Covers Covered by Carol

Pride Of Genre: Romance Cover Ballot 1999

January 8, 2000

What was the main reason I got going in the whole direction of doing the cover column and this contest in the first place? I had to ask myself this as we were finalizing our ballot. Was I trying to find the best image of the year in every subgenre as my prime motivating factor?

I don't think so.

I believe I took on both undertakings because romance fans, myself included, badly needed an infusion of pride in the images which their books carry. For far too long, they have operated under a terrible stigma: virtually everyone assumes by the lurid covers of the books they read, that they read outright trash and junk and are thus not very intelligent women. Women have heard this from their friends, family members, coworkers and even bookstore help! In fact, some romance writers cannot take their work home to their parents and siblings because of the covers, knowing they will be ridiculed. Husbands vary in their reactions with at least half of them thinking nothing positive.

Both the column and the contest are sending a message to publishers and cover artists that we are not empty-headed women incapable of discerning a really bad image from a really good one. We do know the difference and want to take pride in this genre's covers. In fact, the contest started out with the idea of showcasing the really awful. Adding in best covers came as a secondary thought for this contest. The original, inspiring thought was to expose the very worst and trumpet them as such to get the message across that we aren't the dummies that the publishers and cover artists think we are.

So if we are getting across the need for taking pride in this genre's cover art and demanding better image quality and artists for the whole genre, we are fulfilling my original purpose. Thus, which cover wins in each category really doesn't matter to me as much as the fact that we've put together slates of nominees showing the very best covers this genre is capable of producing and six images of the genre's covers at their worst. It's really a big Hall of Fame and a small Hall of Infamy.

We've had many individuals working on developing this final slate. Sandi Morris and I have done the biggest chunk of the work for 1999 and it wouldn't have been possible without our being able to operate almost like Siamese cover twins! We haven't even had one major fight over doing this contest which is probably miraculous.

The first slate of nominees was put together by reader nominees and screened by AAR staff members. Between the time that was published in November and this ballot was put online, a new discussion list went into operation called coverballot. It was a small group and we primarily looked at images still coming in from November and December and decided which slates needed alteration. We were able to add in some of these later images to the contest.

Right before this went online, as the curator of this art show, for that's what it really is, I had to juggle and balance the whole bundle of images so they worked with one another instead of against one another. We lost three covers because of this need but they had been weakly holding onto their slots for some time. We added more than three new covers though because we found we needed nine images for most pages due to sizing and spacing requisites. Sandi also cleaned up the images so they looked the best they possibly could via her graphics program.

I'm sure we have made mistakes in bringing this contest to the end but we knew we would given this was our first time out.

There were few comments made by people who made the nominations so I can only share the few I heard. Readers were the wordiest about the Worst Category. To a person, they mentioned how much of a turn-off they found the pictured romance hero. Two of these covers even involve their favorite cover model, John D'Salvo, who they found just about unrecognizable on these two covers. They blamed the cover artists and not John D since they have seen him on so many superb covers, some of which are in the best categories. The beckoning finger on The Bewitched Viking was offensive to every woman who nominated that cover and they weren't crazy about the look on his face. The cover nominated most frequently as Worst was The Beloved Warrior. Everything about him was a turn off. They considered him ugly, hated his horned helmet, the rest of his costume, the gold lettering. They can't find anything they like about it. The most frequent comment about Seekers of the Dawn was that they had a hard time telling which figure was the hero and even if they did figure it out, they didn't like him looking so feminine.

I got very few comments though when we turned to Best covers. For whatever reason, the reader simply loved it and wanted it considered for the contest. Depictions of people tend to dominate all of these categories.

When we put all the covers into coverballot for discussion, the ones we argued about the most were the landscapes. The big message I heard is that the readers were sick of so many landscapes being used on the contemporaries regardless of how beautifully painted they might be. We dropped one landscape cover as a result from the contemporary category. Thus, only two landscapes made it onto the slate in contemporaries. They all also were getting tired of the cartoons but weren't sick of them yet so kept one in contemporary.

No flower on a cover made it into the contest at any stage. Placing a flower on a cover stimulated no nominations at any stage of the proceedings. I put one of the best flower ones in myself when the AAR staff voted last September to see what they would do with it. It was Putney's Wild Child, which has some artfully scattered wild flowers. Only one person voted for it and it therefore didn't make it further into the contest. No one ever even mentioned the word flower in connection with this contest. Why flowers are on so many books is thus a complete mystery to me.

Now that this ballot is online, we will concentrate on the 2000 coverballot. We will be taking nominations all year long from readers for their favorite covers. I will remind them of this every month. Each category will be listed and will tie into the email of the member at coverballot who heads that category. I will be writing guidelines as well for everyone to read about what you should be looking for when considering a cover for nomination.

Without any further ado then, let's get you voting for your favorites of 1999. The name of the publisher and cover artist(s) appears beneath each cover. Remember that the author usually has little to no influence on what her cover is going to look like. The only thing she generally can hope for is to get a certain artist who is known for excellent work. Certain artists, you will notice, repeat again and again in the slates of nominees. It is actually pretty easy to figure out which artists are doing excellent work in this field after viewing all of the nominees.

Both Sandi and I thank everyone who has helped bring this contest to fruition. We've mentioned you above by your group affiliation and, unfortunately, there are too many people to list individually.

Carol Irvin and Sandi Morris,
co-chairs Romance Cover Art Contest 1999

 

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