Day at Avon, Part One – Cover Art!
My first stop on my Grand Tour de Avon was the art department where all the HarperCollins mass-market paperback covers are created. My guide, Will, was awfully nice (get used to me saying everyone was nice, because everyone just was) and terribly cute. (I’m quite certain he would blush if he read that, which is why I wrote it.)
So Will began by showing me some of the original paintings used for Avon covers. From what I gather, the editorial team comes up with the initial ideas for the covers – they tell the art people roughly how the characters should look (hair and eye color) and be dressed, and if there are any key scenes that would make for a compelling cover. Although a lot of publishers are moving to computer-generated art, Avon still commissions actual paintings for most of their romance covers. They often start with a photo shoot, with models in period costume, and then they send the photos to the artist. I got to see some of the paintings up close (alas, not the models!), and they are beautiful. Some of the authors choose to buy the paintings after the covers are done – I can understand why!
I saw the original painting for the cover of Jenna Petersen’s Desire Never Dies. Interestingly, that painting featured quite a bit of heroic posterior that didn’t quite make it onto the cover! This led to an interesting conversation about the impact of Wal-Mart on cover art. Evidently, you can’t have too much nudity on a cover if you want Wal-Mart to sell the book – and Wal-Mart is a huge market for romance novels. So the art and editorial departments have to walk a fine line between making the cover sexy enough to sell and keeping it modest enough for the retailers.
Before a cover is sent to press, many people have to sign off on it – editor, author, agent, etc. The authors often have cover approval in their contracts, but Ms. Eloisa explained that there’s a lot of compromise involved. An author might have a certain style of cover in mind (tasteful arrangement of flowers and lace) and the publisher has an idea of what will sell (bare torso clinch). And of course, most authors want their books to sell. I think she said the cover for Taming of the Duke went through three versions, at least.
I asked Will how they decide which books get stepbacks, embossing, gold leaf, etc. It comes down to the size of the print run, he said. He told me that Tom, the department director, likes to come up with new ideas for cover art, and he showed me this amazing cover flat for Kathryn Caskie’s upcoming release, How to Engage an Earl. Isn’t it fab, this sexy tug-of-war that wraps around the book? I love how it tells you so much about the dynamic of the h/h relationship – plus, that guy is HAWT. That cover definitely engages my interest.
And – although the book doesn’t come out until July, I have an ARC that could be yours! Leave me a comment about cover art. What would you like to see on your own novel’s cover? What cover art draws your attention in the store? Any all-time favorite covers?
I’ll pick one commenter at random to win the ARC of How to Engage an Earl, a very stylish Avon tote bag, and another recent Avon or HarperCollins release (I’ll tell you what I’ve got, and you choose).
Tuesday I’ll blog about my visit with the publicity department. I got some great tips on what pubbed and aspiring authors can do to promote themselves and their books.