Pub Rants

Not a Goddess of a cover?

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STATUS: Today was a day for resolving those outstanding issues of Friday. The FedEx that was supposed to be delivered to me overnight has disappeared into the ether of lost packages. No worries. I hopped on the phone and devised a new solution with the sender. Fingers crossed that this issue will be resolved by Friday.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? GREASED LIGHTNING by John Travolta

To continue what we started last week…

As agents, we might fight for a cover change on behalf of the author and not win. It happens. And, sometimes the publisher is right.

Since Linnea brought it up, I’m going to talk about AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS.

Here’s the cover and back cover copy.

Author Linnea Sinclair returns with another sexy, out-of-this-world adventure, in which the forces of attraction collide—and combust…

Raheiran Special Forces Captain Gillaine Davré has just woken up in some unknown space way station, wondering where the last three hundred years have gone. The last thing she remembers is her ship being attacked. Now it seems that while she was time-traveling, she was ordained a Goddess…

Gillaine’s only hope of survival rests with dangerously seductive Admiral “Mack” Makarian, who suspects her of being a smuggler—or worse. But he can’t begin to imagine the full extent of it. For Gillaine is now Lady Kiasidira, holy icon to countless believers, including Mack—a man who inspires feelings in her that are far from saintly…feelings she knows are mutual. But when their flirtation is interrupted by a treacherous enemy from the past, Gillaine’s secret—and secret desires—could destroy them both….

I have to say that both of us were a little flummoxed by the ABBA Dancing Queen on the cover. The main heroine from the novel, Gilly, never wears red spandex in the story (in fact, it’s an outfit better suited for a mini-villain in the story).

But remember my rant of last week. Cover image does not necessarily accurately reflect an actual scene from the book. Not a valid argument (despite how real it feels for the author).

Bantam, Linnea’s publisher, had decided they wanted to reach out more toward the paranormal/futuristic romance market and go sexier with the cover. Linnea’s first two covers for FINDERS KEEPERS and GABRIAL’S GHOST were decidedly science fiction. Not unsexy just not sexy either. And certainly not remotely geared to romance readers—who we know make up a good portion of her fan base.

We expressed our concerns and to give Bantam their due, they did work with us on Gilly’s outfut but the change ended up being worse than the original so we scrapped it and let the cover go as is (since Bantam was adamant that the sexy outfit had to stay).

And here’s what you need to remember, I might hum ABBA every time I see the cover but Bantam was right. AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS has outsold Linnea’s two previous books.

Something to be said about sexy red spandex.

35 Responses

  1. joanr16 said:

    My first thought was, “Seven of Nine at the disco?” But hey, if it works….

    Bizarre coincidence. I spent the noon hour today going through a dictionary of first names for character ideas. “Gillaine” made the list, in part because I’d never heard it in my life before. Scratch that one. (Good choice, Linnea!)

  2. kis said:

    Hey, Seven of Nine served her purpose, too! Just think of all those 15-year-old boys who were about to abandon Voyager as too dry and cerebral. Looks like a tight bodysuit and high heels will get you everywhere these days.

  3. mb said:

    Having read (and thoroughly enjoyed) this book, I did what I usually do at the end of a good sci-fi novel. I turned back to the cover and had a good laugh.

    Has anyone read Lois McMasters Bujold? After reading the books, you’ll just about wet yourself laughing when you look at the cover. Her women are no more disco queens than Linnea’s are, but you’d never know it from the cover art.

  4. Anonymous said:

    It’s not unusual to make the second cover worse than the first cover, especially when the artist has spent a lot of time and energy creating the first cover and may not care all that much — having been “rejected.” 😉 It never fails, give a customer a choice of several designs, spend a lot of time creating a “masterpiece” along with several not-so-masterful designs, and the customer will choose the worst design everytime. Or change the color.

  5. Eileen said:

    This discussion has been really interesting. It is so hard to let go of your own vision and accept that others are professionals in their field and to trust they’ll do what is right. Best advice I’ve been given- keep the focus on writing the next one. That is what you have control over

  6. 2readornot said:

    Have any of you rented ‘Persuasion’ lately? the cover of that is pretty risque, and has nothing to do with the movie (which, of course, is very similar to the book)…I mean, it is a romance, but they barely even kiss…. I wonder how many people rented that movie based on that cover pic and were disappointed?

  7. 2readornot said:

    Oh, and another thing…started ‘Dress Rehearsal’ today…I love it 😉

  8. M.E Ellis said:

    My first thought was, ‘Oh dear.’

    My second, I wouldn’t buy the book based on the cover.

    It’s such a shame when covers aren’t right. I feel for the authors.


  9. DanStrohschein said:

    Do the artists that draw the covers usually work for the publisher as an employee or are the usually outsourced? Do they read the novel beforehand, or just a synopsis?

    Basically I am asking, what’s their relationship to the book? And how much does the sales department get to direct the look of the cover?

  10. Elaine said:

    AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS has outsold Linnea’s two previous books. Something to be said about sexy red spandex.

    And maybe there’s something to be said for an author’s reputation, the quality of the writing, and/or the story itself. It seems more likely to me that it sold well in spite of the cover, not because of it. Not that you’ll ever convince the publisher of that. Finding the “right” cover is their equivalent of reading chicken entrails in the dark of the moon, I sometimes think.

  11. alau said:

    Though sometimes, just once, I’d to be able have covers that I feel that I can be seen reading with.

    These are some great posts and I’m learning alot about covers. I was turned off by the “Finders Keepers” cover, but I really didn’t think too much about my reaction to it until these recent posts (which is pretty stupid I admit, for a wanna-be writer) I’ve picked up “Finders Keepers” and its in my TBR pile.

  12. Kalen Hughes said:

    Seems to be a classic bad sci-fi cover to me (macho dude, guns, and a chick in a tight outfit). Wouldn’t be out of place on a reissue of a 70s pulp sci-fi book, like Glory Road.

    I certainly wouldn’t pick the book up FOR the cover, but I’m less turned off by it than I am by many of the tacky clinch covers on romances. Somehow I got over my dislike of many of the clichés of sci-fi coverdom (they just don’t seem as offensive, or as dismissive of the quality of the writing).

  13. Nadine Dajani said:

    Hi Kristin,

    You posted some time ago about helping a non-US resident client in obtaining a TIN number… I’m at the point where I need one too, and I hold a Canadian passport but reside in the Cayman Islands… I printed out a W7 form but am at a loss as to which ‘exception’ I fall under. Any tips would be appreciated (I asked my agent if she had any experience with this and she didn’t). I apologize for the trouble. You can e-mail me directly at


  14. down_not_out said:

    I think readers understand the cover doesn’t always reflect the story. Though, in reading The Girls I returned to the cover, often, because the picture– though beautiful– wasn’t possible for the characters. By the end of the story, however, I allowed for a different story behind the cover.

    Oh, and, red spandex would at least encourage me to read the back cover. Saucy.

  15. Janny said:

    I’m still flummoxed at the notion that a cover doesn’t have to have anything to do with what’s actually in the book–and indeed, that it SHOULDN’T necessarily have anything to do with it! The posts here, while sympathetic to that notion, insist that idea is neither realistic nor businesslike…putting it about one level above something originating in an author’s fevered imagination.

    The problem is that this portrayal of the process simply isn’t true. The notion of a cover having some resemblance to what’s on the page doesn’t originate with authors: it originates with the publishers themselves!

    I have seen authors filling out exhaustive cover-design questionnaires about hair colors, suggested scenes from the book that would be good “hooks,” etc….and then their books come out with none of those details included. When they ask why not, they’re given a glib answer about “marketing” and “design,” patted on the head, and in effect told to go back to their keyboards where they belong. So why in the world fill out the questionnaire?

    To demand all this paperwork and information and input from an author, while having no intention of USING any of it, is baffling. To do that to an author with no intention of using it, and then have marketing and design people imply that authors are ignorant for daring to imagine what *ought* to go on a cover, is insulting.

    So the bottom line question, to me, isn’t who knows best, or even what ought to go on a cover. It’s why publishers have authors jump through hoops if they’re a) not going to use the information, and/or b) then figuratively slap the author’s hand for asking about it. Maybe someone ought to address THAT aspect of the issue, for a change.

    Authors don’t complain about their covers in a vacuum. There’s a reason they get a little honked off about seeing what they consider to be a stupid cover on their book, one that has little to do with the storyline and, often–worse–one that gives the entirely WRONG idea what’s in the book from the get-go. An author’s reputation, what image she tries to project in her work, and a lot of other “branding” issues, can be shot to smithereens when her wonderful book comes out with a juvenile-looking cover.

    All over genre fiction, especially romance, publshers moan that people ought to be proud to be reading romance, that they ought not to be hiding the covers and/or pretending to be reading something else…and then we see books come out with same-ol’ same-ol’ covers, or worse, ones like this.

    Yeah, that puzzles ME, too.


    Feeling snarky,

  16. Elektra said:

    I remember my best friend, who is a science fiction junkie, pointing out some covers in the bookstore and saying, “This is why I can’t read new authors anymore.” It seems that the bad cover/cover illusion is so standard now in science fiction that most readers just take it for granted. She sticks with well-known authors now, because she knows that, on a student budget, what you see has to be what you get.

  17. Anonymous said:

    I love sci-fi from the fifties and sixties. One of the things that initially attracted me to it was the artwork on the covers. The cover art for that period is just cool IMHO. And most of the time I could relate one of the scenes in the story to the cover. -JTC

  18. Elektra said:

    And I know this is slightly off topic, but does anyone else, for some strange, unknown reason, hate movie tie-in covers?

  19. daringadventurer1 said:

    To be honest, I liked this cover, though a bit racy. 7 of 9 comments seem like a slight exagerration, and the Glory Road comparison was WAY off the mark-if this had been an ACTUAL reissue of Glory Road, both the man and the woman would be wearing approximately half as much.

    And therein lies the rub. Over the top covers catch people’s eye-maybe not in a good way, but they do (and since the people who are slightly snobbish about covers do tend to be the kind who rely on NYT Book Review or word of mouth, well why not appeal to the people who don’t), so books with over the top content are more likely to have the contents faithfully represented by the “eye-catching” art publishers want.

    Riddle me this, gang: name me one case where you picked up and glanced at a book based on it having what you would consider a tasteful and attractive cover. Bonus points if you liked the book and the cover reflected its content.

  20. alau said:

    Based on the cover, most recently, I’ve picked up:

    The People’s Republic of Desire by Annie Hwang

    Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

    in the case of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation it was a combination of the title and the cover.

    In the past, I’ve also picked up

    The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

    The Dim Sum of All Things by Kim Wong Keltner

    And that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head right now.

    I know. I’m terrible. I judge a book by it’s cover.

  21. kis said:

    Swordspoint and Thomas the Rhymer, both by Helen Kushner–tasteful covers, awesome books. Any Guy Gavriel Kay cover, although his first trilogy was a little iffy style-wise. Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series–amazing scenes from the books, all emphasizing the smallness of man in space–and anyone who’s read the Gap series can tell you, the contents are far from wholesome. GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire, too. And you can even throw in the–gasp!–DaVinci Code, cause the cover design for that book was excellent.

    My problem isn’t so much the raciness of the cover–hell, I’ll put my heroine there nude if they want (flail scars, missing finger, broken nose and all). To me, the art work on so many sci-fi covers just seems cheap and corny. Like the original Star Trek compared with DS9 or Voyager. The problem doesn’t seem squite so bad with fantasy, but it’s there.

    So where have all the good artists gone? Have they moved on to better things? Are they all doing video game design and graphic novels? Are they all resting on the mounds of cash they made doing concept art for the LOTR movies? I mean, as far as quality of art goes, compare this cover with the promo art for, say, the Prince of Persia PC game in my hubby’s game mags. It’s no freaking contest, and that’s just sad.

  22. Kalen Hughes said:

    Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh.

    Gorgeous cover, pretty much puts you right into the protagonist’s world. Sadly they’ve changed cover artists and the new one is awful.

    Bitten and Smitten by Michelle Rowen

    Cute, sassy and funny.

    Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

    I BOUGHT this book just for the cover.

    No Man’s Mistress by Mary Balogh and Just One of Those Flings by Candice Hern

    Both covers use the same period painting. They’re tasteful, beautiful, and let you know what you’re getting.

    It seems to me that the most egregious offenders are consistently the covers slapped onto historical romances (or maybe I’m just more sensitive since this is what I write?). The writers (at least all the ones I know) work SOOOO hard to make their books as accurate as possible and then they get a cover that pretty much says “BUY ME! I’M A TRITE PIECE OF FLUFF WRITTEN BY SOMEONE WHO THINKS PROM DRESSES ARE PRETTY!”

  23. kis said:

    What burned my butt one day was to realize the historical(early 1800s)romance I was reading had the guy unzipping the back of the woman’s dress on the cover. Now, I know they were past laces in those days, at least for outer garments, but a zipper? Arrgh! I mean, you’d think even if the artist was working from a photo, he could have put buttons in where the zipper was. Right?

  24. joanr16 said:

    7 of 9 comments seem like a slight exagerration

    Look at her face— if that’s even possible, anyway. No kidding, I see a younger Jeri Ryan!

  25. Termagant 2 said:

    As far as 7 of 9 – at least the artist has TASTE!

    As far as current romance covers: ALINOR by Roberta Gellis. The reissue cover is better than the original release. POCKETFUL OF PEARLS by Shelley Bates – very evocative, a cover you wouldn’t be ashamed of on the commuter train. PASSAGE by Connie Willis – disturbing, masterfully written book with a terrific, emotional cover.

    Romance and SF CAN get it right, if they want to go the distance. IMO it boils down to whether they want to go for the least common denominator type cover, or truly try to say something about the book enclosed.

    And that, of course, is the rub. I’m happy to say I just “won” a polite disagreement with my small press about the cover of my upcoming book. Originally it was dark and boring. Now it’s 50s camp. Ya gotta pick your battles (g).


  26. Beth said:

    name me one case where you picked up and glanced at a book based on it having what you would consider a tasteful and attractive cover. Bonus points if you liked the book and the cover reflected its content.

    Game of Thrones by George RR Martin. (Original cover, with the man on the black horse.) I’ve never figured out just who that horse and rider is meant to be, but I love the artwork. And the book.

    Lord of Snow and Shadows by Sarah Ash. If I should ever be so lucky to get a cover like that…unfortunately, the book itself was a disappointment and I didn’t finish it. But I wouldn’t mind having that picture framed and hanging on my wall.

    The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kaye. This is a bit of a cheat, because I would’ve picked up a book by him no matter what the cover looked like. However, I do love this cover and it’s a real departure from his former fantasy covers. The publisher seems to be saying, “Look everyone–A LITERARY fantasy! Take this one seriously!” And they’re right–Mr. Kaye certainly wrote this one with a literary flair. Annoying at times, but the story is terrific.

    Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson. I normally don’t like people on covers, but the artwork on this cover is very pleasing. The book itself is an honored favorite.

  27. Beth said:

    Oh, and I just discovered that the same artist, Stephen Youll, did the covers for A Game of Thrones and for Lord of Snow and Shadows. No wonder I liked them both.

  28. kis said:


    I’ve found everything Guy Kay writes has a literary flair. Absolutely my favorite, favorite author, and I’m always a little surprised by how many fantasy readers haven’t heard of him.

    It was the cover for Tigana that made me first pick him up in the bookstore, and after that I was hooked. Gotta love a book that can make me cry for a hundred pages. Well, OK, I DID have PMS at the time, but still…

  29. Linnea Sinclair said:

    Coming in WAY late on this as I was on deadline… but since it’s my cover I do feel I need to comment. 🙂

    First off, Dave Seeley is a joy to work with. He no more wanted this ‘style’ than I did but they PAY him so he does what he’s asked to do. Unlike many cover artists, Dave–bless his heart–READS the book first. That’s why I’m so flummoxed over the (very few though there was one here) comment of those who don’t like the FINDERS KEEPERS cover (which is my all time fave). That’s the exact scene in the book! Exact! And that’s exactly how I pictured Trilby.

    Gillie, on the other hand, would never wear red spandex. She wore a military gear for most of the book save for one scene.

    The guy on the cover–Mack–is pretty nigh on perfect. I have no issue with that. I write space opera so yeah, guns and guys are cool with me. Guns and gals are too.

    DO go to Dave Seeley’s site (just google his name) and check out HOW he does his covers. His process is fascinating and IMHO 99.9% of the time he’s right on the money.

    Joanr16–thanks for the kudos on the name (Gillaine)!. I collect character names. I use 20,001 Names for Baby plus a couple of name sites and then even with that, I mix a few together.

    Another cover thought–I inhale the JD Robb “In Death” series. The covers are non-covers. Name and title. I could care less. Give me Roarke! ::evil grin::

    Covers will make me pick up a book. A back cover BLURB makes me buy it. I don’t care how good (or bad) the cover is. If the blurb feeds my addiction, I buy the book.

    BTW I’m holding my breath on my upcoming Bantam releases as they may shelve me in romance. We’ll see…