Pet Peeve Patrol ~ Romance Book Covers


I’m amused whenever I see someone’s cover pet peeve is also someone else’s  favorite trend.  The cliche, one man’s meat is another man’s poison, defines what makes romance cover design challenging. Everyone has different tastes and satisfying the entire romance community is seldom, if ever, accomplished.

However, covers should appeal to their target group of readers and also attract new readers.  Accomplishing pet peeve resistant covers requires artistic talent and a creative designer and/or  illustrator. They can use tricks of the trade and still create a swoon worthy cover and success is often determined by the details.  The poll below lists my biggest pet peeves. If you have others that bother you, list them in the comment section below.  Which one of my pet peeves  will reach the top spot on the poll?  Time will tell.

Romance Book Cover Pet Peeve – You’re Ruining My View

I am not a fan of marketing blurbs on book covers and they seldom influence my purchase. I understand that it’s a dog eat dog world in publishing but why have great illustrations and then slap on a marketing blurb, title, or even the author’s name over interesting details that add to the ambiance of the cover ?

My latest pet peeve is the terrific cover for Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne released in November, 2014.  When I first saw the cover online it was Version 1 and I loved it. I submitted the cover to the Historical Chair, Jenny for the 2014 cover contest.  The street lights, the fully dressed, handsome hero, the interesting spire in the background, and the always popular carriages rolling down the street added depth, context and interest.

Alas, when the final cover was released, it was Version 2.  This version was cropped closer and the title covered the cute carriage and the marketing sticker covered the spire and part of that gorgeous sky.  Don’t get me wrong, the cover is still a good cover but the revised version is cluttered and the cover’s impact is minimized.  Vote for your favorite version in the poll below.


Am I the only one who has an intense dislike for marketing blurbs covering a great illustration? Granted the words inside are still from fabulous Joanna Bourne but I enjoy the covers and I have often purchased a new author just because of the cover. I have NEVER purchased a new author because of a marketing blub. Just give me a clean cover with book title, author’s name and a great illustration and put a summary on the back. That’s it…forget the blurbs for this buyer. How do you feel about blurbs ruining the view?

“Too Close For Comfort” Book Covers ~ Doppelganger Award

Doppelganger Award

Doppelgangers are duplicates or two people that could be each other’s double.  However,  I’ve adopted the term for book cover duplicates because of  stock images.  I haven’t issued a Doppelganger Award since early 2013 because we discover most duplicates through our nominations and none surfaced in 2013.   This year,  I missed one right under my nose until I read about it in a comment written on a romance blog.    One of our In The Spotlight covers is an unfortunate “too close for comfort” cover.   We have a Doppelganger Award winner for 2014.

Brenda Janowitz’s romance,  Jack with a Twist  was first published in 2008 by Red Dress Ink and featured a clever cover that fit the title.  I really like this cover with the lemon rind, the ring, and poor Jack under glass.

Jack With A Twist

Red Dress Ink ~ 2008

In 2013,  JWAT was issued via another publisher using a stock image with a great pair of shoes, a favorite on contemporary romance book covers.  The new cover didn’t  capture the title as well as the Red Dress Ink cover and nothing was done to the original stock image except for adding the unique font used for the title.

Jack With A Twist

Polis Books – May, 2013

Then it was was issued again in 2014 with a few font and lighting changes but using the same stock image.  I really like the deep pink font used for the title because it makes the title pop even in thumbnail size.  It was a great improvement but again nothing was done to the stock image.

Jack With A Twist

Polis Books ~ March, 2014

In May 2014, another author’s release featured the same stock image and was featured in Cover Cafe’s,  In The Spotlight.   I  love the shoes and the stock image fits the title perfectly but it is almost identical to the earlier Polis Books covers.  The fonts are different and there was a border added to It Happened One Wedding but the stock image was not changed.  We now have a Doppelganger situation that cover designers, authors, and publishers hate to experience.  They all want their covers to stand out from the crowd and no one wants their cover to lose sales because buyers mistake it for another release they have already read or purchased.

It Happened One Wedding

Jove ~ May, 2014

If you use stock images that are not exclusive,  please design a layout that incorporates the image along with other components. Make the cover special and a one of a kind cover.   Below are a two covers using the same female stock image but with cover designs that sets them apart.  No one would ever confuse the two covers or label them a Doppelganger.

Thorndike Press - November, 2013

Thorndike Press ~ November, 2013

Slip the Skin

Self-Published ~ February, 2014

My final piece of advice for cover designers is about the stock image used in the cover below.   This cover is nominated in this year’s contest but I’ve seen its Doppelganger in a very similar pre-made cover option.   It is a great photo and made me smile when I first saw it online.  Be careful if you use it and be creative with your layout.

Flirting With Magick

Book Trope ~ August, 2014



Shoes sans couples – 2014 Romance Cover Pet Peeve

I love shoes and I love seeing shoes used on a cover layout.   Who can forget the wildly popular bride cover from Nora Robert’s 2009 Vision in White ?  The shoe peeking out from the gorgeous wedding gown was iconic.  VIW  gave everyone a glimpse of the bride while still securing the mystery of the story inside.  The cover was loved by almost everyone and it won First Place in our Contemporary Category in the 2009 Cover Contest.  Click on the cover to visit the 2009 Contemporary Results page.

Vision in White - 2009

Vision in White – Berkley – 2009

However, this year I’ve seen a small (Thank heavens it’s small!) trend emerge inspiring an Amber Alert for the hero and heroine.  Yes, there are problems with readers not wanting to see H/H faces so their mental images aren’t destroyed.  Yes,  there are the ‘poser’ couple covers that look as natural as the old style Sears’ or Penney’s catalog layouts.   In spite of the frequent cover fails,  there should be some type of hero and/or heroine representation on covers.  An earlier pet peeve post discussed showing only legs on covers and now the legs have been dismissed and there isn’t a trace of a hero or heroine. Take a look for yourself at a few shoes sans couples covers from 2014.


Self Published – January, 2014


Simon Shuster UK – January, 2014


Harlequin – March, 2014


Choc Lit – August, 2014

Sue me,  I like either the hero, heroine, or a couple on my romance covers.   I love shoes, a gorgeous gown, a handsome  hero(especially in uniform) and couples in love on my covers.   I also enjoy beautiful landscape covers and if there happens to be a hero and/or heroine within that landscape….win, win!

I always show at least one cover that meets with my approval in my pet peeve posts.  Below is an upcoming September release that showcases the heroine and a shoe, too!


Pocket Books – September, 2014

UPDATED at 9:00pm CST :   I forgot to upload this cover earlier.  Here is a great example of a couple in love and a killer pair of boots.  Sigh…I rest my case.


Self-Published – March, 2014

Do you like shoes sans couples on your covers or do you agree with me that H/H  deserve their moments in the spotlight?

Until next time,

2014 Cover Pet Peeves – A La Carte Torsos

If you love book covers as much as I do,  a few cover trends miss the mark and annoy the joy right out of you.  They might not annoy you at first but slowly they will wear you down.

My latest pet peeve is the headless, legless, sometimes armless male torso trend on covers.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a handsome, muscular, well toned  hero on my covers but I’m NOT a fan of the lone torso.  There might be readers who appreciate a naked torso without any attachments but I am not one of them.   The covers objectify the hero and reduce him to an anonymous torso.   Covers cropping out most of  a heroine’s body and showing only her breasts would scream politically incorrect and this cover trend screams, too.  Below are some recent examples.

Tactical Magik

The Raven Books – February, 2014

Hot Shots

Kensington – February, 2014












His Kind of Trouble

Harlequin Blaze – January, 2013

The Highland Lord

Broken Arm – January, 2014












Whenever I rant about a pet peeve,  I also include covers that hit the mark in my book.   The covers below show a toned, muscular hero but they focus on the man not just the pecs.  Some of them still are legless but I can live with that small omission.  Kudos to the designers for not reducing the  hero on their covers. 

Smokin' Hot

Kensington – March, 2014

The Mighty Quins: Malcolm

Harlequin Blaze – April, 2014











Vampire's Hunger

Forever Yours – April, 2014


Bantam – April, 2014











So what do you think?   Do you appreciate an  a la carte hero or do you agree with moi?  Show me more hero and not just the pecs!

Until next time,