What’s in a Cover

In anticipation of receiving the cover for my latest novel, Dreams of Perfection, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to book covers.

Historically, book cover choices were somewhat limited. They typically included only the title and the author’s name. Now a days, however the choices are many, and each one gives the reader a hint of what’s inside.

I’ve listed four broad categories of cover images, but of course within each category the mood of the covers can be very different based on the imagery, from dark and dangerous, to sweet and lighthearted, or sexy and erotic, depending on the artwork, the colors, and even the font.

Setting/Landscape Image. The cover may feature an image of a house or a landscape, and that house can be homey and welcoming or dark and foreboding. The same for landscapes. Sunny, bright landscapes set a happy, sweet tone for the book, but a dark, moss-draped forest might hint at suspense or mystery, perhaps even a paranormal storyline. Nora Roberts’ covers tend to depict settings, whether they’re her Inn Boonsboro trilogy or her latest release, Dark Witch, from the O’Dwyer Trilogy.

Nora 2

Meaningful or Symbolic Object. These covers display an item which likely plays a significant role in the story. A romantic suspense may have a knife or other weapon on the cover. A historical romance might feature a sword or a flower. Probably two of the most famous covers depicting an object are Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight.


Couple embracing or kissing. The ever-popular “clinch,” is one of the more familiar images for historical romances, but they also grace the covers of contemporary romances and erotica. My very own Rescuing Lacey depicts a couple in a very romantic clinch. I must admit, I love my cover!

I’m often amused be reviewers of erotica who are aghast at the explicit sex scenes in the novel. Chances are, novels bearing a scantily-clad couple in a suggestive pose involve erotica. Just saying.

Three covers

The-Best-man-Kristan-Higgins-Book-CoverOther book covers forego the clinch and go for the sweet couple pose, like Kristan Higgins’ books. Her covers tell you exactly what you’re getting — sweet, funny, small-town romance.

While Julie James’ big city romances, like Practice MakesPractice Perfect, feature slick covers with sexy, stylish couples.

Solo Hero or Heroine. This is becoming a more popular choice for covers, especially when they feature a hunky hero sporting his six-pack abs. Take Jill Shalvis’ cover for Blue Flame with a yummy, sexy hero — sans shirt. Please take a moment to ogle – you know you want to. Is it hot in here? Mercy! Excuse me while I fan myself.


Okay, I’m back. Whew!

Finally, Rachel Gibson’s sassy cover for Run to You coveris a nice example of the solo heroine.

What’s your favorite type of cover? Drop by my Facebook page to take the poll.

About Rebecca Heflin

I've dreamed of writing romantic fiction since I was fifteen and my older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss' Shanna to me and told me to read it. Now I write women's fiction and contemporary romance under the name Rebecca Heflin. In case you're wondering, Rebecca Heflin is an abbreviated version of my great-great grandmother's name: Sarah Anne Rebecca Heflin Apple Smith. Whew! And you wondered why I shortened it. When not passionately pursuing my dream, I am busy with my day-job at a large state university or running the non-profit cancer organization my husband and I founded. I'm a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, Savvy Authors, and Florida Writers Association. My mountain-climbing husband and I live at sea level in sunny Florida.
This entry was posted in According to Rebecca, Char's Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to What’s in a Cover

  1. Great post, Rebecca. I love them all. And I adore that there’s so much variety today. Used to be that people were embarrassed to be seen reading books with the “clinch” cover or the half naked man. These days, e-Readers have revolutionized all of that. People don’t worry so much about the cover of the book they’re reading. However, as a reader, I’d sure love to see the cover more because it always helped solidify the book & author in my mind. Now I have to keep tapping my Kindle at the top to see who I’m reading & the title. I love design and I can appreciate the whole spectrum of romance covers. We’ve come a long way! ;0)

    • Hi Mackenzie! I love them all too. And I agree with you about the ereaders. I have a Kindle Fire so I do get to see the beautiful color covers, but when you start a new book, it jumps automatically to the first page of the story. I miss seeing the cover everytime I open the book.

  2. Hi Rebecca, Enjoyed reading about the different types of covers. Another category you may wish to add – headless women.

    • Hi Joanne! Thanks for stopping by. You’re right, the headless woman is another category. I saw one on Amazon just the other day. I’m sure I’ll need more categories to the list as cover artists and publishers push the envelope.

  3. kathybryson says:

    Good discussion! I’m due to consider a cover shortly, so thanks for the guidelines. What’s challenging is when your book falls into multiple categories or somewhere in between. Say supernatural and sweet. Do you focus on one feel or try to combine?

    • I can see how it would be difficult when you’re dealing with a mash-ups. I have a hard time deciding what special objects or scenes to include without making the cover look like a Diego Rivera mural. ( :

  4. I loved this Rebecca! I admit, I am drawn to a book by it’s cover, and if the cover doesn’t accurately depict the story, I’m miffed. Silly, I know.

  5. Yeah, I judge a book by its cover, too. And the title. And the back cover blurb and opening page.

    Perhaps I judge too much. 🙂

  6. Rachel says:

    Great blog! Cover art is very important; it is the first thing a potential reader notices and can either attract or discourage said reader from looking into the book further. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  7. Great post, Rebecca! I never thought much about book covers until I started writing for publication. Now I see what an impact a cover can make. I recently read a release from about ten years ago that I expected (from the cover and back copy) to be funny, but turned out to be more of a romantic suspense. It was a great lesson in the importance of getting the cover and copy right!

    • Thanks, Alina. I never gave much thought into what goes into creating a cover until my first book. With all the possibilities, it’s a bit overwhelming to decide what you’d like to see on the cover.

  8. Great blog, Rebecca. I enjoyed all the visual examples. As a reader, the cover has always played a significant role in my decision to pick up the book or download a sample. It’s a tease no matter what you display. Most always, the cover is the only tangible clue given to the reader to help visualize the author’s world. Thanks for sharing. Marisa Dillon

  9. hashbyauthor says:

    Great post, Rebecca. Thanks for breaking down the cover issue. Of course, you know, I love your RESCUING LACEY cover best of all 🙂 Happy New Year! Write On!

  10. Rebecca love your cover, keep on keeping on with your cover http://dorothyemiller.blogspot.com/

  11. Thanks so much. Covers fascinate me. Especially today when you realize buyers often get only a thumbnail of your cover to make a decision. I did a lot of cover looking and marketing symbolism before filling out the cover form.
    I’m going to get to see mine very soon. I hope your cover is everything you want it to be.

  12. Hello Rebecca,

    I never really gave book covers much thought before I started writing. Sure, there were covers that caught my eye more than others, but it was not until I had to fill out a cover design sheet that it sank in. Now, I find myself looking at covers on Amazon along with the blurbs that accompany them. Currently, I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of the book covers to three different contracted novels, so I guess one could say I am having triple the anxiety. That being said…I know exactly how you and my fellow Soul Mate Authors feel. I can’t wait to see everyone’s book cover designs.

  13. Beth Carter says:

    I’m not sure how I missed this fabulous post! What great examples of a variety of covers. I’m always torn between having people and objects on covers. In my newest release, I have both!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s