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Judge My Books by Their Covers, Please! by Diane Kelly

We’ve all heard that old expression that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” In my case, I hope that people will! I’m so proud of both of my covers! Pictured above is the cover for book #2 in my Death and Taxes romantic mystery series – “Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte.” I just received it and it made me absolutely giddy! It’s cute, it’s fun, it screams “Read me!”

Is it acceptable to be “proud” of something that someone else has created? I’m not sure, but I’m feeling it. It was the same with my website (thanks, again, to the wonderful Liz Bemis!). Though I didn’t personally create these things, they are intricate parts of my work and promotion and I am eternally grateful for them.

I’m always amazed by and in awe of people who have artistic talent. I can’t draw a proportional figure to save my life, and I’m never good with color or placement. I consult my teenaged daughter, who has taken 5 straight years of art in school, any time I buy curtains or arrange furniture in the house. That type of visual artistic talent is something a person either has or they don’t, and in my case, it’s a big old don’t.

As writers, we all visualize how we think our covers should look when our work is published. Our visions may or may not be similar to what the cover artist comes up with. But it’s fun to see how the artist interprets our work, what images the story brings to their mind.

I read a lot of funny books, so cartoon-style covers tend to catch my eye. But those covers with the hunky men’s chests? Yum! What woman could ignore those? I also tend to pick up books that feature Victorian style houses on the front, maybe because I’ve always wanted to live in one. And put a dog or cat on the cover? Yep, that book is going home with me. My daughter is taken in by covers that feature flowing ball gowns with big skirts. I find this funny since she’s pretty much a jeans, T-shirts, and flip-flops kind of girl on a daily basis. I think the attraction to the gowns is her inner Cinderella rearing its head. What’s more, my daughter says she pays no attention to titles when buying books. It’s all about the cover for her.

What types of covers and images speak to you?

37 responses to “Judge My Books by Their Covers, Please! by Diane Kelly”

  1. I’m with you on the cartoon-y covers — but that’s because I’m a fan of romantic comedy.

    For historicals, I go for ones with the heroine in a pretty gown and a buff hero who’s at least partially undressed. (What can I say? Shirtless men excite me.) 😉

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    • Diane Kelly says:

      Gotta love those shirtless men! Except certains ones that I see sometimes here in Texas who have furry beer bellies and backs and insist on mowing their lawns with no shirt on. Though, in their case, I guess I have to admire their confidence.

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  2. Covers catch my eye too. I love yours. I’m a big fan of romantic comedy. The catoony covers first drew me to read Kasey Michaels (Baby Be Mine Tonight) and SEP (Nobody’s Baby But Mine). Loved them and now love the authors. I think I’m going to love Diane Kelly’s too. I can’t wait to get to NY and get my autographed copy. You will be signing, right?

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    • Diane Kelly says:

      I won’t be signing this year since my first release isn’t coming out until November. Bummer! But I will definitely be signing next year! I hope you’ll stop by!

      And what a tax nerd I am – when I saw your reference to SEP (which I realize stands for Susan Elizabeth Phillips) my mind instinctively filled in the acronym with “Simplified Employee Pension.” Sheesh! I need to get a life, huh?

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        The other day another teacher told me that several students in one of her classes at the alternative high school “suffered from ED”.

        I was just wondering why they’d shared such personal info with her (and wondering if they knew about Viagra) when she explained that in educational circles, ED stands for Emotional Disturbance. Oops.

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  3. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    I must admit, cartoony covers don’t do it for me, although bold colors and/or a little glitz tend to catch my eye. I do like evocative covers that hint at the story inside. and really loved the object covers of a few years ago that would show a domino and a sword or a jewel and a glove—little pieces of the hero and heroine.

    Yours is a great cover, Diane. I hope it sells scads of books for you.

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  4. Diana Layne says:

    I don’t have an artistic bone in my body either. I tend to gravitate toward covers with dark covers featuring guns and knives, lol. Your cover IS cute though. Congrats!

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  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    I read broadly, and love all sorts of covers. Usually it’s color that hits me first. (I’ll be a promo hoor here and use my own cover as an example of my likes and dislikes. 😉 Scroll down to the bottom of the blog to see Ruby book covers! Mine’s TASTE ME.)

    I’m a big fan of vivid, saturated color, which TASTE ME has in spades, and which so many fans have mentioned loving, loving, loving. But I’m not so much a fan of the “shirtless for the sake of shirtlessness” hero. (Lukas was definitely wearing a shirt in TASTE ME’s cover scene.)

    I was, and frankly still am, quite conflicted by the fact that “cover Lukas’s” physical build and hair color/style don’t quite align with my mental image of him. When I discussed this with my editor, she said that her take on cover models is that they’re representations of the hero and heroine, and that the most readers tend to mentally replace the cover model’s features with visual impressions they form as they read the book. (This explains a lot.) However, I’m not one of those readers.

    How about everyone else? Does it bug you – or is it a nonissue – when the cover model and the character you’re reading (or writing) don’t quite synch up, or if there’s a historical inaccuracy, such as with clothing?

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    • Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

      I’m so with you on the representation on the outside matching the description on the inside, Tammy. Once I have a visual, it’s stuck. That can make reading uncomfortable because I’ll be fighting the author since I’ve “seen” the character. A poor representation on the cover can destroy a good read when author description stops me dead trying to match the words to the image.

      Historical inaccuracies throw me, too. I once read a series set in the medieval period and couldn’t wait for the last book. I must have passed it over a dozen times because the cover looked more appropriate to a story set in the 1930s or 40s (calf length dress, shoes in hand while the model walked on the beach.) Even the blurb didn’t convince me of the time period. Since I liked the author, I eventually bought the book. Still aggravates me thinking about it.

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    • Diane Kelly says:

      Hmm . . . I’d never given this much thought but it’s a good point. Although a cover may catch my eye in a store, once I’ve bought a book I tend not to think much about the cover. If the story pulls me in, the author will create an image in my mind that will replace the cover image.

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    • Rita Henuber says:

      Yes it does bug me when cover and story don’t match up. I don’t like to much character description in the book either. I like the basics so I can sorta fill in the blanks myself.

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      • Amanda Brice says:

        I hate hate hate when a cover has nothing to do with the book. Total false advertising!

        Covers are very important to me. If I already have heard a lot about your book or already somehow know about it, I’ll overlook a bad or boring cover, but if the cover truly is my very first impression of the book, then it has to have a good one for me to even take a second glance.

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    • Shea Berkley says:

      Yep, it bugs. I’m not one of those people who can ignore a cover not matching the characters. It smacks on the cover artist not taking the added time to find the right artwork. I’m not much for people on my covers unless they’re a distorted version or blurred or looking away. The only exception to this is a few YA covers where the girls are looking straight out and have soulful looks on their faces. But the hair and eye color better match.

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      • Amanda Brice says:

        I actually rewrote some scenes in Codename since I found the perfect image for the cover, but the model was blonde, and I’d written Dani as a brunette.

        That’s probably why I like “headless” cover models best. LOL

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    • Beth Langston says:

      It bugs me too. My brain just fills in the characters from the cover–and then as I’m reading along, it throws me out of the story–hopefully, not for long though.

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  6. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I like covers that give me a solid feel for the kind of story inside. If it’s funny, I want a cover that conveys that. And if it’s sexy or scary, show me. But, truthfully, I’m more attracted to titles than artwork. Maybe because I love WORDS so much.

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    • Elise Hayes says:

      Ditto. I don’t really notice covers that much, other than the “tone” they create. Will the story be humorous (like Diane’s skull latte)? Is it a dark and edgy? Is it traditional Regency? The cover is useful insofar as it tells me something about the book–but that’s about it for me.

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  7. Cate Rowan says:

    Diane, I adore the skull in the latte of yours. Such a clever cover!

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  8. This cover is great! I think the cover can really set the tone for the whole epxerience, so as long as what’s on the front matches the feel of what’s inside, I tend to like it. I try to keep an open mind, but covers really do catch my eye sometimes!

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  9. It is most definitely acceptable to be proud of someone else’s work, especially when it is representing yours. I know how you feel too. I absolutely adore my covers. And I love them all, from the earliest clinch covers to the cartoon ones. I don’t care. I do have to say, I am very enamored with Cassandra Clare’s newest cover for the Clockwork Prince. There are SO many, I could do this all day, but I love covers of all types.

    And I LOVE yours!!! They are so perfect!
    ~D~

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Your covers have been FABULOUS, Darynda! The one for THIRD GRAVE is such a great variation on the theme: I love the scarlet, and the SNEAKERS. Fabulous and funny and great!!

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  10. Rita Henuber says:

    Diane you should be proud it a fantastic cover.
    I can’t explain what I prefer in covers. Dark or light makes no difference. I don’t like ones that are so busy you have no idea what is really going on. I really think the day we all finaled in the GH the cover fairy was having a really good day and decided to shake an extra amount of good cover blessings on us.

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  11. Love your cover, Diane! I like covers like yours (and SEP’s) when I buy contemporaries. And I love me some Scottish highlander books with the bare-chested men. But usually I prefer covers without characters on them. I like to imagine.

    That being said, I’m almost certain my cover (which should come any day now!) at Carina Press will have at least one person on it, since that seems to be their style. Can’t wait! I tell people it’s like waiting to see your baby’s face for the first time after being pregnant for a long (long!) time. 😀

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  12. I’m not a huge fan of cartoon-y couples on covers. I absolutely LOVE the skull in the latte on your cover, Diane! Very clever.

    I’m also not a big fan of the naked, man chest covers. I just don’t like them. I think they give romances a bad rap…like they’re all about sex and superficial good looks, when to me, romances are all about the emotion and sex is a natural part of falling in love.

    I love dark suspense covers (makes sense, since I’m a romantic suspense writer!), I love scenery covers, I love historical romances with the flowing ball gowns too. 🙂

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    • Elise Hayes says:

      Cynthia,

      I’m not much of a fan of the naked, man chest covers, either, although I’ve met a lot of writers who really love them. For me, they invoke the old Fabio covers and I think romances are so much more complex and interesting than Fabio conveys…

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  13. Shea Berkley says:

    Great post, Diane. I’m one of those really odd people that will buy a book on the cover alone. I don’t even look at the back cover blurb half the time. I bought Graceling based on the cover. I bought Undone based on the cover, too. I love strong covers that aren’t too busy. I also like moody covers. (grin)

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  14. Kelley Bowen says:

    Diane, It’s late…I have no thoughts except that I love your cover (both of them)…I’m a rom-com girl so I’m looking forward to your book. I thought it was coming out in June…do I really have to wait until November? Oh well, something to look forward to. Hope everyone is enjoying the summer. KB

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    • Diane Kelly says:

      I wish it were coming out in June! But, nope, it’s November 1st. I hope that my first book being released on 11/1/11 is some type of good omen with all those number ones in the date. ha ha.

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      • Kelley says:

        Diane…November 1st is All St.’s Day (and my husband’s bday)…gotta be good luck… the saints will be watching out for you. KB

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  15. Elisa Beatty says:

    Your cover (and title) are adorable, Diane!!

    Now that I have an e-reader, I almost never see the covers. Which is fine with me–I’ve always found most romance covers to be a little embarrassing, or distracting (the characters never look even remotely like I expect them too).

    But one that caught my eye last year was a book by Evangeline Collins. Don’t remember the title, but the cover was a bright swirl of deep blue and an intense orange…gown and bedsheets, I believe, but very striking.

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