Who doesn’t love a good love story? With over a billion dollars in annual sales, romance novels have tight embrace on the book industry. Blockbusters like the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (and resulting movie franchise) shed a light on the booming potential of this sometimes underestimated genre. As the genre has evolved, romance novel cover design has changed with it, shedding its previously cheese-tastic past to embrace cleaner, more modern designs.
Romance readers want to escape. The purpose of the genre is to give readers a glimpse into worlds they may never get to experience in real life. We all recognize the excitement of attraction, but most of us will never get to experience it flying on a private plane with a playboy billionaire or standing with a debonair pirate on the bow of a tall ship. A good romance novel cover must show the reader what kind of escapism is in store, and give the readers enough detail to spark their imagination. Sometimes this means Romance covers give a lot—open shirts, bare skin or, passionate embraces. But other times it’s more subtly sensual—a couple holding hands, a delicate flower or gorgeous beach.
Why is a good cover so important in romance? With over 60% of romance novel sales taking place on eBook, a cover that stops the reader scrolling is paramount. Large text and bold, clear imagery are musts because they communicate to the reader which of the many romance subgenres your story falls into. The covers outlined below give you a good picture of some of the current trends that make great covers sizzle.
A girl next door meets a mysterious (and controlling) billionaire/executive with a sexy secret life…does that ring any bells? If your book features a powerful, slightly dangerous man in a modern, urban setting, this is the kind of cover you need. Contemporary cool covers put the objects of desire—the man (and often his abs), city views, expensive ties, wine, diamonds and pearls—front and center. This imagery creates a feeling of luxury and offer the reader a chance to imagine a steamy rendezvous in the penthouse suite. Contrast is key here—dark images paired with clean, modern fonts in bold colors give these covers a contemporary, urban edge.
Historical romances are what many of us think of when we think of the romance genre. Maybe a muscled, longhaired Fabio-type holding a buxom vixen in his arms? Those were the bread-and-butter of the industry for many, many years. Though those covers went out with shoulder pads and leg warmers, historical dramas are still very hot.
Whatever time they are set in, historical covers now need to be super luxe. Readers want to feel swept away by passion and the drama of the time period. The reader’s eye is enticed by beautiful rich colors and luscious period details including architecture, hairstyles and fabulous dresses. Or cowboy hats and abs. If your book features a feisty, headstrong heroines, who defies the expectations of her time period, while succumbing to the rugged charms of a man she’s obligated to spend time with, this is your sub-genre.
Clean and chaste
This genre values true romance over erotic desire, so don’t look for sweaty, entangled bodies on these covers! These are books for readers who want stories about the way people fall in love, face challenges and grow together. Some are religious (or “inspirational,” in the romance industry parlance) others are simply interested in what happens in the time a couple spends outside the bedroom. A simple kiss on the forehead or held hand is enough to set the mood, usually with soft color palettes and sun-soaked landscapes in the background. If you’re writing for the younger set: YA romances also fall in this category, often featuring loopy scripts and handwritten fonts to evoke notes passed during Chemistry class.
Sometimes funny, often poignant, always real, these are books where the writing is at the forefront. Less obviously “romance” novels, these covers need to woo the upmarket women’s fiction audience with contemporary and compelling love stories that might require a hanky or two in the final pages. Simplicity rules the day here—start with a photo of a symbolic image, or sensual (but not overtly sexual) close up of the heroine’s body, and add a classically designed font.
Flirty and funny
Not all romance books take themselves seriously—there are many titles out there that skirt the line between romance and chick lit and offer readers a satisfying light read. Study these if your brand is humorous romantic adventures geared toward a slightly younger reader than the standard 35-45 year old romance audience. Sophie Kinsella and her signature illustrated covers have defined the genre. These covers should have a buoyant, floating feeling (as seen in the Time For Tammy cover). Pinks, blues and whites are popular colors, paired with girly script fonts.
Paranormal and provocative
Vampires, shape-shifters and aliens, oh my! There are no bounds to what a paranormal romance writer can conjure in her imagination. These covers share a lot, tonally, with Contemporary Cool in that they often feature washboard abs and dark color schemes. Unlike contemporary books, these will most often use highly stylized fonts borrowed from fantasy. They also choose imagery carefully to communicate that the rules of our world may not apply—note how the ritual circle in Protect Her or the single red eye on the cover of The Vampire’s Throne give clear nods to the supernatural, while keeping the hunks front and center.
Are you in love with these romance novel covers yet?
Romance readers are some of the most voracious and loyal readers on the planet. They know what they like but are more willing than other audiences to give a new author a shot. Give some thought to which sub-genre your novel fits best. If your cover is bold and on-trend, you’ll help guarantee your book will be the next one they choose!