what was available. She was evidently 100% correct! If the readers want it badly enough, the embarrassing walk to the cash register can evidently be tolerated.

Readers not too shy about what they buy and read made the following comments about Tall, Dark & Texan:

  • From Kristin, “Who could resist that. . .smile!”
  • Although Rita found the cover “a bit embarrassing to be seen reading in public,” she found it featured a “very sexy man (with) chest hair, which I like to see.”
  • Lisa unabashedly wrote, “I do love a smiling, sexy man with hair on his chest.”
  • Sharon is unapologetic in her preferences: “I don’t care what the world thinks when it comes to cover art but I love to see a sexy man on the cover. If I’m reading romance, the minute I see some sexy guy, my mind begins to produce fantasy /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages. I read for story, plot and romance, but the good-looking guy on the front gets me started before I ever crack the cover.”


Silhouette Desire
unable to obtain art credit

Fourth place was Guardian Groom, our only nomination by a reader in this category, by Mary Lynne Nielsen, who is now heading Single Cover Historicals for Cover Contest 2000. I almost dropped this category from the 2000 competition because we had only her as the sole reader nominator, which meant an enormous amount of work for Sandi and myself in this year’s contest. I’m happy for this sole reader that her nomination fared very well with voters, who found this to be one of the very few people covers in series romances which they liked. Classy was a frequently used word by voters and one that Harlequin/Silhouette may want to hear.

Silhouette Intimate Moments
unable to obtain art credit Guardian Groom comments:

  • Sue praised the fact that, “At least it doesn’t look like YA fiction!”
  • Mona found this to be a “very classy-looking cover. The people appear to be so real.”
  • Rita liked that “the hero is looking out at us, daring us to interrupt an intimate moment.”
  • For May, “The cover illustration seems to capture them in a gentle moment – it tells a story all by itself.”

In fifth place was The Horseman’s Bride, another cover featuring icons rather than people. Voters were very taken by this still life assemblage especially since it fit so well with the storyline. They were also so sick of seeing cowboys that the saddle’s image was truly revolutionary by contrast. Only two votes behind was yet another assemblage, The Baddest Bride In Texas.

Silhouette Intimate Moments
unable to obtain art credit

Silhouette Intimate Moments
unable to obtain art credit

About this cover, Helene said, “People almost never ‘look’ right. I prefer theme things.” Nancy found this thematic cover to be “attractive.”

After Dark took seventh place, which surprised me because it had placed first of series titles after being voted upon by AAR staffers earlier in the year. As time went by and so many new covers came out, my sense is that the thematic/assemblage covers overshadowed this one. I am frankly surprised the assemblages scored better but, as I conclude at the end of this category, what series readers say they will buy in series may not be the same as what they actually buy once they are in the store.

Harlequin Intrigue
unable to obtain art credit

Coming in the last two places are Four Men & A Lady and It Takes A Hero. On the positive side, the readers who voted for them liked that they were clothed people but on the negative side, those who showed more flesh scored higher.

Harlequin Temptation
Krystyna DeDeluba

Harlequin Temptation
Krystyna DeDeluba

I find this a very hard category in which to make predictions because there are so many voters who are unhappy with all of the covers and then, when they do vote, seem to contradict the very things they say make them unhappy about these covers. My vote is for the cover in last place, It Takes A Hero. I thought the clothed man was very attractive and liked it a lot. My buying reflects the following: I bought Four Men & A Lady, The Admiral’s Bride and The Horseman’s Bride. I never saw It Takes A Hero at my drug store, but found it instead, months later, at my library, and checked it out then.

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