Category Archives: covers

Covers: should images be historically accurate?

Historically accurate costumes?

Is it historically accurate to wear a tablecloth over a Regency gown?Those who follow this blog will know that I often bang on about cover failings. I want my covers to be historically accurate. For me that means: no Regency heroes with beards or designer stubble; no twirling round the dance floor wearing knee-high boots; ladies in Regency costume that isn’t swathed in a tablecloth (see left); and hairstyles and accessories appropriate for the period.

It also helps if the cover models look vaguely like the characters in my story, but that’s a rant for another day 😉

Historically accurate backgrounds?

Life Guards on horseback with Wellington Arch in background, not historically accurate for 1814I’ve recently been mocking up a cover for a book I’m writing. It’s set in London in the period between Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814 and his return the following spring. My hero is a serving soldier who’s enjoying his first leave for 5 years.

I thought it could be good to show uniformed soldiers in the background on my cover. I found the image shown right.

Great image for a Regency cover, yes?

1850s photo of Wellington Arch showing equestrian statue of WellingtonI’d say not. The Life Guards’ parade uniforms haven’t changed much, if at all, so they’re accurate enough. And it’s true that the Wellington Arch was built to commemorate the victories against Napoleon. But not until the late 1820s. What’s more, the bronze on the top of it dates from 1912. Originally, a colossal equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington sat on top of the arch, as shown in this photograph from the 1850s.

girl facing a red question mark on blackboard

So I don’t feel I can use this image on my cover. It’s not historically accurate for 1814. (Channelling my inner Dame Isadora here?)
But am I the only one who would care?
Would it bother you?

I remember here my independent bookseller’s advice. He said that covers should be clear, concise and beautiful, in order to have more impact. He didn’t say they should be historically accurate. In fact, he didn’t say anything about accuracy at all.

Pedants require accuracy. What do readers require ???

Partly, I think, it’s a question of unknown unknowns (© D Rumsfeld?). Some writers don’t think about unknown unknowns at all. I recently met racoons in a medieval romance set in England. The author was not British. Did it ever occur to her to check whether England had racoons? It surely couldn’t have, or she wouldn’t have put them in. Classic case of the unknown unknown.exclamation mark in fire

Pedants check out whether a particular monument/frock/hairstyle has the right date. Most people wouldn’t think to do so. They’d probably assume an image was accurate enough. And might not care if it was wrong.clock showing just after half past 12

After all, how long does the average book buyer spend looking at a cover? Not more than a few seconds. And how closely do they look? Is it more about overall impression—my bookseller’s impact—than the components of the image? Am I making a rod for my own back by striving for historical accuracy?

Current covers and historically accurate costumes (not)

I have a hard time finding acceptable female models for my covers. To my mind, her costume should be right for the period. And her hairstyle. And her make-up should be pretty much invisible. Yet loads of successful books breach the rules I’ve been trying to apply. Look at this screenshot (taken 26 Feb) from Amazon’s “Hot New Releases in Regency Historical Romance”. [Click to enlarge a bit.]

Screenshot 2021-02-26 of Amazon's Hot New Regency Releases

Regency? Really?

Wow, those skirts! Some of them look to be in need of a Victorian crinoline, don’t they?

Yet these are clearly successful stories. Readers must like them. They’re numbers 11-25 in the Hot New Regency [sic] Releases so they are definitely selling. (I haven’t shown you a screenshot of the “Best Sellers in Regency Historical Romance” because a large proportion of those are Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books which do use historically accurate costumes. Well done Netflix and Julia Quinn’s publishers.)

Conclusion?

one girl whispers into another girl's ear - impactIt looks like impact may be much more important to book buyers than being historically accurate.

So should I ditch my inner pedant and put the Life Guards and the Wellington Arch onto the cover of a book set in 1814?

Should I go for designer stubble and big swirling skirts that might help sell my Regency stories? it would certainly make finding cover models easier.

What would you, as reader and book buyer, advise me to do? And what attracts you to a Regency cover?

Joanna Maitland, author

Joanna, a perplexed pedant

Making Covers Work for You, the Author

Snape: Shouldn't you be writing right now?Good covers are massively important and buyers, increasingly, rely on visuals (the cover) rather than the blurb. That was the latest advice from an independent bookseller at a Society of Authors virtual meeting in early 2021. The bookseller recommended authors aim for clear, concise, beautiful covers, with fewer words and, hence, more impact.

Professor Snape (left) may not be beautiful—and that’s not a cover, either—but he’s certainly clear and concise. And if he made you feel guilty, he’s had impact, too 😉

Criteria for Good Commercial Fiction Covers

exclamation mark in fireApart from being clear, concise and beautiful, a Good Commercial Fiction Cover Will…

  1. make the genre clear immediately
  2. represent aspects of the story to draw the potential buyer in
  3. shout out the title
  4. shout out the author’s name
  5. work well in thumbnail
  6. and SELL THE BOOK

That’s a pretty tall order and lots of covers fail it. Not only self-published covers, either.

This blog (based on a recent presentation I did for the Society of Authors) aims to help self-published authors work with cover designers like me to get clear, concise and beautiful covers that will sell the authors’ books. Continue reading

Designer Stubble: the Bane of Regency Book Covers

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the hurdles I’d jumped over (and, on occasion, fallen at). while republishing vintage books. Some of you may have noticed that the covers for my four Aikenhead Honours books did not feature any heroes.
Why?
The dreaded designer stubble.

Aikenhead Honours covers without designer stubble

No designer stubble in sight?

Portrait of Duke of Wellington, painted by Goya, 1812-1814

Duke of Wellington, by Goya. No stubble.

Designer stubble, I contend, is the bane of a cover designer’s life, if she’s trying to create something that’s reasonably faithful to the Regency period.

Regency men often had side-whiskers, but their chins were clean shaven.
Today’s cover models? Not so much.

In fact, hardly at all.

Try typing “Regency gentleman” into any site that offers stock images — places like Shutterstock, Adobe, and so on. I bet that at least half of the images that come up will show a male model with designer stubble. Or a beard. On some sites, almost every single so-called “Regency gentleman” has chin hair of some kind. Continue reading

Celebrating THIRTY BOOKS! Giveaway from Sarah Mallory

Giveaway Update…..Giveaway Update…..Giveaway Update…

A big thank you to all those who commented on the post, the giveaway is now closed and the winner was drawn at random under the watchful gaze of Willow, chief scrutineer.

And the winner is…Sabillatul

Sabillatul, you can email me at author@melinda-hammond.co.uk or DM me via twitter @SarahMRomance and I will arrange to get your goodies posted to you!  Congratulations!

This month sees the publication of my 30th book for Mills & Boon

blush pink rose to celebrate thirty books

 

Am I excited about thirty? You bet I am.

Thirty Historical romances – that’s a full shelf!

Given the current state of the world, it is wonderful to have something to celebrate so I want to share with you my delight at reaching this milestone.

Thirty! Who would have thought it? So go on, raise a glass with me!

champagne to celebrate thirty books

How those thirty began

Continue reading

Reading for enjoyment – necessary for our wellbeing…

open book for reading

Inspired by Liz’s super post last week, I am indulging myself this weekend because it is Mothering Sunday.

I have decided I am not going to write.

I am going to be reading.

But hang on, is reading an indulgence or a necessity?

We all need time off to recharge our batteries, refill the well, get our head together — whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it can be a good walk, or a browse around a museum, or just hanging out with friends.

chatting about reading authors we love

Or reading a good book

Continue reading

I’m having a reading week…

Sofa days and reading…

I have just finished a book. Writing it, not reading it. It was Hard Work.

Nothing new there. No matter how sparkling the inspiration, how heady the enthusiasm to embark on this particular story, they are always a strain on the imagination, hard on the back and a slog at the keyboard. The reward is that moment of joyful relief when you’ve despatched it into the ether and it becomes your editor’s job to sort out mangled timelines, momentary slips into scatalogical dialogue and missing commas.

I have a busy writing year planned, but I seem to have spent the entire winter saying, “When I’ve finished the book…’

When I’ve finished the book I’ll get up to the V&A and take a look at the  jewellery department. I’ve been there dozens of times but have somehow missed it and I’ve been inspired to visit by the documentary series Secrets of the Museum. Also on the list is the local Arts Society. I’ve been wanting to join for ages but couldn’t fit in another thing until I’d finished the book.

Reading the TBR pile

Continue reading

Female images : the message on romance covers?

Historical Covers : what do they say to readers?

I usually write Regency romances. So I have to keep an eye on developments in the market. And covers are a vital part of getting readers to pick up a book.

female images to match the story

What prompted a modern woman to pick up a Regency romance?

If I were to generalise from the many Regency covers I’m seeing these days, I’d say that quite a lot of them look too modern. They don’t say “Regency” to me.

I’m not sure whether it’s the heavy make-up, or the hairstyles, or the clothes, or just the knowingness that 21st century models seem to display. Whatever it is, very few of the females on today’s Regency covers look (to me) anything other than a modern woman playing at being in the Regency. Continue reading

The mental image of a character : the influence of covers

A Mental Image from Voice alone

a blank face so we create our own mental imagesHave you ever met someone on the phone — a business colleague, perhaps — and created a mental image of them from voice and conversation alone? If you later met them face to face, how did the reality measure up to your mental picture?

I vividly remember doing just that with a woman who subsequently became a close colleague when I was working in London. From her voice on the phone, from her senior position in the organisation and from what she said to me, I pictured a middle-aged, rather motherly figure with mid-brown hair in a beautifully-coiffed jaw-length bob. It was a pretty strong mental picture, though I have no idea where it came from. Continue reading

Designer Brief from Self-Publisher

The designer is key to a book’s reception. Readers see the cover before they’ve read a word.

A confession here: it took me a while to realise that this blog entry had to be called Self-Publisher to Designer not Author to Designer. The problem is I haven’t got used to seeing myself as publisher. Getting closer, after this experience, though.

hand writing a letter with a goose feather

 

I am a writer. Yet, by opting to self-publish, I’ve engaged in a twenty-first century business (ouch!) with many aspects: editorial, physical and digital production, marketing, sales, communications (that’s PR to  you and me) and finance.

And design! Here is what I’ve learned so far. Continue reading

An International Cover Story

A Cover Story begins  . . .

cover story -- UK cover of A Regency Invitation 2004

original UK cover 2004

Once upon a time, three writers of Mills & Boon Historicals got together to write a book. The three were Nicola Cornick, Joanna Maitland (me!), and Elizabeth Rolls. This is the cover story of that book of three interlinked novellas —
A Regency Invitation.

This blog is not about how the book was written, though we had great fun doing it, creating three love affairs and two mysteries at our Regency house party. No, this post is about the book’s cover — where it started, how it changed over time, and how different international markets adapted the cover look of A Regency Invitation to suit their readers.

Want to know how the Japanese market presents a romance set in Regency England? You can see it further down. And it may surprise you. Continue reading