Monday, April 14, 2014

And the Survey SAYS...

Last week we posted a poll on cover art preferences for SFR and offered two cover groups, one of uniformed characters and the other featuring bare torsos. Then we asked visitors to choose their favorite cover group.

The poll is closed and the readers have spoken. We very much appreciate everyone's enthusiasm in contributing to this hot topic.

Here are the results from the "Should We Put a Shirt on It" poll:

THIS Cover Group (in uniform)
THAT Cover Group (out of uniform)
I don't have a preference
I prefer particular covers from both groups

From the poll results, the preferences of the majority seems clear, but it may not be quite as cut and dried as it appears. Many of the commenters had some valid points to offer in the discussion. Among them:

Lizzie Newell said:
"Topless is fine if the story has a lot of sexual content but I prefer some tenderness between the characters, not sale of beefcake."

Monica Stoner said:
"I think the nekkid chest covers should indicate a level of sexual heat."

Cathryn Cade said:
"I agree the cover should indicate the level of heat in the book, whether sci fi or other genre (of romance)...It's a signal to readers to expect another CC romance, an adventure yes, but with heat."

Pippa Jay said:
"I'm not a fan of a shirtless chest particularly. Or I feel they should be on erotica or hot romance to indicate the heat level rather than on just any romance cover."

Linnea Sinclair said:
"Interesting timing on your question/poll as I recently regained my rights to my THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES and my agent was emphatic we return to the more SF-y covers (and less romance-y covers) because the move to the latter hurt my sales when Bantam did the switch (little did we know...)"

Heather Massey said:
"I do love a heroine or hero in uniform, but frankly we've done well advocating for covers that represent SFR *at all.* Our efforts have definitely paid off."

Donna S. Frelick said:
"I think it's interesting that the best covers of both groups featured couples--either dressed or semi-dressed. One of the salient features of great SFR is the balance between hero and heroine, and I think the cover should reflect that...As for heat level, yes, I do want some indication of that in the way the couple is portrayed. I don't want them looking away from each other, not touching, completely separate, as some of these covers show."

Marva Dasef said:
"Bare bodies are a trite carry over from Regency romances. I think SFR is better than that. Our stories are about SF, not just R."

Karin Shah said:
"I don't care which kind of cover is on an SFR, I'll read it!"

Maria said:
"...I think that the fact I liked certain covers from each group really reflects that it's more than just the image itself - there is a whole image, color, font thing going on for me when I look at covers."

PaulaL said:
"I like illustrative cover, which tell me about the -story- and the setting in time and space and culture. Nude bodies don't tell me about the setting and the story, they tell me that there are bodies with clothes off perhaps about to commence docking moves--which is NOT something characteristic to the particular story as opposed to any other time/space locus where people might take clothes off to have sex.."

There were a few comments on why we may not often see cover art with characters in uniform:

Greta van der Rol said:
"I would LOVE to be able to use pictures of men in uniform on my covers. But stock photo sites just don't have them. I've resorted to male torsos (not headless) to signal there is some romance in them, but I'm trending away from that."

Heather Massey said:
"Probably because the photographers would have to pay for renting/making costumes. Even if they did, the financial risk is probably fairly high. No guarantee of return on the investment...A good cover designer can probably find ways to work with the limits of available images."

Pauline Baird Jones said:
"It's not like there aren't costumes out there. I see them at the cons. Now we need someone with vision and a camera to set up shop..."

We also had some viewpoints about what should/should not be pictured on a cover:

Pauline Baird Jones said:
"When I went indie, I went back to covers w/o people. (wry grin)"

Cathryn Cade said:
"I must admit if I see a sci fi book with no people on the cover, I will pass it over UNLESS I know the author, because I assume there is little or no romance. I love sci fi, but I want the romance too."

Lizzie Newell said:
"I have a strong objection to decapitated male torso, the ones with the man's head cropped out. I view it as objectification of men. I suppose turn about is fair play, but I'd rather read about interesting characters than male mannequins."

And a few shared personal cover art experiences:

Pauline Baird Jones said:
"My last publisher used a corset shot for Steamrolled. I got a comment at an event about the reader being glad to see some "erotic steampunk."...And my books was totally not erotic. So obviously the book sent a message to that reader that was bound to be disappointed."

Lynda Alexander said:
"I know my SFR first proposed cover was exactly that-- a naked man's torso....and the whole point of the story was that my hero was a shapeshifter of the REPTILE kind. Why would I want a man on the cover??? Oy... (fortunately, my editor also went to bat for me, and we ended up with a dressed woman on the front instead)."

Pippa Jay said:
"I've just sent in cover art forms for a SciFi romance novella where I specified no naked torsos - will be interesting to see if I get it."

Cathryn Cade said:
"Since my books are hot sci fi romance, my heroes will no doubt continue to appear missing part of their clothing. It's a signal to readers to expect another CC romance, an adventure yes, but with heat."

Thanks to everyone who joined in on the discussion.


  1. I want my covers to scream scifi romance in one glance, no ambiguity. I see it as a short cut or symbol to my readers. They know they will get a scifi romance with some heat and a classic HEA. My readers are romance readers first and I respect that and enjoy that aspect.

    1. I totally agree with you Melisse. Taking it one step further, if my SFRs are military SFRs I'd like to be able to show the hero in uniform so readers know exactly what they're getting, but it's so hard to find good stock shots of men in uniform that could translate to the future.

      Thanks for stopping by Spacefreighters Lounge to add to the discussion!


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