Cover Girl: Why Seven Romance Authors Put Women On The Covers Of Their Novels

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Since 1987, the United States has designated March, “Women’s History Month” in celebration of women’s contributions to society, culture, and history.

I thought it’d be fitting to discuss and showcase some of the beautiful covers we love featuring only a woman.

If I asked a typical non-romance reader to describe what a romance novel looks like, they might mention a Fabio-ish looking man embracing a woman with a 20” waist, a shirtless man showing abs that could grate cheese or a black and white cover showing only a tie, a mask or cufflinks.

While the above covers do exist, I’m happy to report that covers with only a woman do, as well and they’re gorgeous!!

I know for me as a reader, I like to mentally conjure my book boyfriends based on the author’s descriptions, so the absence of a man on the cover allows me to create my own.

We’ve all heard that sex sells, but should that influence the author’s choice for book covers?

I asked some authors who have frequently used women on their covers and here’s their insightful answers.

In a sea of shirtless men, why did you choose to use a female for your covers?  

Sierra Simone: “I chose a woman because I find that the range of expression in female-presenting images tends to be much larger—I can find an image with the exact tone/aesthetic to match the story, and I think that’s probably for a complex set of cultural reasons, namely that the female form is still seen “as a canvas for creative freedom on a photographer’s part, but also because there’s a very narrow view of what men are “allowed” to be, and this ends up being reflected in photography. “

K. Webster: “When choosing pictures to represent my books, I look for eye-catching photos that haven’t been used much.

Often, so many books have the same men on the fronts.  So, in order to be different, I seek out the ones with gorgeous women.

To me, they’re beautiful and striking.  I feel like it stands out in a sea of abs and makes you stop to admire the photo.” 

Elle Kennedy: “When I saw the Danish covers of my Off-Campus series (all featuring girls and fun imagery), I adored them so much that I decided I needed to replace the original man-abs covers.

From there I made the decision that my new series, Briar U, was going to be all about the girls too! After all, the stories feature fierce heroines who deserve all the glory.”

Emma Hart: “The first book I covered with a female was titled, Being Brooke. Even though it was just legs on the cover, it didn’t make much sense to have a man even as part of a couple because of the title.

That’s one of my bestselling books ever, and that definitely had an effect on my continued use of women on covers.

I also tend to write sarcastic, strong heroines, so representing them on the cover is important to me.

Mostly, I love how versatile they are in my opinion – I love bold, bright covers, and doing that with females is so fun, especially in the romantic comedy genre.” 

Alessandra Torre“I love displaying women on my covers because they are always the heroes of my novels.

My books focus on independent and confident women, and it only seems right to put them front and center when I market those novels.”

Jessica Hawkins“I’m very drawn to female covers myself—you know how they say ‘write the story you want to read’? I cover my books the same way—with images that speak to me.

These particular covers match the stories inside in that most of the time, they aren’t overtly sexual but a much more drawn-out, subtle seduction, which to me is exciting.

A lot of times, what’s sexy on a cover is what’s left to the imagination. Inside, for me, I love the build-up to fireworks more than the explosion itself.”

Talia Hibbert: “I love women, so heroine-centric covers are my personal preference. But the fact is, shirtless men sell (not that I’m complaining) and they’re also easy for indie authors on a budget to get ahold of. For me, it’s really difficult to find appropriate stock images of black women that suit the ideas I have in my head. So when my cover designer and I found a stunning image of a black woman who looked just like Jasmine (the heroine of Wanna Bet?) there was no question about it – we had to put her on the cover. It was a rare chance I didn’t want to miss!”

What kind of feedback have you received regarding your female covers?

Sierra Simone: “Pre-release, I’ll sometimes hear feedback from industry professionals or other authors that using a woman on a cover is a risky move, but I’ve never had a single reader complain about it! In my experience, readers really respond to woman covers, especially when it fits the story well.”

Webster: “My readers love my female covers.  Dirty Ugly Toy actually put me on the map because of the cover.  Everyone wanted to know what was on her eye and what it meant.  It was just a “dirty” smudge that made the picture seem more mysterious to me. 

Anytime I have a female on my cover, readers go bananas and say they love the cover.  They may love shirtless males, but they sure do love the pretty ladies too!”

Emma Hart: “In my opinion, my readers love it. They stand out, and every time I reveal a cover I get nothing but great comments from bloggers and readers alike (authors, too!)

I’ve also reached a point where they’ve become my brand, and nothing makes me happier than hearing someone say they knew it was my cover as soon as they saw it!”

Alessandra Torre: “I’ve had several readers reach out to me about my female covers – many of them like the look, but many of them are also embarrassed to read a novel in public that has a half-naked fireman on the cover.”

Jessica Hawkins: “I think my readers like me to take risks and test their limits, and in the romance world, putting a female on the cover can be a form of pushing boundaries. They’re very supportive, but then again, that’s what they’ve come to expect from me.”

Talia Hibbert: “I was told by multiple sources that putting a woman on my book cover – and a black woman, at that – would lose me sales. And, truthfully, Wanna Bet? sells significantly less than other, similar books I’ve written, despite being one of my highest-rated novels ever. But I’ve received wonderful feedback from readers that really reinforced the magic of an m/f romance novel centering its heroine. People have told me how much it meant to see the heroine take centre stage, how much they appreciated the representation, and how striking the cover was. I certainly love the cover, and I don’t regret it.”

Additional thoughts?

Sierra Simone: “When I saw the image for my cover of A Lesson in Thorns nearly a year ago, I basically fell over dead. I knew I had to have it. I knew it was Proserpina Markham. I knew it had the perfect blend of beauty and wistfulness and pain.

Hang Le then created this gorgeous cover with it for me, and what I love so much about it is that it matches the feel of the book perfectly.

There’s kink and secrets and angst and jealousy and the kind of love that bites you back when you try to reach for it, just like a thorned rose.”

Webster: “There is a misconception about romance covers and what sells.  I’ve been told time and time again that male covers sell better than female covers.  However, the numbers for me state otherwise.  Of my six best sellers, only one is a man on the cover, and the other five are females.  To me, those are good numbers and lets me know I’m on the right path.”

Elle Kennedy: “It’s true—romance novel covers these days have become a sea of shirtless men! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a hot shirtless man, but when you write romance novels, it’s important to stand out from the crowd.”

Alessandra Torre: “While eye-candy covers certainly sell, as a reader I gravitate towards non-shirtless covers, and make my marketing decisions as a result.”

Jessica Hawkins: My debut series has all females on the covers. Not that I don’t appreciate a good set of abs or a sexy couple myself—I have some of those too. But generally, female covers suit my brand and my stories better.

I want to thank the authors for their feedback and hope this article not only celebrates women on covers but will also encourage more authors to use them in the future.

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