I'm going to start with covers because that is something near and dear to many romance readers hearts!
Claire Zion, Editorial Director for New American Library Penguin US, talked about that time in romance cover history when covers were mostly flowers. The flowered covers were selling because women were not embarrassed to be seen reading the book on the subway and the publishers ran with it. However, after a while the flowers weren't telling the consumer enough about the book because almost every book had a flower on it. Now publishers try to have covers that are author specific and have more to do with what the story is about.
This trend is very apparent to me when I think of J.R. Ward and her covers. They are very similar in style and the font and titles almost let the reader know that these books are by one author. Nora Roberts books have also been revamped with new covers that are softer and even have the NR on them to let the reader know if it is a new release. Not only that, but if you look at the last trilogy that was published her name is in much bigger font than the title. Christine Feehan is another author whose covers let me know that the books are paranormal with their moodiness and that they may be related to each other.
Aside: I wanted to get four covers of each of the authors to put up but I wanted it to be in one line for each author. Turns out I don't have a clue how to do that and if I put 12 covers up on this post it will be all pictures ;) What I found interesting was going to Ward's site and seeing how her first book cover is different than the rest - her name was not as prominent and obviously the art department decided on a 'standard' way of setting up the covers - I do have to say that I am especially enamoured of them. Turns out Christine Feehan's covers do run the gamut and yet, there is something about them that when I see them I *know* whose books they are and I haven't ever read her. Maybe I will see if I can figure out some basic photoshop skills and do cover analysis for different authors. Then again, maybe I should leave that to the pros!
Lucia Marco, Executive Editor for Morrow / Avon tells us that editors know how crucial the cover is. She tells us that there are about 5 seconds (if that) in which a consumer decides whether they are going to pick the book up off the shelf and read the back copy. In the case of well known authors, their name will sell the book but for new authors or new-to-the-reader authors it is the cover first, the title second and the back blurb that will ultimately sell the book. Also, when dealing with a new author the tone or voice is not yet established so the cover can be hard to pin point.
Eloisa James touches on how a cover can make all the difference to a mid-list author. An author can languish on the mid-list for years even though she is "writing great prose" (sorry, you know I wouldn't say anything like that, those are Ms. James' words) only to end up on the best seller list when they get a great innovative cover.
This was telling for me. We complain about covers and yet we are drawn to something new or eye catching but then it truly is the publishers job to keep trying to get a readers attention.
What was universal among the writers in the documentary was that they could only control what was between the covers of the book. Every thing else is decided by the editor and publisher so I imagine that at times it can become very frustrating to mid-list authors to see new exciting covers for other authors while they end up with the same fuzzy historical embrace of the scantily clad H/H.
Then the show went somewhere I couldn't really follow but then, I am different in seeing man cheeks on the covers of my books.
Raelene Gorlinsky, publisher with Ellora's Cave talked about the 'hunky men'. When asked why there are 'hunky men' on the covers of their books she said "well, they sell better than women on the covers" and I would imagine EC would know. She said that male chests help sell books. Sometimes butts can help too. (I love how candid and straight shooting this woman was about the covers of EC) It was mentioned that EC now sells 80 000 books a month world wide which is astonishing when you think that they are a print on demand publisher (am I right in this or did I hear this wrong?).
Where I broke off was when Ms. Gorlinsky talked about being at a signing where the cover on the right was blown up to poster size and how she would watch the women walk up to the sign and stroke the man's chest. It's okay, you can out yourself here if you have been known to stroke a book cover. I mean, I've never felt the need to stroke a book cover or a poster for that matter but I have been known to hug books that I have been waiting for to my chest and growl at anyone who would dare to snatch it from me. So maybe I'm just a little different.
Finally, I just wanted to mention Harlequin's approach to the erotica market with their covers. They have gone the opposite route of Ellora's Cave who puts 'naked' on their covers without flinching. Harlequin Spice, on the other hand, are going for more subdued colour tones on their covers while being clean and contemporary. I like that there are two different marketing techniques being used right now and it would be interesting to know how Harlequin's Spice line is doing in sales. (On that note, I didn't know these were erotic books and now that I know I may start with these and I love the colour on that cover - I believe this book is available this month - yikes, it's in trade size!)
And now a few tidbits that made me want to stand and applaud.
First, I have never seen nor met Nora Roberts but I'm telling you, you do not want to mess with this woman. As a romance reader I was proud to see a woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind and won't take any crap.
While at book signings:
A woman: 'Oh, you're Nora Roberts, you write that smut!'
Nora Roberts: 'I do not write smut and that's incredibly rude, what's wrong with you?'
I'm sorry but I love that response. At that same time, Debbie Macomber is not above giving it back.
A woman: 'Oh, you write those kind of books'
Debbie Macomber: *laughs* 'What? No pictures?'
I heart Debbie.
I will wrap up with how Nora Roberts started writing as J.D. Robb - I couldn't get it down word for word so this is the gist.
People ask Ms. Roberts why she doesn't go on vacation and she is hilarious because her response is 'I like being at home, I don't want to go anywhere else'. Her editor at one point called her and told her she needed a hobby. Her response? 'Ew, no, I don't want a hobby.' The editor then said, how about a pseudonym and Ms. Roberts said no, I do the work, I want to see my name on the cover (with her there!). I think it was two years later when the editor finally said, "Nora, there is pepsi, diet pepsi, cherry pepsi..." and Nora Roberts said it clicked.
She could be two top selling brands!
And thus the birth of J.D. Robb.