Up Close and Personal with Cover Café

Answering the (oft asked) question: How did the Cover Contest come to be?

Don’t forget to vote in this year’s contest.  Voting is open until midnight, May 28, 2009.

The Annual 2008 Romance Cover Contest at Cover Cafe.

May is the month of the annual Cover Contest.  Given that, and the fact that several AAR staffers have a real interest in covers and are also members of the Cover Ballot committee, we thought we’d do a quick interview with some of the key participants of Cover Café, to give you the reader an inside look on why we put the work into this annual contest.

Mary Lynn – Cover Café Coverballot Committee Member, Former HST/Historical Chair

“I think I’ve always looked at covers. I love the art, the different styles of artists, and the way fonts and typography are as important as any image on the cover. That’s why helping set up the cover contest appealed to me. I love seeing all the cover nominations, not just the ones that make the finals. Believe me, seeing all the worst candidates is a real hoot!

As a SF/fantasy reader of many years, I was used to seeing creative and varied covers that really captured my eye. So when I segued into romance, I was surprised to discover that a lot of the covers were, well, almost the same. This was in the early 80s, when the classic “bodice ripper” cover – man, woman, clinch – was still strongly in vogue. What a shock when someone put just a flower on the cover of a romance! Or when Fabio (a man alone!) came along!

I’ve been pleased to see the evolution of covers in the 20-odd (gasp!) years I’ve been reading romance. And I’ve come to understand that a cover has one purpose. It’s got to say “PICK ME UP. LOOK AT ME.” to you. And if it does that, it’s a successful cover – whether it’s really good or atrociously bad!”

Karen – Cover Café Coverballot CO/Contemporary and WO/Worst Chair

I’ve always loved book covers.  The first cover that I remember is from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  As I read the book, I kept flipping back to the cover, to see what Mary and her garden looked like.  The Tasha Tudor illustration still pops into my head whenever I think of this book.  One reason I started reading romances was because they had “people” covers like my favorite books form childhood, so I could see the hero and heroine.  I started voting in the cover contest the first year it started, in 1999, and I still remember one of the winning covers from that year – Bride to Be by Jane Ashford, which was illustrated by Franco Accornero.  I still love that romantic cover style, although it’s not as popular today.

I joined the cover committee a few years later, after I met someone on the committee who encouraged me to become a member.  As I’ve become more involved in the contest, I’ve become more aware of the design elements in covers, as well as their use in marketing books to readers.  But when I see a particularly beautiful cover, I’m still that eight year old girl, standing at a library shelf and trying to decide which book I want to take home with me.

Linnae – Cover Café Coverballot Committee Chair

I began reading romance novels in my teenage years and often noticed the book covers but in a casual, offhanded manner.  However in 2000, the infamous “Doughboy” cover led me to become an advocate for excellence in romance covers.  I had been reading Suzanne Brockmann’ s Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series.  The series featured Navy Seal Team Ten and the covers, if not awe inspiring, resembled each hero‘s description.

And then, Get Lucky – Hero # 9, was published.  I could not believe the guy pictured on the cover because he DID NOT resemble the handsome playboy described by Suzanne in the book.  I loved the story but hated that cover!  One day, I was lurking on the Intimate Moments Authors’ message board and someone mentioned a Cover Contest at the All About Romance site.  A contest existed where you could nominate covers for Best and Worst covers of the year?  Sweet!   I  immediately visited AAR and nominated Get Lucky for Worst cover of the year and several other covers that I thought were beautiful.

The Coverballot Chair contacted me after the contest was finished and invited me to join the committee.   I was Series Chair from 2001 through 2005 and in February 2009, I took over as Committee Chair and expanded the website. During my years with the contest,  I have developed a deep appreciation for all of the work involved in creating covers.  I love nothing better than finding great covers to celebrate every year.

Don’t forget to nominate your favorite and not so favorite 2009 Covers at Cover Cafe!

Linnae Crady

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3 Responses to “Up Close and Personal with Cover Café”

  1. LinnieGayl says:

    I think the first Cover Contest I voted in was the one with the Get Lucky cover….what a nightmare. I’ll admit to being drawn in by beautiful covers. While I won’t buy a book solely on the basis of a cover, I will often pick up books with beautiful covers in bookstores, and check to see if I might like the book.

  2. Susan/DC says:

    I still don’t understand why some books get such beautiful covers and others get such awful ones. Some covers are so evocative they pull me immediately into the world of the book, whereas others are bland cliches that make my eyes glaze over and I move on to the next book on the shelf in the store. The Ashford cover above is still a favorite.

    My problem with the cover contest is often that there are some categories where I don’t find any of the covers worthy of a vote, while in other categories I want to vote for two or more and have a hard time deciding.

  3. iris gomez says:

    I think that one of the reasons why people scoff at romance books is also due to the ‘clinch’ covers or the overtly sexual ones (like the Aphodisia ones). I love stepbacks as it also gives an idea of what the heroes/heroines looks like. Anyway, traditional covers. eg like those in the 80′s are definatley to blame. Having said that, there is a vast improvement. Finally, we can enjoy reading a good book without a cringe worthy cover. I like “The Blue Sword”. The cover dosen’t scream romance!!!. It is classy and I won’t be embarassed reading it on my commute.