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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1463
Location: America

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there's two sides to the argument about covers. On one hand, I do agree that I have gravitated towards clinches because I knew it was a romance novel, but on the other, I just don't like them because they do send the message that a romance novel equals so-called "porn for women." There are clinches that I've really adored, but there are more I've vehemently abhorred. And doesn't the clinch narrow readership? We've all spoken of wanting to convert friends and family to romance novels, but the isn't the main reason for their repugnance based on the covers? Sf/F is plagued with cheesy covers, and the old pulp fiction from the 30s-50s are pretty racy, but the first impression the genre made on the general public was the "bodice ripper." It's going to be pretty hard to shake that moniker if covers look the way they did 15-20 years ago. We know the content has changed with the years, but the book covers don't show this. It isn't about being ashamed, but about change.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
I think there's two sides to the argument about covers. On one hand, I do agree that I have gravitated towards clinches because I knew it was a romance novel, but on the other, I just don't like them because they do send the message that a romance novel equals so-called "porn for women." There are clinches that I've really adored, but there are more I've vehemently abhorred. And doesn't the clinch narrow readership? We've all spoken of wanting to convert friends and family to romance novels, but the isn't the main reason for their repugnance based on the covers? Sf/F is plagued with cheesy covers, and the old pulp fiction from the 30s-50s are pretty racy, but the first impression the genre made on the general public was the "bodice ripper." It's going to be pretty hard to shake that moniker if covers look the way they did 15-20 years ago. We know the content has changed with the years, but the book covers don't show this. It isn't about being ashamed, but about change.


Truth be told, I know very few people outside of romance readers who even use the term "bodice ripper" routinely. The media uses it, true, but I'm not sure anyone else does - except the people who truly want to go out of their way to put down the genre. To them I say pfft.

The type of reading prejudice I normally run across in real life is more about reading any type of popular fiction, romance just being the most popular. And it runs in two directions:

Why are you reading that?

Or...

Why are you reading at all? (As in, why aren't you doing something else?)

There are a lot of people out there that just don't get reading for pleasure.

As to this being about change, I hear you. Thing is, I've seen a heck of a lot of change in the genre in the years I've been reading it so I'm also not sure how to respond.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 4:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
I think there's two sides to the argument about covers. On one hand, I do agree that I have gravitated towards clinches because I knew it was a romance novel, but on the other, I just don't like them because they do send the message that a romance novel equals so-called "porn for women."


I've actually never thought that clinches (unless hero and heroine were virtually naked) advertised porn, but heavy emotionalism. (Is that a word? Laughing ) I remember being part of a tutorial group in which the boys complained about Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles--and everything they said could have described a bad saga-type Romance. There is an innocent and beautiful heroine who can't help it if men lust after her; the hero betrays her in a terrible way and she reaches depths of suffering and degredation before he finally comes to rescue her; unfortunately, he comes too late . . . (Well, that last part isn't quite an HEA, admittedly.)

In other words, there was so much emotion in the novel that it seemed to drown out everything else. And it was a heavy sort of emotion. I remember coming across an aunt's collection of Mills and Boon novels and soon figuring out that the hero would always treat the heroine badly, make her feel terrible about herself in some way, and then reveal his true adoration of her at the end. The heroines plunge into self-pity, rise into near-ecstasy, sink into a feeling of worthlessness, and soar into the glow of virtually being worshipped, in less than 200 pages. It's not very realistic. In fact, I'd say that it's like getting "high" and needing a "hit" as regularly as possible.

NoirFemme wrote:
There are clinches that I've really adored, but there are more I've vehemently abhorred. And doesn't the clinch narrow readership?


Yes, it does--and not necessarily because of the perception that the story is porn. I know from glancing at a movie poster if something is "just another teen movie," and those aren't the kind I care to watch. There's more to Romance than just the sex scenes, but clinches don't make that clear.

NoirFemme wrote:
We know the content has changed with the years, but the book covers don't show this. It isn't about being ashamed, but about change.


That's a brilliant observation! I agree completely! Very Happy
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
I've actually never thought that clinches (unless hero and heroine were virtually naked) advertised porn, but heavy emotionalism.

I haven't thought that either, Schola. Porn is porn; and the romance covers we're talking about here really don't show that, IMO. And I don't believe that's what they show to the general public. How I think the general non-loving-romance-fiction public views those covers is as sappy and overly sentimental. Uh--sometimes I would have to agree with them on that. Many of them appear a bit staged and heavily dramatic. And the sad part of that is often the picture or sketch doesn't even come close to how the book characters actually look. Oh, well.

By the way, emotionalism is definitely a word. Very Happy
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's going to be pretty hard to shake that moniker if covers look the way they did 15-20 years ago. We know the content has changed with the years, but the book covers don't show this. It isn't about being ashamed, but about change.[/quote]



Yes, I agree with you statement too. I think a romance reader is on one side or the other when it comes to covers. I will never understand the necessity of some of naked/half naked person on the book cover. I don't understand the guy on the cover with his shirt unbottoned, and nothing can be said to convince me that it's for the good of the genre, because, why would it be? Instead it's like a big fat target that says ,"Kick Me". Oh well....
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

. Sorry about that--cramps was not really the word to have used.[/quote]


I know Tee, I was just kidding you. Laughing Laughing Laughing
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
I will never understand the necessity of some of naked/half naked person on the book cover. I don't understand the guy on the cover with his shirt unbottoned, and nothing can be said to convince me that it's for the good of the genre, because, why would it be? Instead it's like a big fat target that says ,"Kick Me". Oh well....


Oh, that's hilarious! Laughing Laughing Laughing

Yes, the covers do seem to be asking for abuse, don't they?
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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Location: Western Kentucky, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
Yes, I agree with you statement too. I think a romance reader is on one side or the other when it comes to covers. I will never understand the necessity of some of naked/half naked person on the book cover. I don't understand the guy on the cover with his shirt unbottoned, and nothing can be said to convince me that it's for the good of the genre, because, why would it be? Instead it's like a big fat target that says ,"Kick Me". Oh well....


Well, for one thing, I think it may be missing the point to think anyone is putting those covers on the books "for the good of the genre" in the first place. They are there to sell books, plain and simple.

If they didn't, they wouldn't continue to be there.

That's the fallacy to the entire "improving the image of the genre" argument. As readers we have very little control over it in terms of covers and the like. Except with our pocketbooks, that is. And that's only if enough of us buy or don't buy the same books.

As to the genre changing over the years, okay, yeah, some of you are absolutely correct. The content of the genre has changed. Decades ago the books didn't even have sex scenes in them. At all. Now many of them do. Decades ago, they most certainly didn't have explicit descriptions of the physical expression of the erotic side of things, complete with naked bodies bopping around between the sheets and everywhere else. So, no, the new "naked skin" covers most certainly aren't an accurate reflection of what's in any of the books, are they? Wink

I'm curious as to how romance is supposed to be accurately portrayed when it's so vast and varied as it is. I certainly don't want to see only landscapes and flowers everywhere because, regrettably or maybe not, sometimes a naked male chest is the best marketing tool and I simply accept that aspect of the industry. Is that always the case? I mean do I always not cringe? Absolutely not. But to in any way suggest it shouldn't be a part of the genre because it hurts the image?

Oye.

That's akin to suggesting science fiction should give up space ships on the covers. Seriously. I am not kidding. To me that's like thinking about romance novels with no people on them. Period. Because that's what it sounds like you're all talking about whether you realize it or not.

And before you say, oh, no, no, no, answer me this, where would you stop? See, that's what I'm not hearing? What's a good couple cover? Because they can't all be super-sweet, now can they? The books sure aren't.

We can't go backwards and slam the bedroom door. It's already open and that's what's reflected on the covers. All we can do is use our buying power if the covers truly offend.

Personally, I'm more offended by cheesy true "bodice ripper" covers circa the 1970s or 1980s style with the heroine draped all over or under the hero than I'll ever be by a tastefully done one showing a little or even a lot of skin. Why? Because at least those newer styles do reflect more what's in the books.

Although even those "bodice rippers" covers were occasionally accurate, if offensive. I'm only saying, in some ways it's a no win situation. Couple covers are part of the identity of the genre for a reason. Explain how we can "identify" the genre in another way and I'll happily listen but don't expect most romance readers to give up a major part of what identifies to them.

Especially not when it's working for the publishers.

Now, if the books stop selling . . .
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="bbmedosWell, for one thing, I think it may be missing the point to think anyone is putting those covers on the books "for the good of the genre" in the first place. They are there to sell books, plain and simple.

If they didn't, they wouldn't continue to be there. [/quote]

Agreed.

bbmedos wrote:
Although even those "bodice rippers" covers were occasionally accurate, if offensive. I'm only saying, in some ways it's a no win situation. Couple covers are part of the identity of the genre for a reason. Explain how we can "identify" the genre in another way and I'll happily listen but don't expect most romance readers to give up a major part of what identifies to them.


When I started noticing Romances in the 90s, a lot of covers had jewels or daggers on a velvet background. I remember that The Cad by Edith Layton has a very innocuous black beaver hat, white gloves and cane on a wine-red background, and it's still easy to identify as a Romance. Maybe the title and the font helped?

Now that I bring them up, though, I find that I find them kind of tacky and tawdry--like "paste" being passed off as the real thing when everyone knows that it's not real. I find that the bare-chested men covers are at least more genuine.

Boy am I hard to please! Rolling Eyes Laughing
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Schola wrote:
Now that I bring them up, though, I find that I find them kind of tacky and tawdry--like "paste" being passed off as the real thing when everyone knows that it's not real. I find that the bare-chested men covers are at least more genuine.

Boy am I hard to please! Rolling Eyes Laughing


No, actually, I think you are a very normal, average romance reader, Schola, and maybe I'm yanking your chain a bit by playing devil's advocate. Thing is, I have heard a lot of these arguments time and again. Doesn't make them any more pertinent but they do take some thinking on to make sense of because they are full of contradictions. And sometimes there simply isn't any sense to be found

One thing about what you just said regarding the cover with the dagger and jewels on it. My favorite definition of romance is the one from Merriam-Webster which says it's "a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural; a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious; a love story." I mention this to go back to what I've been saying over and over - romance is about a lot of things. So a lot of things do work on the covers, symbolically, figuratively or literally portrayed, and still suggest romance to us.

That doesn't mean that the central theme isn't couples getting together and we're never going to get away from having people on the covers, too, most of the time anyway in some form. At least, I, for one, certainly hope not. At issue is just how, umm, tastefully those portrayals of the people are done, isn't it? Because I don't believe I've ever heard any complaints about covers with just objects on them. Wink

Which brings us full circle right back to the fact that not all the books are the same or the same level of sweetness or hotness. Whatever one wants to call it. However one wants to categorize it, the publishers can't slap generic looking couples on all the books because they're not all the same. Every single line has a different personality, much less every single book. They want to stand out. Catch our eyes.

And they ain't gonna do it blending into the crowd.
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:
But to in any way suggest it shouldn't be a part of the genre because it hurts the image?

Oye.



I could care less about the image of romance to outsiders, but I do know readership is limited because of the covers. Who is going to be the next generation of romance readers? Teenagers and 20somethings today did not grow up during the "romance revolution" of the 80s and early 90s--they only know of the derision with which its treated by the general populace. My friends turn their noses up at romances, yet gobble up Danielle Steel's bland, uninspired prose like candy. My age group and below also don't need the romance genre--the YA genre is booming full of romances that aren't hampered by clinch covers and mantitty--, if they want paranormal, paranormal romance and urban fantasy books can slide easily into the sf/f section, and its pretty easy to skip over the romance genre entirely to get to chick-lit or those contemporary romance authors pushed into the mainstream. My argument about the evolution of romance covers is concerned with the next generation of romance readers.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NoirFemme wrote:
bbmedos wrote:
But to in any way suggest it shouldn't be a part of the genre because it hurts the image?

Oye.



I could care less about the image of romance to outsiders, but I do know readership is limited because of the covers. Who is going to be the next generation of romance readers? Teenagers and 20somethings today did not grow up during the "romance revolution" of the 80s and early 90s--they only know of the derision with which its treated by the general populace. My friends turn their noses up at romances, yet gobble up Danielle Steel's bland, uninspired prose like candy. My age group and below also don't need the romance genre--the YA genre is booming full of romances that aren't hampered by clinch covers and mantitty--, if they want paranormal, paranormal romance and urban fantasy books can slide easily into the sf/f section, and its pretty easy to skip over the romance genre entirely to get to chick-lit or those contemporary romance authors pushed into the mainstream. My argument about the evolution of romance covers is concerned with the next generation of romance readers.


You do realize that most of what you're talking about is considered in some way "romance" fiction, don't you? So, whether or not they realize it, they're already reading romances.

No, hear me out because I've been there. Unless the publishers of those genres can keep up with the demand, eventually, the mentioned readers are going to run out of books to read. And then they are going to look around for their new fix.

Now, they may be high minded enough to turn up their noses completely against anything labeled romance. It's a possibility. Or . . . they may be a true reader at heart who needs something, anything to read resembling what they want.

Tap, tap, tap.

What's the biggest genre with the most variety touching on the topic that falls within all those mentioned above, i.e. romantic love?

They may only nibble at first. They may squawk and complain that it's not exactly the same. They may pick and choose. But sheer numbers do count for something, you know.

And that's not arrogance. That's knowledge of the size and variety available that most people don't even realize is in the romance genre. There are people who start reading romance before they even realize it every day and you're talking about young people who are already hooked on something similar. It's just a hop, skip and a jump to the "real" thing and off they go.

Now, if we were talking about die-hard science fiction fans, it might be a different scenario altogether and I'd already be giving up. Rolling Eyes But that wasn't what was described. :D

Edited to add: Unless of course, what is really being suggested is that the young readers being talked about are really turned off by the content of romance novels and not the covers. 'Cause that's a different discussion altogether.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We can't go backwards and slam the bedroom door. It's already open and that's what's reflected on the covers. All we can do is use our buying power if the covers truly offend.

***************************************************
Well, I don't want to close the bedroom door and in this discussion I don't have a problem with the content. Only the covers. Of course it is only your opinion in that you think what is on the covers represents what is inside. I however, think that mostly, what is on the inside isn't reflected on the covers. The only thing that is accurate is that there is a male, female in the book and sometimes, (so often) the pictures don't represent the description of the protaganist anyway. And for the record...I am not offended by the covers. If anything, I find them amusing but not offensive.








Although even those "bodice rippers" covers were occasionally accurate, if offensive. I'm only saying, in some ways it's a no win situation. Couple covers are part of the identity of the genre for a reason. Explain how we can "identify" the genre in another way and I'll happily listen but don't expect most romance readers to give up a major part of what identifies to them.



*********************************************
Why are scantily clad couples needed to identify the genre? If someone is in doubt, they can flip the book on it's side and read "romance" on the spine. Would romance readers miss the open- shirted, six pack abs he-man...maybe, truthfully, I don't know and really don't care. I'm not out to convince you or anyone else that these covers border on silly. In my opinion, they don't do justice to what's inside. In my opinion, they are dated. In my opinion it would be a lot easier to convince a person to at least read the book if you didn't have to explain the cover to someone who has never picked up a romance novel. And in that, yes, I think to gradually change some of the covers , would be for the good of the genre.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bbmedos wrote:

Personally, I'm more offended by cheesy true "bodice ripper" covers circa the 1970s or 1980s style with the heroine draped all over or under the hero than I'll ever be by a tastefully done one showing a little or even a lot of skin. Why? Because at least those newer styles do reflect more what's in the books.


I also loathe the traditional "bodice ripper" clinch covers far more than I dislike the semi-naked people embracing or bare-chested man covers of today. It's not even that I mind pulpy and over-the-top covers, in fact I like vintage pulp and paperback covers quite a bit. But for all its over-the-top-ness, something like this is still retro-cool. Whereas the typical "bodice ripper" clinch is just tacky.

I vastly prefer the UK romance covers to the US covers, because they are much more tasteful.
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bbmedos



Joined: 26 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
Why are scantily clad couples needed to identify the genre? If someone is in doubt, they can flip the book on it's side and read "romance" on the spine. Would romance readers miss the open- shirted, six pack abs he-man...maybe, truthfully, I don't know and really don't care. I'm not out to convince you or anyone else that these covers border on silly. In my opinion, they don't do justice to what's inside. In my opinion, they are dated. In my opinion it would be a lot easier to convince a person to at least read the book if you didn't have to explain the cover to someone who has never picked up a romance novel. And in that, yes, I think to gradually change some of the covers , would be for the good of the genre.


And again I ask, change them to what?

It's a serious question considering I was just at the grocery store and gave a quick glance over the current selection of romances on the shelves. There was everything from cartoons to flowers to hearts to castles to doodles to moody paranormal creatires to finally some skin. But, you know what? It actually took me a few moments to find the skin. And it was a small display.

So, I'm honestly asking what isn't already out there?
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