Under the Covers

the-stranger.jpg          Some people ask me if we authors get to design our book covers.  The answer is no.  We don’t see them until they’re print ready—not at Harlequin, at least, or any other publisher that I’m aware of.  I’m sure there’s a good reason behind this.  If we were given input into our covers along the way, the poor production folks would never hear the end of us.           

Most publishers, including Harlequin, do let their authors fill out a form describing the setting, the hero, heroine and any other important characters, and some key scenes that might work as cover art.  Along with the form we can submit sample photos—catalog models or actors that resemble our hero and heroine, pictures of the setting, key objects, etc.  From there it’s all up to the editors and art directors.           

Cover art has changed a lot over the years.  The early Harlequin Historical covers were paintings.  They were exquisite.  Some of us were lucky enough to have covers painted by the legendary cover artist, Pino (Cheryl, is your RAIN SHADOW cover a Pino?  It has the look.)  Today’s covers are more likely to be computer-enhanced photos, but they’re still beautiful.            

Covers in the early days of sensual romance usually showed the hero and heroine in a passionate clinch.  I was told (and it seemed to be true) that you could tell the level of sensuality in a book by two things—the position of the hero’s hands and the depth of the heroine’s cleavage.  Aren’t we glad that era is over?            

Seeing your cover for the first time is always a thrill.  The heart leaps—or sometimes it sinks.   Egad!  My hero looks like Donald Trump!  What were they thinking?   Usually, however, it’s just a Wow! I love the cover for my new book, THE STRANGER.  The house is supposed to be a one-story adobe.  But that scrumptious hero…oh, yeah!   Who’s going to look at the house?

You can see all my covers on my web site.  Most of them are wonderful (I’d love to hear your favorite).  But the winner of my Worst Cover award is no contest.  One of my earliest books, BRIDE OF FORTUNE, was based on real events and real characters.  The heroine was an American woman who married a Prussian prince and became involved in the Mexican war to depose the Austrian Emperor Maximilian.  I sent clearly labeled photos of the heroine, her handsome, clean-shaven prince, and the bearded emperor.  Somebody mixed them up.  The cover shows the heroine in the arms of the emperor.  To add insult to injury the art on the back cover is an exact copy of a scene from the movie, “Anastasia” with Ingrid Bergman and Helen Hayes, clearly recognizable.   (No, the publisher wasn’t Harlequin.)


And my favorite cover?  It’s WILD WINGS, WILD HEART, my only Silhouette Special Edition.  The beautiful heroine is my daughter, Tanya, who died in a car accident in 1985.  I sent them her picture and they used it as a model.  My throat still gets tight when I look at it.


Do you have a favorite book cover?  Any questions or fun cover stories to share?  We’d love to hear them.  And the winner I draw from those of you who post comments will receive a copy of THE STRANGER or your choice of my other recent books.

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32 thoughts on “Under the Covers”

  1. Morning, Elizabeth! The book covers that seem to draw me in are the ones that have some good looking guy on the front. lol Or, a nice scene. I still though, read more about it to see if it’s something I’d like. I have a book cover that I use when I’m reading so the cover kind of disappears after I buy the book. I like the cover on Wyoming Wildfire. That looks like a place I’d like to be right now…sitting outside a remote cabin watching the horses play.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kim. I love that Wyoming Wildfire cover, too. And the gorgeous man covers seem to do well. I had one book, APACHE FIRE, with top cover model John DeSalvo (was that his name?) bare chested on the cover. That one flew off the shelves–I hope at least some of the people who bought it took time to read the book 🙂
    Opinions out there? How much influence does a cover have on whether you buy a book?
    Have a great day,

  3. I have lots of favorite covers. Too many to name. But I will say that I love clinch covers. I know that a lot of people don’t, but I do. I also love the covers that show either the hero or heroine’s back or another body part (like a woman’s legs or a man’s chest).

  4. Oh, Elizabeth, my own throat tightened and tears welled as I read about the cover for Wild Wings, Wild Heart. Your daughter was beautiful and to have her gracing the cover of one of your books is so incredibly touching.

  5. That is touching and no wonder it is your favourite.

    I don’t have a lot of covers – but I’m working on it! But I have to say that I love the cover for my harlequin debut (And my first cowboy story!) HIRED BY THE COWBOY. I got a bride and groom on the front – not very cowboyish, but the physical characteristics for my characters was pretty bang on!

    The one for Marriage at Circle M is pretty good too – and a lot more western. 🙂

  6. What a great post about covers!! And what a touching tribute to your daughter.

    I love all types of covers . . . clinch poses, artistic, settings, etc. I love the current paranormal trend of showing a part of the hero’s body. Great enticement!

  7. Elizabeth,
    How very touching to have your daughter on the cover of that beautiful book. I recall reading that wonderful story. It is truly a great tribute to her.
    I tend to like the current trend of seeing only part of the hero, usually from the back. The clinches don’t bother me, but I like the new trends better. I agree with you about Pino. Those were amazing covers!!

  8. I love the cover with your daughter, the cover with the sexy looking cowboy sure got my attention. I am still having trouble getting my copy hopefully Barnes & Noble will be able to get it. As I have told Cheryl the one at our mall in middle of town really doesn’t seem to know that many authors. The one out South knows Cheryl and several other local authors so when I go in there they know just what I am talking about. So I guess I am going to have to make a trip out South. Can’t wait to read your book.

  9. Hang on, Brenda, maybe you’ll win the drawing!
    And thanks to all of you for your kind comments. The artist who did the cover with my daughter glamorized her a little, but she really was a beautiful girl. I’m happy to share her with you.
    Congratulations on your new books, Donna. Have you added them to the library on our site (haven’t had time to check)? If not, you should.
    Charlene, I actually met Pino years ago when RWA was in New York. He was this wild little Italian guy, so funny.

  10. I made suggestions for my cover for Petticoat Ranch, I wanted a contrast between feminine and masculine. I suggested using boots as a flower vase.
    Well, Barbour came up with a lacy skirt hanging over boots, I loved it. It really gave me a new appreciation for the artists who do this work. They’ve got an artist flare I’m grateful for, BUT, when the book came…I’d seen cover art, but I hadn’t seen the back, there wasn’t even anything on the back in the ACRs I received. On the back, tucked up in one corner, there was a boot being used as a flower vase.
    I just loved that. I felt like that was a gift Barbour gave me and I realized (or in my fevered imaginiation I kidded myself, maybe) that they really listened to me and were trying to capture my vision for the cover.

  11. I really love the step-back covers, but you don’t see too many of them because they’re expensive (so I’ve heard) to produce. MIRA did some wonderful step-backs for Susan Wiggs’ historicals – the Chicago Fire trilogy (loved the cover for The Firebrand) and Halfway to Heaven.

    My favorite romance cover of all time is the original step-back for Lisa Kleypas’ Suddenly You (Avon). Beautiful colors.

  12. Elizabeth, it’s simply wonderful that you were able to get your daughter’s picture on that cover. I can’t think of a more lasting tribute to her. That’s so special. I also love the cover of The Stranger. That guy is hot. Great colors too. Who cares the house isn’t adobe? No one even notices that. My worst cover was Redemption even though it was my first with live models. The story takes place right after the Civil War but they have Regency clothing on the girl and a pirate shirt on the guy. It was also my first clinch cover. My first one was from a painting and I’m not sure but I think the second one was as well. Those were my best. I know publishers really do try to give us the best covers they can and that will sell the most copies because the bottom line is about making money. But on occasion they kinda fall short. You sorta have to take the good with the bad in this business and make the best of everything. Good luck to you!

  13. Wise words, Linda. The art people really do try hard to do right by us. And 99.9% of the time they do magnificent work.

    On the other hand–does anybody remember the classic clinch cover (this was years ago) where the hero had three hands, all on the heroine’s body? Evidently the artist made a change and forgot to remove one of them. I understand this actually boosted the book’s sales.

    And I was just thinking about Fabio, who was everywhere for a while. What a fun guy! I loved his attitude, and I even love his margarine commercials! 🙂

  14. I do like the cover of The Stranger and so many of the Harlequin Historicals have beautiful covers. Cheryl’s The Preacher’s Daughter is a very lovely one.

  15. You have some nice covers.

    My books are published by The Wild Rose Press and there the author does get input on the covers. The cover artist goes by your information and then sends the cover to you and you can ask for changes. My most recent cover- my daughter and I staged and took the photo then sent it to the cover artist to add the title and name. It so far, is my favorite cover. As the company has grown so has the talents of the cover artists, making the most recent book covers better and better.

    The author, the title, and then the cover is the process I am drawn to a book by. So sometimes I don’t think the cover matters all that much. But if you are new, like myself, I think you need a cover to catch the new reader’s eye. So it’s kind of a catch 22.

    Great blog, Elizabeth!

  16. I think you have beautiful covers. I have found that Harlequin does a great job with the covers for Historicals.

  17. I love the cover for Stacey Kayne’s next book in the wild series Maverick Wild. You can’t see the guys face on te cover but you don’t need to. I also think it’s great that you have a picture of your daughter on your book it’s beautiful.

  18. I think Cheryl’s THE PREACHER’s DAUGHTER is beautiful, like an impressionist painting. And Stacy’s MUSTANG WILD is fantastic. I don’t remember seeing the cover for MAVERICK WILD, but if it’s anything like MUSTANG, I can hardly wait.

  19. Great post and thanks for sharing about your daughter!

    I love almost every recent Harlequin Historical cover (some of the older ones were a bit too busy). I don’t think I have a favorite cover though Stacey Kayne has had some beautiful ones (looking at ones sitting near me).

    I don’t always pay attention to the covers when I buy a book and buy based on story (or author). It sometimes bothers me though if the cover doesn’t match the description in the book…but a good story can make me forget the cover…I like imagining things for myself. However, my image might not be what the author intended…LOL. I don’t know much about fashion or time periods, so unless it is blatantly obvious I won’t notice fashion goofs or other anachronisms on the covers. Oh, I have noticed some Harlequin covers (and other romances) sometimes use the same picture or outfit on the models on the cover.

  20. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I sometimes will look at covers and try to make up what the story is about based on the cover or come up with a fun caption for covers…LOL…it is sometimes fun to do just to see how accurate or outrageous I can get.

  21. P.S. Despite the Pink Prom Dress jokes, I have to say that they Cheyenne Indian costume my heroine wore on the cover of WYOMING WILDCAT was absolutely perfect–and so was she!

  22. I too have too many favorites. Actually it’s easier to say what I don’t like and that’s some of the cutesy covers. Those are usually chick lit covers and some contemporaries. I think I like all of the historical covers through the years but maybe because they’re my favorite kind of story.

  23. Just as note to say that I’ll be doing the drawing for THE STRANGER in about 15 minutes–11:00 EST, 10:00 CST, 9:00 MST and 8:00 PST.
    Thanks to all of you for your wonderful posts.
    If you win, please send me your snail mail at elizlane123@msn.com and make sure to tell me if you’d like to substitute another book.
    Good luck to all of you.

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