Voting ends at midnight,
April 15th, 2005

2004’s Cover Ballot Committee:

  • Lisa Baca
  • Shelby Bagby
  • Blythe Barnhill
  • Marlene Breakfield
  • Marian Clough
  • Linnae Crady
  • Leanne Davis
  • Kellye Fergeson
  • Teresa Galloway
  • Ann Garland
  • Mary Alice Gibbons
  • Jenny Gustafsson
  • Jennifer Keirans
  • Elaine Lee
  • Tobi Liedes-Bell
  • Sandi Morris
  • Mary Lynne Nielsen
  • Rachel Potter
  • John Rothermel
  • Màili Ryan
  • Sharon Shearouse
  • Jo-Ann Walmsley
  • Karen Wheless

Cover Contest 2004

Welcome to AAR’s sixth annual Romance Novel Cover Contest. We’re pleased to see your continuing interest in covers and look forward to seeing what you judge to be the best (and worst) in romance novel covers from 2004!

Ten finalists are presented in each of seven categories. They are listed below, along with a brief description, in the same order as the layout of the ballot pages.

  • Contemporary covers include present-day romances and romantic suspense.

  • Series refers to contemporary romance “lines” published by Harlequin and Silhouette, such as Desire, Blaze, and SuperRomance.

  • Alternate Reality includes both romances with a fantastical element and science fiction/fantasy with a strong romance bent

  • Historical offers front covers of historical romances, including Harlequin Historicals. A front cover in this category could also be nominated with its back cover in the Two-Cover category.

  • Historical Series features historical romance covers produced, like contemporary series romances, with a “banner” appearing on them.

  • The Two-Cover category includes both two-part covers (a front cover with a second, inside image immediately following it) and a combination of front and back covers. A front/back cover nomination or a stepback had to have a back cover or stepback with at least 50% of its area devoted to an artistic image or design. Since this is a contest that judges artwork, the Cover Ballot Committee feels it’s crucial that any image nominated not consist entirely or predominantly of text. Covers from the Two-Cover category may be from Contemporary, Historical, or Alternate Reality books.

  • The Worst Cover category consists of those covers that we wish really hadn’t happened :). Any covers that would fit into any of the other categories could be nominated for Worst.

Romantic Suspense Everywhere

The Contemporary category continued to have a large number of romantic suspense covers nominated. The term “romantic suspense” is also being used as a label on the spine of a number of romance covers as well. This hugely popular type of romance novel is one we’ve been examining on the Cover Ballot Committee. We kept them as part of the Contemporary category for 2004, but this will change in 2005. We will offer Romantic Suspense as its own category this year, so look for that in the nominations.

Some Cover Statistics

2004 saw the first ever downturn in the number of nominations we received: about one-third fewer nominations in 2004 than in 2003. Several factors could be behind this. Publishers are concerned about costs, and cover art is expensive. Producing less complex covers makes for dollar savings, but fewer covers that we felt compelled to nominate for this contest.

There’s also been greater homogeneity in cover art over the last few years, and seeing the same style of cover over and over may dull our desire to nominate those covers. Our most dramatic drop in the number of nominations was in Series covers. Perhaps some of the changes Harlequin introduced in its lines in 2004 were reflected in the conservatism of the cover art produced. Despite this overall decrease, we’re still well above the number of nominations we received in 2001, so it’s all in how you look at these numbers!

The largest number of nominations was made in the Historical category (178), which returned to the top of the nominations heap in 2004. Series was second with 145 nominations. Contemporary, first last year, was third with 102 nominated covers.

Two categories with steady nominations were Alternate Reality and Historical Series. Alternate Reality received 89 nominations, two more than last year. Alternate Reality was a hot publishing area in 2004, and the number of nominations reflected this. 57 Historical Series covers were nominated this past year. Of these, the majority were for covers published by Zebra (34), one of the two major houses still producing traditional Regencies. This is interesting, since the final slate ended up with seven covers from Signet, the other major publisher, featured on it. Only 22 Signet covers were nominated, but one in three made it all the way! One pleasure here is to see a Mills and Boon cover, from the UK, in this group of finalists. It’s a historical series cover that isn’t a traditional Regency! It’s also interesting to note that we received a number of nominations for foreign editions of series romances, and you’ll see two of those on the final Series slate.

Fewer nominations were made in the Two-Cover category, which is not surprising, considering the reduced number of these types of covers produced overall. Of the 32 nominations we received, half were for front cover/back cover combinations. The Worst category received 46 nominations, a drop by almost half from 2003. That could be viewed as a positive sign in the decrease in poor cover art, or it could be reflective of the nominations decline as a whole.

A Bit About Publishing Houses

We continued this year to try and learn a bit about the companies that make these covers for our perusal. It’s rather fascinating to examine these industry trends as well as artistic trends when it comes to cover art.

Again, variation from last year’s slate reigned in the Historical category. Last year’s slate featured work from Warner (2), Berkley (2), Harlequin (2), St. Martins, Pocket, Waterbrook, and Bethany House. Only one of those imprints was included on the 2004 slate: Bethany House, with two nominations. It’s been two years since Leisure and Zebra had finalists in this category – this time Leisure is represented by two covers while Zebra has one finalist. Arrow, an imprint of Random House’s UK division, contributed two finalists. Two Simon & Schuster (which publishes Pocket Books) imprints, Atria and Touchstone, each contributed one finalist to our slate of ten, and the tenth slot was filled with a cover from Tynsdale, which, like Bethany, publishes inspirational fiction. Overall, the 178 nominations in Historical came from 33 publishing houses, with Zebra having the most at 28, closely followed by Harlequin with 26. Leisure, Avon, and Pocket rounded out the top five publishers nominated.

Two-Cover received only 32 nominations, but well over half came from Avon! Interestingly, only two of those many nominations made it to the final slate. The remainder featured Zebra, Jove, Pocket, Fawcett, Signet and Mira. Contemporary was more diverse. Of its 102 nominations, Harlequin had the most with 17, followed by Berkley and St. Martins, then Warner. Alternate Reality also featured a wide range of publishers nominated, with Berkley having the most at 12. LoveSpell, an established imprint, tied with Harlequin’s new Luna imprint, and also with Amber Quill, an e-publishing small press, each receiving nine nominations. And an amazing five of those Luna covers appear on our final AR slate—a testament to the strength of the artistic investment in this new Harlequin imprint.

The Series category nominations were rather evenly spread over several lines, which was a change from the past couple of years, where the Blaze line dominated the nominations. This could be that readers are now used to the Blaze style of art, instead of it being the new, refreshing change in series covers. Harlequin Desire and Harlequin Romance led the pack with 15 nominations apiece. Silhouette Intimate Moments followed close behind with 13. But there were at least 5 nominations from each series line. And it’s wonderful to see two covers from foreign reprints of American series titles appear in the final Series slate.

One last point to note is that we continue to receive more cover nominations from less traditional sources every year. At least 50 nominations in 2004 came from these newer sources of romance novel covers. And one actually appears as a contemporary finalist! We’ll continue to track publishing trends to help you see which houses/imprints/lines you tend to prefer when it comes to romance cover art.

Who Puts This All Together?

The cover contest wouldn’t happen without the interest of a large group of people. The names of the participants in the Cover Ballot Committee are listed in the upper right of this page. Their dedication, enthusiasm, and unfailing willingness to return yet one more ballot is what makes this contest happen.

When you get to the slates of nominees, you’ll see some people’s names included with them. Those persons are the Cover Ballot “heads” – they keep track of all the nominations, discussions, and votes in their categories and process each slate administratively. It’s a great deal of work, and we thank them for their efforts with this acknowledgment. We also want to thank AAR for their collegial support of this effort and for hosting the contest, Teresa Galloway for scripting the ballot pages and creating all the lovely logos you see on our Cover Contest pages, and Sandi Morris for her tireless efforts as the coordinator of the Cover Ballot.

And our final, most important group that helps put this together is you! Your nominations and suggestions are what make this contest happen. Without them, we’d never be able to come up with the slates you’re about to see. So please, remember to take a moment and nominate a wonderful cover when you see one!

So now it’s time to head to the contest! But before you do, please be aware that the members of Cover Ballot Committee are already hard at work preparing the 2005 contest. Remember, you can nominate covers all year long by using this nomination form.

We’re also actively seeking new participants for the Cover Ballot Committee. I can personally assure you, it’s a lot of fun – if you enjoy what you see here, think about all those hundreds of covers that I mentioned above that you don’t see! If you’re interested in participating in the Cover Ballot Committee, contact Sandi.

And The Nominees Are…

The link below will take you to the start of the contest. Each category contains its own ballot. In order for your ballot to be counted, it must include your name and email address, which you must fill in on each page. If you are concerned about having your last name and/or email address posted on-line, don’t be. We need your name and email address for tracking purposes (i.e., to assure that there is only one vote per person and that the email address is legitimate). The information is also important in case we need to get in touch with you for clarification on a selection. No last names or email addresses will appear in any web-published material at All About Romance.

Readers, authors, and artists are all welcome to vote, but please, no ballot stuffing. We request that you start at the beginning of the ballot and vote in at least three categories to avoid the appearance of ballot stuffing. Each ballot will be carefully checked and suspect votes will be eliminated.

We at AAR and the Cover Ballot Committee thank you for your interest, support, and participation. We look forward to seeing your votes and comments! Remember, the poll closes at midnight, April 15th!

Mary Lynne Nielsen
For AAR and the Cover Ballot Committee
March 15, 2005
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