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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Covers, The Good, The Bad, and the Oh-So-Right

Last night, I attended my first ever RWA chapter meeting. What a great night! This was my local chapter, Greater Detroit RWA. I tagged along with my friends who write as Violet (Velvet) Summers so I could cheer when she/they received their First Sale Rose (woot!). An added bonus, the special guest was none other than Raelene Gorlinsky, Publisher, Ellora's Cave.

Raelene gave a terrific presentation on cover art. What was interesting was her perspective, coming from a publisher's POV, versus that of an author's. Her definition of a "Bad" cover was interesting, in some ways in direct conflict with an author's definition. For example, many authors (and some readers) are annoyed by covers displaying characters with the wrong colored hair or nationality.

For instance, my very book with Ellora's Cave, Tempting Fate.

The cover is very nice. It says Sexy Contemporary Romance, doesn't it? Sure! It also says Steamy Office Romance, too. Which is totally appropriate.

But take a look at the heroine. Does she look like a red-headed Irish woman? No, not so much.

Now, when I received this cover, I was brand spanking new. I made not a peep about the dark haired woman masquerading as my Irish heroine. I pick my battles, LOL. Has that cover hurt sales of my book? Probably not. Has that cover hurt sales of my future books? Nope. No harm, no foul, as they say. This is a good cover, despite the inconsistency.

Now, let's take a look at another one of my covers. This is my first Kensington paranormal romance, Sex and the Single Ghost.

This is a super-cute cover. Nice and bright and sassy. The characters are obviously young. It says Chick Lit, to me. Or maybe even YA. And I don't think I'm the only one who sees that when they look at this cover.

I worked in a bookstore for a little over a year. When people picked it up, they said things like, "This looks cute." Or "I could buy this for my high school-aged daughter to read." They're expecting a light, sassy, funny read.

In some respects, they're going to get what the expect. There are parts that are sassy and funny.

But in others ways, the reader is in for a BIG surprise.

Would you ever guess there are elements of horror in this book? And BDSM? It's not all cute shoes and snark. It's an erotic romance.

The minute I received my first review, "A large chunk of this story reads like a rather typical erotic romance with mild BDSM." I knew I was in trouble. Obviously, the reviewer wasn't prepared for the story she'd found inside that cover.

Now what?

I'm a new Kensington author. For those who don't know anything about the business, new authors generally have no input into covers, and once they're done and the book is been printed, there's absolutely nothing that can be changed. In other words...I've got to live with it.

I love my publisher. I certainly don't want to make waves. Instead, I want to make this work for me, somehow.

So, what did I do?

I wrote the following and posted it everywhere I could, including Amazon,
Since the cover of this book looks so different from my other covers, I thought I'd give you, the potential reader, an idea of what this book is about.

First, understand that I write erotic romance. My books are funny, and I believe the cover gives readers that impression. But they're also sexy, with graphic sex scenes and mild bondage.

If you enjoy funny, super-sexy stories, a typical Tawny Taylor--or erotic tales with a bit of mystery--you're bound to love this one ( pun intended).

In summary, Sex and the Single Ghost is about a dead woman, Claire, who comes back to life to solve the mystery of her death and do a random good deed or two for a stranger. And since there's no sex in Purgatory, where she's been awaiting this big once-in-nine-years chance, she's looking to take full advantage of nine long nights with her ex-flame, Jake.

So, that's it. The story behind the cover."

Was that enough? Could I do more to take advantage of what I think is a misleading cover? Absolutely. My poor book hasn't hit in bestseller lists. I'm open to suggestions! I mean, if Christina Dodd can become known as the writer of the three-armed-woman book, there's got to be something I can do, right?

Tawny Taylor, the author of the YA BDSM book. *groan* Help me out here, folks.

Oh! How about Sex and the Single Ghost, Finally, an erotic book with a kid-friendly cover. Read at baseball games, the park, or doctor's office waiting rooms...No one will ever guess what you're reading...

Yes? No?

Maybe we'd better take a look at some Oh-So-Right covers.

Animal Urges is one of my strongest selling series at EC, and I attribute the sales to the covers. I love, love, love this cover. It says sexy men and science. It accurately reflects the book's tone and genre. And it's just yummy to look at.

Dark Master is my first Aphrodisia release. And this cover is just PERFECT. It says Erotic Romance. And I think the image even hints at the BDSM.

This cover most definitely falls into the Oh-So-Right category.

So, now you've seen my covers, the good, the bad and the oh-so-right. Readers, authors, what are your favorite covers? Or what covers do you feel totally mislead the customer, promising a very different kind of story than what's inside? Among Raelene's examples, she included a historical vampire that boasted an adorable contemporary-looking illustrated cover (I'm trying to remember the title of that book). Let's have some fun, talking about covers.

Wicked-Hot Erotic Fiction

posted by Tawny Taylor at 10:40 AM |


Commented by Blogger R.G. ALEXANDER:

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:04 PM 
Commented by Blogger R.G. ALEXANDER:

Well you know I have had similiar experiences so far. Two covers I love-one so perfect I have a hard time not staring at it all day-and the third is a series cover that makes me shudder. LOL
I am very particular about my covers-but I know NY pubs dont really allow the authors any input. That scares me a little.Covers are always crucial, but as a new author-its the cover that will draw readers to you-so its even more important.
PS I love Dark Master cover! Very hawt!

2:05 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Thanks for the nice compliment on Dark Master's cover. I love it! And I agree--the cover is what will draw readers. It's absolutely essential when you're new. In fact, Raelene mentioned how blah covers for the larger/most well known authors are. For them, it doesn't matter at all what the cover looks like, as long as their name is BIG. idea on what I can do with Sex and the Single Ghost????

2:12 PM 
Commented by Blogger R.G. ALEXANDER:

Well, its a great cover-but you're right-I wouldnt think erotic with light bdsm when I looked at it. Have you made a book trailer? You can sex and horror up a book trailer for some promo that way. And have it on your website as well as Youtube.
Since its NY print book-you could organize a reading and read the saucier parts.
Also what you've done-posting about its content is good.
I like the trailer idea myself. Cause you have total control over that.
I'm not very good at this-maybe someone smarter than I will have the answer lol

2:19 PM 
Commented by Blogger Jennifer Shirk:

Oh, my goodness. I had to laugh at your post, because when I saw that cute cover for Sex and the Single Ghost I would have NEVER in a million years thought it would be erotica.

2:26 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Hi again, RG!

Thanks for trying to help me brainstorm! I *do* have a trailer, now that you mention it. And, in fact, it's had quite a few hits on youtube. I haven't looked at it in a while, but it had received quite a few views...Wow, 325,000?! Not bad!

Too bad I haven't sold that many copies of the book :)

2:27 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Yes, Jennifer, it's Erotica working Under Cover as a YA/rom comedy novel ;)

2:28 PM 
Commented by Blogger ilona:

As a reader I wouldn't pick the cutesy cover in the book shop. This is because I too think chic lit or YA when seeing it and don't like reading those kind of romance, there's no meat in them (pun not intended).
However if I read your description (especially as I buy most books from online) I would be more likely to take notice and consider the book despite the cover :D Luckily for most authors I tend to go a lot by word of mouth and book blurbs rather than covers :D

BTW I agree that Dark Master is HOT!!

2:32 PM 
Commented by Blogger R.G. ALEXANDER:

Ooh nice trailer! That is a lot of hits!!
Okay-my briliant idea pool is dry. LOL

2:47 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Thanks RG and Ilona,

I need man-titty, that's what I need.

If I could create a flap that opens up, revealing a scrumptious picture of a nekkid man chest, that would work, right? Sadly, that's not in the budget :(

2:52 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Anonymous:

Hmm, wow. I don't know what to suggest either. I actually have this book, Tawny, but that's only because I know you write erotica. That said, I did hesitate and it wasn't until I picked the book up and actually read the first couple of chapters - to make sure it *wasn't* chick littery, LOL - that I bought it. Cause that cover *screams* chic lit.

Btw, I really enjoyed it, but I can definitely see why the cover is worrisome.

-Emma Ray Garrett

5:27 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Hi Emma, thanks for popping in and giving your opinion. More and more, I feel like I need to do something big, something that'll get the word out that my cute chick-lit-lookalike book is something altogether different. I shudder at the thought of moms buying their kids the book, thinking it's a cute teen book...

5:53 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Anonymous:

All of your points are valid. But I actually LIKE the diversity in the different covers. DARK MASTER..hmmm...I wonder what THAT photo shoot was like??? lol

-diva dancewriter-

7:04 PM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Hi Katherine,

Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate your voicing your POV!

7:20 PM 
Commented by Anonymous Violet Summers:

Tawny, You know how I feel. Neekid man cover. Hot chested, defined abs, nicely bronzed, maybe even a little trickle of water sliding down his torso. Yummy, I wanna look at the cover and think "I totally want him for dessert" So I'm voting for the man titty....
Love ya your the best Violet Summers

10:29 PM 

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