Crystal Cove(1) When making a decision to buy an audiobook, the cover doesn’t influence my choice one way or another. If I want a particular audiobook, I’ll buy it, and if I don’t like the cover, I’ll remind myself that with my iPod, I’ll seldom see it.

But can an attractive or catchy cover influence me to take a second look at a book by an author unfamiliar to me? Or does a non-appealing cover have the power to repel me enough that I won’t consider taking a deeper look at an unknown author? The answer to both of those questions is a “most definitely.” Do those second looks lead to an audio purchase? I admit that it seldom does but if a cover speaks to me, I’m often inspired to take a closer look at the synopsis and reviews.

When you consider that choosing the right audiobook is a series of decisions as one must consider the author, narrator, and the publisher’s history of production quality as well as the synopsis and reviews, I think a case can be made that audiobook covers need to make an even stronger statement than their fellow print versions. After all, their duty is to attract listeners despite the fact that both the author and narrator may be unfamiliar to the buyer. And that’s what a cover is to me – a sales job. Can they entice me to stop and look just a little longer?

Those Audiobook Covers that Do Their job

On Thin Ice In praise of a job well done, here are ten audiobook covers that attract my eye and set the mood while introducing the listener to the setting. Not all are original print covers.

The best audio cover around in my opinion is Anne Stuart’s On Thin Ice. Talk about setting the mood and giving the reader a few facts. Isolation. Edgy suspense. And what looks to be a European farmhouse.

The Winter Sea 2 Another cover that I think does its job in an exemplary manner is Susannah Kearsley’s The Winter Sea. It captures the mystery of the sea and its absorbing storyline with a simple image of a woman looking out to sea.

Blue-Eyed Devil And then there’s Lisa Kleypas’ Blue-Eyed Devil. The well-chosen title takes center stage and that guy walking down the road is all Hardy – the self-made Texan millionaire who had to scrap his way to the top.

Somebody to Love Not only is the cover of Kristan Higgins’ Somebody to Love low key with a feel-good quality, it also captures elements of the book – a place on the water, a dog, and a next-door-neighbor type of couple.

Tough Customer The covers for Sandra Brown’s romantic suspense tales are bold and direct. Tough Customer is one of her more striking covers. That bridge stretching far out into the water sets the suspenseful tone of the tale.

The Haunting Both the audio and print covers of Simone St. James’ The Haunting of Maddy Clare are evocative, drawing the listener/reader with both the title and the uncertain nature of the illustration. I believe the audio cover does a better job at forecasting that haunted feel. Strangely, the audio hard copy’s cover is different from the print cover while Audible uses the print cover.

Match Me If You Can Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Match Me If You Can immediately sets the tone for this humorous and completely fun romance featuring Annabelle, my favorite contemporary heroine.

After the Night The audio version’s cover for Linda Howard’s After the Night sets the stage for this edgy romantic suspense featuring a disappearance in the sultry Deep South. No indication of a romance you say? The title draws the listener in.

The Autumn Bride Anne Gracie’s The Autumn Bride is another cover that I believe is more effective in audio than print. With its cover, Tantor projects to the listener that there is more to the story than a wedding.

Butterfly Swords Recorded Books used the original print cover of Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords. It clearly projects an unusual setting for romance (758 AD Tang Dynasty) while exhibiting the heroine’s skill with her swords.

Twice Tempted Jeaniene Frost’s Twice Tempted is the rare bare chested cover that works for me. But hey, this is Vlad whose hands shoot flames – he’s gotta be a little hot. Flames surround him while his look of disgust shows he was forced to use his fiery skills.

The Covers Marked “Fail”

What about those covers that push you away rather than draw you in? Once again, for me, it’s all about that second look. If a cover repels me, I won’t explore an unknown book further. And unfortunately, two cover types we see quite often these days fall into this category – the clinch covers of old and the bodybuilder bare-chested man.

Clinch covers have been around romance for decades and I’ve never been a fan. I keep hoping they will just go away. What’s a clinch cover? Although I’m sure the definition varies somewhat, the classic clinch cover is that of a couple embracing with some piece of clothing partially removed. I’m willing to bet there are few romance listeners who are big fans of such covers. Why publishers continue to place these covers on books when the story is so much more than passion and sex mystifies me although I imagine it’s a quick fix “one type of romance cover fits all” type of situation. Why not concentrate on the actual content that makes up the majority of the hours we listen to?

And then there is the bodybuilder-bare-chested-man cover. Do publishers think the bigger the pecs, the more likely we romance fans will sigh and say “Oh yeah!”? Or the washboard abs will have us panting for more? I’ll admit that at sometime in history, a hero may actually have had a body that today is reserved for the dedicated bodybuilder. But every Regency titled hero? An undercover agent without the benefit of a gym? The county sheriff who runs for exercise every day? The Medieval hero who may have had the training but lacked the nutrition? Yeah, I know they’re playing to the fantasy angle but still, an overly developed body builder is not my idea of a fantasy and, more importantly, it diverts attention from the actual story being told by the author. It tells us little about what we may expect if we decide to dedicate ten hours or so to listening.

And Others Join In

I asked my fellow Speaking of Audiobooks reviewers to offer their thoughts about covers as well.

Carrie: I can honestly say covers on audiobooks have no importance whatsoever on my decision to purchase a book. I don’t focus on them and I rarely remember them. I can’t imagine even a really crass cover changing my mind, since no one sees it but me, and only as a little photo on my iPod Touch.

Kaetrin: Most of my audiobook buying is not based on the cover at all. There have been rare occasions where a cover has caught my eye and I’ve looked at the blurb and decided to take the plunge. The last one I remember in that category was 600 Hours of Edward – it’s not a romance and the cover isn’t all that striking really. Perhaps it was the title! There are certainly covers which make me cringe but audiobooks aren’t a visual experience for me and so I don’t rely on a cover for the most part.

LinnieGayl: Wow! Interesting question. I can say unequivocally that book covers play absolutely no part in my decision to buy an audiobook. In fact, I really don’t pay attention to the covers on audiobooks. I’ve purchased some books at Audible that just have that “no cover” thing. I know I’ve also purchased some books with pretty cheesy covers. Conversely, covers play a large role in my decision as to whether to buy a book in print (is it something I’m willing to be seen reading in public) or e-form, but for audio, it’s all about the narrator.

Audio News


You may have heard that Amazon is buying Goodreads and, although that’s not audio news per se, it is news for our Romance Audiobooks Goodreads group. What has been the reaction there? For the most part, it hasn’t been negative but more “wait and see.” Most audiobook listeners have experience with another of Amazon’s purchases, Audible, and that site has only continued to improve under Amazon’s ownership. We’ve been given the option to use one sign in for both sites but it’s not required. And Amazon working together with Audible has provided a terrific new way of listening, Whispersync. You can read on your Kindle and listen to your Audible title on your iPod or MP3 player – both picking up where the last used device left off. With such developments and Audible’s recent addition of Coming Soon titles, we aren’t hearing a lot of worry – just caution.

Pamela Clare’s Mackinnons Rangers Series Coming to Audio

Tantor Audio has picked up the Mackinnons Rangers series and knowing Tantor, I imagine recording will start fairly soon. I’m particularly excited to see this series in audio as it is my favorite historical romance series with Surrender at the top of my favorite historical list. Kaleo Griffith, narrator of Clare’s I-Team series, will also narrate the Mackinnons Rangers series. Kaleo has been highly praised for his performance of the I-Team books and I’m expecting great things once again.

Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our affiliated Goodreads group – Romance Audiobooks is nearing the 500 mark with 498 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.

Enjoy your listening!

* Lea Hensley

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.