Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ditto, Ditto and Ditto

The Science Fiction Romance That Harlequin Doesn't Want You to Know About

Book Covers that are Afraid to be Science Fiction

Susan Grant's New Cover Art

Yes, ditto, ditto and ditto.

I can't say it more clearly or more eloquently than the other SFR and SF blogs, but I can add my rant to the long and growing list.

Susan Grant is one of the foremost Science Fiction Romance authors in the industry today.  Is it really necessary to disguise her covers so they don't look like Science Fiction Romance?  What sort of genius marketing strategy is this?

Maybe someone needs to inform them that it's almost 2010 and yes, Virginia, women do read SFR, and in fact, more women are reading it all the time.  Its a subgenre on the rise and set to explode. 

What about this cover says SciFiRom?  I'm in agreement with Heather at the Galaxy Express that this looks more like an ad for soap or deoderant than a Science Fiction Romance.  Would any reader look at this image and think, "Wow, that looks like a great swashbuckling space pirate novel."   Or are they more likely to simply pass right by--or maybe look at the cover in puzzlement, then read the blurb and go, "Huh?" 

It's a known fact that authors generally have very little input into their cover art because they aren't the experts on what sells a novel.  Maybe it's time for that to change, if this is what the "experts" are coming up with. 

Let's take a look at a few SFR covers that actually look like the story might be SFR.  One glance and--surprise, surprise--the reader will even have a clue what the story is about.

THE HIDDEN WORLDS -- Note the gorgeous cover depicting an alien desert world and a man and woman in space-type garb, with the woman holding a futuristic weapon.  It suggests a male/female partnership and adventure in the future, wouldn't you say?

THE OUTBACK STARS -- Notice the dreamy feel of the art and the swirling stars and galaxies in the background.  Note the character in a spacesuit.  Note the suggestion of a spaceship.  Wow, I bet the story is set in the future aboard a ship and centers on the main character pictured, wouldn't you?

GRIMSPACE -- Angsty-looking female holding a weapon of the future with the suggestion of a wormhole-type phenomena behind her.  I'd guess this book is about a person who is going to travel through that wormhole look-alike to find adventure.  If I read the blurb, it would confrim that.

Maybe in the not-so-distant future it will become apparent that readers in general (and Science Fiction Romance readers in particular) are not stupid and don't appreciate the marketing mindset that depicting SFR as SFR is a bad thing.

They are also not happy when they pass right by great SFR novels with generic non-specific covers they would have noticed and bought if only the book looked like it might be Science Fiction Romance.

Let's stop the masquerade.  Let SFR covers be SFR.


  1. It looks like an erotic romance to me. I'd be disappointed if it wasn't!!
    You make a good point, Laurie.
    The cover argument is never going away I fear.

  2. Right on, Laurie! In fact, I was going to mention something on this very subject, having just read Susan Grant's MOONSTRUCK. This excellent space opera was given a cover that might have fit a romantic suspense novel, with a headless male in black tee and jeans (?) holding a weapon of some sort which a headless female (with a nice manicure) is trying to steal. Only on very close inspection can you determine that the weapon is not a Glock, but a "raygun" of some sort. Yeah, that says hardass female star captain meets sexy space pirate to me! Are these marketing types on crack? Or do they really think romance readers hate SFR that much?

  3. I agree, Barbara. There will always be bad covers and flawed covers. Then there are blatantly deceptive covers, like this one.

    Good point, Donna. I think Susan Grant has probably had the worst luck of any author I know on getting good cover art. MOONSTRUCK, THE WARLORDS DAUGHTER, MY FAVORITE EARTHLING, CONTACT and HOW TO LOSE AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL IN 10 DAYS all had covers that didn't exactly scream SFR. (Understatement.)

    So what's the deal? Does marketing think they're passing SFR off as a "more acceptable" type of romance? OK, show of hands. Who thinks SFR is "unacceptable?"

    Since the title of this novel SUREBLOOD sounds more like a vampire fantasy than a SFR, I'll bet a lot of readers aren't going to appreciate the publishing industry's equivalent of bait and switch.

    Do they really believe Susan Grant can't sell novels based on her name, talent and the reputation she's built among the SFR reading community? Do they really think putting a starship or a futuristic setting on the cover is going to hurt sales, where this nondescript generic cover will sell more books?

    I can't get my head around such flawed logic.

  4. I think the art departments in all these houses are a law unto themselves. You get what they decide the market wants. Too bad if you disagree.
    They are convinced the covers sell the books, the publishers feel the same - I'd love to be a fly on the wall when they discuss covers. It would be fascinating I'm sure.
    Barbara Elsborg

  5. Heck, I was into Sci-Fi long before I started reading romance and then erotica. I was glad to see Sci-Fi slowly gaining a foot hold into romance. I agree that they shouldn't try to hide the futuristic/otherworld aspect, but I think on Kearney's book, it may have been more trying to show a hot body to get interest.

  6. Beth, I think you're probably right about their thinking. Hot body = sales.

    But, that said, IMHO a hot body on a futuristic world in appropriate attire (ala HIDDEN WORLDS) or on a starship bridge (ala the original GABRIEL'S GHOST) works sooo much better. I can tell at a glance it's SFR without having to study the blurb and flip through the pages looking for clues.

    So often it boils down to hunting down SFR on the bookstore shelves. It's hard enough to find it WITH the SFR-oriented covers. I wish the marketing deparments would make it easier for us Skiffy Rommers to ferret out our favorite genre.


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