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Beyond Romance Covers
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 10:38 am    Post subject: Beyond Romance Covers Reply with quote

+IHS+

This is a spin-off from the thread "The Test of Time".

It turns out that my intellectual guy friend started reading Georgette Heyer because he found a hardcover of Venetia that had lost its dust jacket! He had to open it and start reading in order to get any sense of the book. So that was not a case of repackaging, but of unpackaging! Laughing

Anyway, he said that something more important than cover art in the marketing of Romance is location. Non-readers of Romance tend to steer clear of the Romance aisle simply because they don't think there's anything there for them. He has a point: I stay away from the Cyberpunk section for similar reasons.

He also said that recommendations play a huge role. If a non-reader of Romance did become curious about the genre, the vast wealth of titles would be daunting and he wouldn't know which titles or authors to try. My friend says that publishers could be more strategic about whose blurbs they put on the covers. (He specifically mentioned Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda. And hey, why not? If the book is really good, why not send review copies to "serious" literary journalists as well?)

What do you think?

I remember being a little peeved a few months ago when my favourite bookstore took all the Susan Elizabeth Philips titles out of the Romance section and put them in the General Fiction area--but now that I think about it, they probably did her a favour.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 11:30 am    Post subject: Re: Beyond Romance Covers Reply with quote

[ If the book is really good, why not send review copies to "serious" literary journalists as well?)

What do you think?

************************************************
Yes, I think that would be great. I wonder why it isn't done at all or more often?





I remember being a little peeved a few months ago when my favourite bookstore took all the Susan Elizabeth Philips titles out of the Romance section and put them in the General Fiction area--but now that I think about it, they probably did her a favour.[/quote]


*********************************************
Oh yes, I agree. They probably did do her a favor. Lately, I've noticed quite a few romance authors in the general section. The latest was Susan Donovan and Jennifer Cruise has been there for a long time. Good for them...I think more readers will discover some really good authors that way. As for the covers you mentioned...Heyer has some beautiful covers now in the general fiction section. I just bought An Infamous Army. Haven't read Heyer before and am anxious to start this book. Covers on romance novels can be more than silly. Personally, I am embarrassed to read many of them in public and I realize many readers don't care and do it all the time, but that's not me. I often wonder why they still have these covers and who they are marketing to. Does the average romance reader just love these things? I think romance would be taken more seriously if they were more mainstream, but that's just my opinion.
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola said, " My friend says that publishers could be more strategic about whose blurbs they put on the covers. (He specifically mentioned Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda.)"

Can you please explain what your friend meant about the blurbs needing to be more strategic and what Michael Dirda has to do with it, Schola? Thanks.
Lynda X
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
I often wonder why they still have these covers and who they are marketing to. Does the average romance reader just love these things? I think romance would be taken more seriously if they were more mainstream, but that's just my opinion.


It's a double-edged sword, I think. I can't stand clinch covers and "wedding invitation" lettering myself, but they are effective in telling readers: This is a Romance!

I'd say that readers who love genre fiction are mostly traditional. We don't insist on the same form each time (in fact, we tend to complain when every book is the same as the last), but we do insist on good form. Just because something is a well-written novel, that doesn't mean it's a good Romance.

We do often read outside the genre; but I think that when we want something with a male lead and female lead who fall in love and overcome the odds to achieve a happy ending, we'd trust a book with a clinch cover rather than root around in General Fiction among the "intellectual" novels about adultery, mid-life crises and tortured characters who never seem to heal.

Lynda X wrote:
Schola said, " My friend says that publishers could be more strategic about whose blurbs they put on the covers. (He specifically mentioned Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda.)"

Can you please explain what your friend meant about the blurbs needing to be more strategic and what Michael Dirda has to do with it, Schola? Thanks.
Lynda X


Sure, Lynda! Very Happy

Blurbs on Romances are usually from other Romance authors. I have a Loretta Chase novel next to me now that features praise from Stephanie Laurens on the front cover, for instance. Such blurbs are good for attracting Laurens fans to Chase, but won't make much sense to anyone who doesn't know either Laurens or Chase.

My friend dropped the term "Romance ghetto"--which grated on the nerves, but which I had to admit had some truth in it. As long as publishers are selling enough books to Romance readers, they don't really make an effort to reach the rest of the market.

If there were blurbs by critics like Margaret Drabble or more mainstream authors like Anna Quindlen or Maeve Binchy, then non-readers of Romance might think, "Oh, look! There's something here for me after all!" Then they'd be more likely to give Romance a try.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
Blurbs on Romances are usually from other Romance authors. I have a Loretta Chase novel next to me now that features praise from Stephanie Laurens on the front cover, for instance. Such blurbs are good for attracting Laurens fans to Chase, but won't make much sense to anyone who doesn't know either Laurens or Chase.


I've never actually paid any attention to author blurbs on books to begin with in any genre so I'm no help there. Romance or not, I don't want to know what another author thinks about the author's writing style. I want to know what's in the book. PERIOD. Exclamation point.

Seems to me someone is just looking for status symbols in their reading if all they are worried about is who recommended what on the cover.

I have an aunt like that. When she talks about what she reads, all she does is name drop and it gets old fast. Don't get me wrong. I have the greatest respect for reading for personal enlightenment but that's not what she's doing. When my sister and I listen to her go on, we simply smile and nod. We both read what we read for pleasure and enjoyment and have learned that even if we recommend anything to her it wouldn't take because it's all about "names" to her.

So, really, give me information about the book, please. Wink
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Cora



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't care about blurbs and review quotes either and would much rather have a backcover blurb which gives some information about the book. I mean, what does it really tell me that established author X thinks a novel by a new author is "a winner", while established author Y thinks that the book is "hot, hip and fast-paced" (actual example from the first book grabbed of the shelf)? It tells me absolutely nothing.

Besides, I don't think cover blurbs or review quotes are particularly trustworthy either. There are plenty of cases of friends blurbing and praising each other, there is Sherrilyn Kenyon blurbing her alter ego Kinley McGregor, there is the infamous "best English fantasy novel in the past seventy years" blurb by Neil Gaiman for Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (enjoyable as that book was, no way could it ever live up to that praise), there is the SF novel with review quotes from The Guardian, the National Review and an SF mag (either Locus or SFX) on the cover. Or the guy I knew who reviewed SF and fantasy novels for a fairly small online site and found out-of-context quote from a lukewarm review of what I think was a Linnea Sinclair novel on the cover (to be fair, I felt he was the wrong person to review Sinclair anyway).
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Rosario



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 328
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 4:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
I've never actually paid any attention to author blurbs on books to begin with in any genre so I'm no help there. Romance or not, I don't want to know what another author thinks about the author's writing style. I want to know what's in the book. PERIOD. Exclamation point.

Seems to me someone is just looking for status symbols in their reading if all they are worried about is who recommended what on the cover.


I'm like that as well, but mostly because of the way author blurbs have been misused in romance for so long (authors who give a blurb to everything, whether they like it or not, just because those books are also published by their own publisher; use of ellipses to completely change meanings, etc). In principle, it sounds like a good idea to me.... so I love what author X writes and author X loves author Y's books. Maybe I'll like author Y as well, then?

I just finished reading The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of columns written by author Nick Hornby about what he'd read every month, and I was struck by how often he mentioned author blurbs. They did seem to influence his choices, and he treated them almost as personal recommendations from the authors.

I know this is way too anecdotal to allow me to make any conclusions, but maybe non-romance readers pay a bit more attention to them than we do? In that case, it would make sense to add blurbs from non-romance authors, if you want to encourage cross-over readers. Nora Roberts would be a good example: my UK edition of Blood Brothers has a rec from Stephen King on the cover. It says: "Nora Roberts amazes me".
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rosario wrote:
bbmedos wrote:
I've never actually paid any attention to author blurbs on books to begin with in any genre so I'm no help there. Romance or not, I don't want to know what another author thinks about the author's writing style. I want to know what's in the book. PERIOD. Exclamation point.

Seems to me someone is just looking for status symbols in their reading if all they are worried about is who recommended what on the cover.


I'm like that as well, but mostly because of the way author blurbs have been misused in romance for so long (authors who give a blurb to everything, whether they like it or not, just because those books are also published by their own publisher; use of ellipses to completely change meanings, etc). In principle, it sounds like a good idea to me.... so I love what author X writes and author X loves author Y's books. Maybe I'll like author Y as well, then?


The one time I paid attention to a blurb by Author X, who I really like, I ended up really disappointed. I may like her books and she may love Author Y's books (and she really does; it's not just about sharing a publisher); but our taste in Romance is completely different. I've barely glanced at blurbs on Romances since.

Yet I've done enough work in Marketing Research (little though it may have been) to know that if the publishers keep doing it, they must be getting some results.

Rosario wrote:
I just finished reading The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, a collection of columns written by author Nick Hornby about what he'd read every month, and I was struck by how often he mentioned author blurbs. They did seem to influence his choices, and he treated them almost as personal recommendations from the authors.


That's what my friend means, too. Smile

Rosario wrote:
I know this is way too anecdotal to allow me to make any conclusions, but maybe non-romance readers pay a bit more attention to them than we do? In that case, it would make sense to add blurbs from non-romance authors, if you want to encourage cross-over readers. Nora Roberts would be a good example: my UK edition of Blood Brothers has a rec from Stephen King on the cover. It says: "Nora Roberts amazes me".


Wow! That's great! Very Happy

Now if only we could get a blurb from Joss Whedon on the cover of a Kresley Cole paranormal! Wink
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rosario wrote:
I know this is way too anecdotal to allow me to make any conclusions, but maybe non-romance readers pay a bit more attention to them than we do? In that case, it would make sense to add blurbs from non-romance authors, if you want to encourage cross-over readers. Nora Roberts would be a good example: my UK edition of Blood Brothers has a rec from Stephen King on the cover. It says: "Nora Roberts amazes me".


I don't know. I think it might be a mixed bag of blessings. While a quote from King on a books might sell it to horror fans or even other readers outside of romance, I seriously doubt it would sell it to diehard romance readers. Sort of a case of something not passing the test with those that actually know the topic?

OTOH, if the publishers truly were attempting to market a print run of an author's book to that outside audience with those type of quotes, then it might pay off. They'd just have to make it clear to booksellers where to place the product or it could still backfire. It is all in how it's planned and executed. They can't just expect the books to get from point A to point B on their own in that case precisely because of the existing prejudices against the genre.

There is a point in all of this where it begins to sound like a sort of bait and switch. Not that I'm calling it that. I'm just asking whether what we're really talking about is fooling people into reading romance by almost disguising it as something else?

See that's the thing about the whole cover/blurb issue that bothers me. Do the especially lurid covers sometimes annoy me? Yeah, and I've been reading romances for a long time so I've seen a lot of them. But I've also seen a lot of truly odd science fiction, fantasy and mystery covers over the years, too. The thing is, one can pretty much always tell what's what. I don't really want to give that up. So until someone explains to me how we can still distinguish between the genres without ending up with them all having plain brown wrappers, I'd just as soon have some tasteful clinches on romances surrounded by quotes from names I at least recognize from the genre, you know.

See the problem I'm getting at?

(Edited to add: Yes, I know this sounds like I just contradicted myself but I think this may be a prime example of exactly the conundrum the publishers are facing - fans, AKA devoted readers. I don't read the blurbs from long habit but, conversely, I also firmly believe I would notice if only on a subconcious level if the majority of them were from non-romance authors whom I didn't recognize.)
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We do often read outside the genre; but I think that when we want something with a male lead and female lead who fall in love and overcome the odds to achieve a happy ending, we'd trust a book with a clinch cover rather than root around in General Fiction among the "intellectual" novels about adultery, mid-life crises and tortured characters who never seem to heal.

[


Lynda X[/quote]



My point was that I wanted the covers to look more mainstream, not for the contents of the book to change. I am a big fan of formula the romance genre offers. I like the HEA and knowing that the book will be about how the couple reaches the HEA. I was only commenting on the covers.
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bbmedos



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
My point was that I wanted the covers to look more mainstream, not for the contents of the book to change. I am a big fan of formula the romance genre offers. I like the HEA and knowing that the book will be about how the couple reaches the HEA. I was only commenting on the covers.


The problem is that the apparently larger proven audience already identifies the books as they are, i.e. with those "objectionable" covers. If I were a publisher, why would I want to shoot myself in the foot?

Look, I've heard all the arguments about repectability over the years and I just don't buy them. Are some of the covers over the line? Sure. Some of them are also quite tasteful and still manage to convey that they're romances instead of something else.

So, for every bad cover that one might think would make people look down on romance, I could also show another good one that they're still going to look down on because it's still a romance. It is what it is. And you know what, we probably could put them all, meaning all genres, in plain brown covers and people would still find reason to point out that those novels are inferior because they have, gasp, happy endings and, worse, committed relationships in them.

We have to get over the covers and stand up for the genre as is before anyone else is going to. Why should romance be any more looked down on than mystery or science fiction or fantasy?

And to the first person that says because it's by women for women, I say bull. Romance existed as a story form a long time before women started writing it exclusively and it was still looked down on as pablum for the lovelorn masses dreaming their dreams of adventure and mystery and, yes, love.

This isn't about sexism. This is about people trying to impose on other people their views on what's appropriate reading material. Period. That the majority of the readers in question here happen to be women is significant but it's not the point. The point is that nobody should be judging us by what we read. Or by what it looks like.

If they do, it is their problem, not ours.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
Quote:
My point was that I wanted the covers to look more mainstream, not for the contents of the book to change. I am a big fan of formula the romance genre offers. I like the HEA and knowing that the book will be about how the couple reaches the HEA. I was only commenting on the covers.


The problem is that the apparently larger proven audience already identifies the books as they are, i.e. with those "objectionable" covers. If I were a publisher, why would I want to shoot myself in the foot?

Look, I've heard all the arguments about repectability over the years and I just don't buy them. Are some of the covers over the line? Sure. Some of them are also quite tasteful and still manage to convey that they're romances instead of something else.

So, for every bad cover that one might think would make people look down on romance, I could also show another good one that they're still going to look down on because it's still a romance. It is what it is. And you know what, we probably could put them all, meaning all genres, in plain brown covers and people would still find reason to point out that those novels are inferior because they have, gasp, happy endings and, worse, committed relationships in them.

We have to get over the covers and stand up for the genre as is before anyone else is going to. Why should romance be any more looked down on than mystery or science fiction or fantasy?

And to the first person that says because it's by women for women, I say bull. Romance existed as a story form a long time before women started writing it exclusively and it was still looked down on as pablum for the lovelorn masses dreaming their dreams of adventure and mystery and, yes, love.

This isn't about sexism. This is about people trying to impose on other people their views on what's appropriate reading material. Period. That the majority of the readers in question here happen to be women is significant but it's not the point. The point is that nobody should be judging us by what we read. Or by what it looks like.

If they do, it is their problem, not ours.





I do agree that not all romance covers are bad or objectionable (your words), some are quite lovely, some are nice and neat and to the point, but some are horrid. And to that point, I guess I will always be somewhat of a closet-romance-reader, because I will never sit in a public place reading some of those books with , what I personally think are silly covers. And that is what it is. I can be at home and love the book...really, I learned long ago that you can't judge a book by it's cover, but I refuse to sit anywhere where strangers can see me reading it. Can't help it, but I realize that is my problem and not everyone else. I accept that.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
And to that point, I guess I will always be somewhat of a closet-romance-reader, because I will never sit in a public place reading some of those books with , what I personally think are silly covers. And that is what it is. I can be at home and love the book...really, I learned long ago that you can't judge a book by it's cover, but I refuse to sit anywhere where strangers can see me reading it. Can't help it, but I realize that is my problem and not everyone else. I accept that.

Move over and make room on that couch for me, too, xina. There's no way I'll read some of those books in public that have horrendous covers. I don't even like them at home. So I have that problem also and I doubt I'll ever change my mind about it either.
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bbmedos



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
xina wrote:
And to that point, I guess I will always be somewhat of a closet-romance-reader, because I will never sit in a public place reading some of those books with , what I personally think are silly covers. And that is what it is. I can be at home and love the book...really, I learned long ago that you can't judge a book by it's cover, but I refuse to sit anywhere where strangers can see me reading it. Can't help it, but I realize that is my problem and not everyone else. I accept that.

Move over and make room on that couch for me, too, xina. There's no way I'll read some of those books in public that have horrendous covers. I don't even like them at home. So I have that problem also and I doubt I'll ever change my mind about it either.


No one is asking either one of you to, however, here is what I don't understand and this is honest curiosity about this topic. Are you saying that you are reading them but that because you're uncomfortable reading them in public the amount you can read is somehow limited?
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Tee



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2008 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
Are you saying that you are reading them but that because you're uncomfortable reading them in public the amount you can read is somehow limited?

Speaking for myself, bbmedos, if I happened to be reading a book (even though the story is great) with what I perceive as an unappealing cover, I would not read it in public. I'm reading somewhat different things these days, so there's not that many of these books around me as before. But there are some. I'll read them at home (in front of family, etc), but not in a waiting room, or some similar area. I doubt that I'll change my attitude in that.

I remember when I was a kid, the Mickey Spillane books were quite popular with a lot of people. The early covers were considered pretty racy at the time; but they changed, too, as they went along. Maybe the guys (I think that's the majority of the population that read them) began feeling the same way about reading them in public. Who knows?
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