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.

38 comments to “Day at Avon, Part One – Cover Art!”

  1. Sara
    · April 16th, 2007 at 12:17 am · Link

    First, welcome back! I knew you’d have a fabulous time with Eloisa and Tessa!

    I LOVE that Caskie cover! I want it for my book! Just make him blonde, and we’re set! Uhm, Will, if you’re single and/or need an intern in the art department, I’m available! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    A hot six-pack or a muscled back usually get my attention, but my favorite covers are definitely the ones Franco Accornero did for Elizabeth Thornton’s books. That man is a genius – I want him to paint MY portrait.

    Aside from the romance genre, I love the Jody Lee’s cover art for Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy novels. She draws a lot on Klimt, and her colors are gorgeous!

    I’m an art historian so I could analyze these things to death. Especially children’s book illustrations. I’m still trying to figure out how four picture books turned into a hundred pages of thesis…

  2. Christina
    · April 16th, 2007 at 12:23 am · Link

    Love the blog. It sounds like you had a wonderful time.

    I am amazed at the cover art and that Avon still uses painters instead of computer graphics. I think it is great that they do it that way, but I wonder how long it will be before they too switch over.

    On How to Engage an Earl, I love how she looks so devishly ornery, and he is so hesitant. It is a very interesting cover.

    I always pay attention to cover art, it is what typically compels me to pick up a book or not. It would be nice however, if the author had more of a say so in what they would like to see. It is their story after all. Even though for the most part the covers are in excellent taste, I think it would be nice to have say.

    Gosh isn’t it amazing how much control Walmart has over sales?

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s blog.


  3. India Carolina
    · April 16th, 2007 at 12:31 am · Link

    Ha! I think I get to leave the first comment, due to my habit of staying up way too late on school nights. What would I like to see on the cover of my novel? How about this:

    New York Times best selling author of Twist of Fate India Carolina (in embossed letters of course)insert picture of guy resembling Brad Pit with his shirt half-off and the sunlight playing in his hair handing over a bouquet of wildflowers to a beautiful brunette resembling me (only gorgeous). Insert name of my second novel-lets call it The Braided Rainbow Insert cover quote “I love it!” says New York Times bestselling author of Goddess of the Hunt Tessa Dare. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Not sure I have an all time favorite, but I do love the Avon covers, especially the one for Taming of the Duke . As a photographer, I love the use of light in the covers. That particular one looks like a beautiful painting with it’s color and texture. Now I know why. It is a beautiful painting!

    Arrg! I took too long to write my response and SL and Christina beat me! Geez you’re popular!

  4. Terry Stone
    · April 16th, 2007 at 3:56 am · Link

    Tessa, how exciting it must have been for you to see how the books we love are made.

    My favorite covers have always been the ones with landscapes or still lifes. I get aggravated when the people on the cover don’t resemble my interpertation of how I think they should look. I have been known to constantly flip the book closed and look at the cover in distress that I could be so wrong in my imagination.

    On my own cover the only requirment I have is to see Terry Stone on it. The rest I will leave up to better layout designers than myself ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. beverley
    · April 16th, 2007 at 5:15 am · Link

    I am of the opinion that less is more. The covers that I like the best are the ones that don’t show the face of the heroine or hero. With the heroine I like those Cathy Maxwell covers where you just show her back in a beautiful dress and for the hero I love the ones where they show is body and maybe cut it off so you can only see maybe the bottom half of his face or something like that.

    I find that when I read a novel, it’s best if I get a picture in my mind from their description because I have read plenty of novels where I thought the cover art didn’t look a thing like the main characters. I saw a harlequin the other day where the heroine clearly had brown hair on the cover but in the book she was described as a blonde.

  6. Gillian
    · April 16th, 2007 at 5:27 am · Link

    Pam Rosenthal’s cover of The Slightest Provocation is gorgeous. I’m in a period mindset before I ever read the book.

    Which is wonderful, but frustrating, cause I’m not reading much of anything til school is out–crunch time at work!

    And I adore the simplicity of Mary Balogh’s Simply covers.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Lori
    · April 16th, 2007 at 5:44 am · Link

    I’m such a lame puritan, but I admit there are times I wont get a book at the store/library if there are half naked people on the cover. I’d definitely rather have flowers and lace. But obviously they’ve done studies and know what sells so what can you do! If half naked cover art will sell my book, i’m all for it!

  8. terrio
    · April 16th, 2007 at 5:45 am · Link

    I am soooo jealous. I can’t even imagine how wonderful this trip must have been. The only thing that makes me feel better is knowing how much you deserve it. *g*

    I have to say I prefer covers that do not depict the couples at all. The Mary Balogh covers may seem simple but they work much better than putting people on the cover that do not reflect the characters in the book. Did you ask at all about them at least getting the hair color right?

    I do like the Caskie cover though. At least it is something different. I also can handle the ones where they do not show the faces. But I would say that the latest two by Candice Hern have wonderful covers. They just look like art from the time period and I think they give them a credibility and a respectibility that the books deserve.

    I’m afraid this insistance on the old clinch scenes contributes to holding back romance as a respected genre.

    Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip, Tessa and thanks for sharing all of this.

  9. Tessa Dare
    · April 16th, 2007 at 5:56 am · Link

    Good morning, all – I’m just waking up here in Cali.

    Sara – I would LOVE that Caskie cover for my book, too. I just looked up Elizabeth Thornton’s site to see what you’re talking about – do you mean the ones with the hot guys peeking at you from the stepback? Definitely attention-getters!

    Hi, Christina – Avon did say they are doing more and more of the process (cover approval, etc.) digitally – but I didn’t get the impression that they’ll be moving away from paintings anytime soon. and of course, I agree that it would be fun, as a writer, to choose my own cover – but it doesn’t sound like that happens very often, if at all.

    Teehee, India – You should hear EJ talk about the different versions that “beautiful painting” went through – I think he was originally naked, and she made them add the shirt and pants! It’s amazing what they can change/add late in the process.

    Terry, I hear you on the “quiet” covers. I have to admit, I prefer them, too – easier to read in public! And it is frustrating when your own vision of the characters clashes with the cover models. It’s no coincidence, I gathered, that best-selling authors get the “classier” covers – when you’re Julia Quinn or Mary Balogh, your name is what sells the book. Newer authors have to attract the reader’s attention with a bit of skin, evidently.

    Beverley – Tessa W. told me that hair color is the one thing they always make sure is right, because they know how irritating that can be, when the cover doesn’t match the description in the book. I’m also a fan of the half-faced hero – give me a strong jawline, and leave the eyes to the imagination! It’s not an Avon cover, but Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible cover is great that way.

    Gillian – The cover for The Slightest Provocation is gorgeous! Funny how the erotic romance titles often get the more traditional covers, isn’t it? I think at Avon, the erotica covers are done in the trade paperback division, which is separate from the mass-market department I visited, so I didn’t get to see any of those.

    Thanks so much to all of you for dropping by!

  10. Tessa Dare
    · April 16th, 2007 at 6:04 am · Link

    LOL, Lori – I’m a pragmatist, too. Ideally, I’d love a more conservative cover if it were my book – but I also would want it to sell. I guess I’d trust that the art and editorial people know what sells better than I do. Once you’ve built that big name, the covers can change.

    Tying in with that –
    Terri, I agree that it’s hard to get respect for romance as a genre when nonromance-readers start in on the “bodice-ripping” cover art. And like I said, once the author’s name will sell the book, they seem to move away from the clinch. When I was in Carrie Feron’s office (she wasn’t there, but I got to hang out in her office!), I saw an old copy of Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale on the shelf with a Fabio cover that was just hilarious. He was bare-chested and holding this cheesy bouquet of roses out to the reader … funny, my own (recent) copy of FFTS doesn’t have that cover!

  11. Kelly
    · April 16th, 2007 at 6:21 am · Link

    First of all, thank you so much for doing this breakdown for all of us – it’s the next best thing to being there ourselves, and is mighty generous of you!

    Second, that Caskie cover is really fun. I love the idea that the cover art continues onto the back, rather than being repeated there. You get such a sense of playfulness from the picture that feel the book simply has to have a similar tone to it. And the Earl is definitely yummy!

    As for my own cover art, I don’t really see myself being comfortable with the naked male torso and the lady with the sagging bodice on my covers. I can see why it would benefit the marketing of the book, but I personally would prefer to have the characters reserved for the reader’s imagination. I actually really like the new covers Avon has given Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster novels, with the small inset landscapes. I’d love to have a breathtaking landscape on my covers.

    But then again, what I know about art could fit into a thimble!

  12. Cynthia Falcon
    · April 16th, 2007 at 6:38 am · Link

    Well… for my artwork I think I would a sexy looking man with a bare chest. And they have to match the period I am writing and the characters in my story. There’s nothing worse than getting a regency novel and the hero is wearing jeans!

    I love the Caskie cover, its sassy and sexy.

    Oh and if you want to see samples of some interesting cover art, head over to my blog… ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Lady Leigh
    · April 16th, 2007 at 7:06 am · Link

    Welcome back and thanks so much for sharing, Tess! I’m going to have to stop by your blog every day this week.

    I looove James’ cover. Super hot. However, I think I would be embarrassed to give it to my dad to read- lol. Not that he would be shocked- it IS a romance. I like the covers that are tasteful and embossed ($$- yes, I’ll run the big print line, please) with the sexy picture inside. Not that I am being picky. ‘The Unbound Heart’ could have any cover They (the infamous They) want to give me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Lady Leigh
    · April 16th, 2007 at 7:07 am · Link

    oops, I mean Tessa. Sheesh. It’s early on monday morning ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. Maggie Robinson
    · April 16th, 2007 at 7:30 am · Link

    I’m not fond of semi-naked men in the snow, especially since I live in Maine and just can’t picture a willing Mr. R. in such a scenario. I love details of classical paintings used as covers (or contemp paintings made to look like “real” art). The Pink Carnation series has great covers.

    For the first book I wrote about an artist, I’d love the self-portrait of Vigee-LeBrun, because the heroine actually models herself after her.

    Great blog Tessa! Thanks so much for sharing your fun and your goodies!

  16. Ericka Scott
    · April 16th, 2007 at 7:49 am · Link

    Good morning Tessa. . . I, too, am just cracking eyelids this morning but dashed over to see how your day at Avon went.

    I’m amazed at the cover art. Now, as you know, I just recently got my coverart from Cobblestone. I don’t know if the print publishers do it different, but I had a huge questionnaire to fill out detailing color of hair, eyes, physical description of h/h, what items I’d like featured, and what I saw the cover to be like. That last question threw me for a loop — I didn’t have a clue. Luckily, the artist who created the cover, Sable Grey, did a wonderful job. Although I had three chances to review and make changes, the first one was perfect!

    I’m really looking forward to learning more about publicity. It’s something we authors are taking on more and more and I’d like to know what works. . . and what doesn’t!

  17. AprilsMom
    · April 16th, 2007 at 8:13 am · Link

    Sounds like you had such a fun trip! I had to laugh at your line about making the cover art sexy enought to sell and keeping it modest enough for the retailers–it needs to be modest enough to read while you are waiting for the dentist, too! I always grab a book with a “quieter” cover when I may be reading in public.

    I do love a beautiful ball gown on a cover. Such a world away from jeans and t-shirts.

    Maggie, wouldn’t Vigee-LeBrun have been a great cover artist? She painted all of her subjects looking a little younger and prettier than reality.

  18. AprilsMom
    · April 16th, 2007 at 8:24 am · Link

    Last I heard of Fabio, he was riding on a roller-coaster in Virginia a few years back when a sea-gull flew into his face and broke his nose.

  19. seton
    · April 16th, 2007 at 8:41 am · Link

    thanks for the insight behind the scenes.

    I love that Caskie cover! The relationship between the front and back is great. I hope this is a growing trend.

    I had heard about Walmart’s influence on covers. I dont hate the clinch covers; I think they are fun and most times, a gas!

    But I can admire the elegance of Stephanie Laurens’ recent covers or Candice Hern or Pam Rosenthal’s latest book.

    That horrible cheesy original Fabio cover of FLOWERS FROM THE STORM (which really doesnt fit the style of the book inside at all) will always be the definitive cover of FFTS for me. The incongruity of it all tickles my fancy

  20. Donna
    · April 16th, 2007 at 8:42 am · Link

    Hi, Tessa. It sounds like your trip was amazing.

    On the issue of cover art, I fall into the group that generally prefers less flesh on the cover. I’d rather not have to hand the Wal-Mart cashier a near naked man and/or woman. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also, the people on the cover never match the people that I envision as I read their story. While I do love the beauty of the artwork, and some are amazingly beautiful to me, give me a plain but elegantly done cover any day.

    Having said that, I must admit that there are some covers that I love and would not have wanted them done any other way. Taming of the Duke is one of them. And in a vastly different style, Karen Marie Moning’s darkly sensuous covers are wonderful.

    The bottom line is, that regardless of whether the cover is smokin’ hot or brown wrapper plain, I’m buying what lies between the covers and that’s the important thing to me.


  21. Lindsey
    · April 16th, 2007 at 9:11 am · Link

    Wow, Tessa, this is fascinating – thanks for the detailed report! There was just a really interesting (and highly academic!) discussion of cover art at the EJ/JQBB. Like the JP cover, there seems to be an interesting trend of bare backs right now – both male and female.

    Love the Caskie cover – that is too fun! Though I do love classy covers (those for Anne Gracie’s Perfect series were lovely) and the artsy Candice Hern covers, I have to agree with Seton that I have a certain fondness for cheesy clinch covers! Elizabeth Hoyt’s covers have been great too – I love the new Serpent Prince one.

  22. CM
    · April 16th, 2007 at 9:18 am · Link

    I love the Caskie cover, too. Very sassy!

    I don’t know what I’d do for a book cover. I can’t even pick titles!

  23. Laura T
    · April 16th, 2007 at 9:33 am · Link

    Tessa~! Sooooo exciting. I love_those_covers. It is so neat about the original artwork.

    (Sara, I LOVE the Mercedes Lackey covers, too).

    & Tessa, did you see any of your favorite authors while you were there? I can’t wait to hear more!

  24. Tessa Dare
    · April 16th, 2007 at 9:58 am · Link

    Wow! So many great comments.

    Kelly – I hear you on the landscapes. I love landscapes, too – especially for a historical. A lovely view of a windswept moor or crumbling castle can really set the atmosphere for the book.

    Cynthia – I love what you did for your own cover art! That stepback is particularly beautiful.

    Leigh – you can call me Tess or Tessa or whatever you please. Just thanks for stopping by! I also like it when the book has a sexy stepback – that’s the best of both worlds. You get to enjoy a yummy clinch, but the public sees a less embarrassing cover when you’re out and about.

    Maggie – Thanks for taking time from your vaca to come chat! Can we expect cute baby pictures soon? I love the art that you select to illustrate your blog, and your writing style is so elegant. I completely agree that a fine-art cover would be “you.”

    Ericka – Wow! Thanks for sharing your experience with Cobblestone! And congrats again – I can’t wait for the book to come out. I think that at Avon, the kind of information you gave the artist would be given by the editor.

    Aprilsmom – LOL about Fabio and the seagull!! I agree that beautiful clothes make a cover look lush, just like pretty landscapes, flowers, jewels, etc.

    Seton – thanks for coming by! It’s good to hear someone speak up for the clinch. Especially b/c that’s probably what would end up on my cover, if I get published. I’m trying to learn to embrace the clinch now, so it won’t be a shock. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Donna – Thanks so much for coming by! I definitely agree – the cover may draw me in visually, but the story itself is what really counts.

    Lindsey – Ooh, I like Elizabeth Hoyt’s covers, too – very lush and richly textured. Sexy but classy.

    And CM – don’t worry about picking titles. That’s all done for you. I’ll write more about that another day.

  25. Tessa Dare
    · April 16th, 2007 at 9:59 am · Link

    Hey, Laura T! Our posts crossed. Yes, I did get to meet Ms. Eloisa while I was there, and it was wonderful! She was so gracious and fun.

  26. liesesf
    · April 16th, 2007 at 10:20 am · Link

    Sounds like the trip was worth the 6 weeks of anxiety (through the whole AvonFanlit process). Looking forward to all your summaries.


  27. lacey kaye
    · April 16th, 2007 at 10:32 am · Link

    Oh.My.God. That cover is crazy! I want one!

  28. Maggie Robinson
    · April 16th, 2007 at 10:48 am · Link

    Almost crying. Airport closed, flights cancelled, 50mph winds, sleet and freezing rain. No Florida today…just when Florida would come in handy. Not sure if we will even be able to rebook because flights are full for the foreseeable future. Will forward pix of Juliette. She’s adorable. So I’ll probably be here tomorrow too!

    I also like covers where only part of the body is exposed (backs, chest, lower face, etc.). Most cover models do not match my mind’s eye anyway, altho Nathan Kamp can be every hero ever.

  29. laurieire
    · April 16th, 2007 at 11:06 am · Link

    It sounds like you had a wonderful day with Avon and I will be waiting eagerly for each installment to hear all about it! How exciting to get to see the original art for many of these covers.

    I personally prefer covers that don’t have the hero and heroine on the cover but instead a beautiful landscape or an embossed design. If the couple must be on the cover, an outline or silhouette is my preference, or maybe a body part here or there. I like to use my imagination.

    There are some exceptions that are just so sexy or creative that the cover to me is a true work of art. I do like the latest Candice Hern cover โ€“ it looks just like an old painting. Amanda Quick also has some elegant covers.

    This looks to be a fun blog week here and I am looking forward to tomorrowโ€™s installment!


  30. LdyBlkny
    · April 16th, 2007 at 11:59 am · Link

    Tessa, It sounds like you had such an amazing start to the day. And to be able to see and discuss cover art…wow!

    And I second, Sara (great minds, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) The cover of Kathryn Caskie’s newest is absolutely incredible. I would love to see Avon take a shift in that direction. And I totally would take a cover like that for my own novel!

    Interestingly, I find that I’m loosing my inhibitions with regards to my reading romance novels in public. Whereas before I might have been shocked by that kind of a cover, now I’m just amazed by the creativity it takes to design something like that. I’m sold! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Can’t wait to read more…


  31. India Carolina
    · April 16th, 2007 at 1:46 pm · Link

    Popping back in to defend the FFTS cover. I love it!

    He’s on a hillside holding a bouquet of wildflowers which he’s presumably just picked. Golden sunset light wafts over his shoulder and face from the side. He beckons me.

    I’m an outdoor girl and a total sucker for a macho guy who offers wild flowers. I’m gonna buy that book! Thanks for posting the link.

    And thanks for giving us the scoop! Can’t wait for tomrrow’s blog.

  32. Anonymous
    · April 16th, 2007 at 2:35 pm · Link

    I just wanted to say a big thank you for being so willing to share your experience with all of us! It’s the next best thing to being there!!!

    I love the cover art! These authors must be thrilled. I think the romance industry has come a long way to making covers tastefully sensuous and not so much “the bodice ripper” cliche.

    If a book is by an author I already love, I’ll buy it whatever is on the cover, but the cover does make a big difference to me if I’m trying a new author.

    To have an original painting of the cover of my own book–what a thrill that would be!!!

    Thanks again!!!

  33. roszred
    · April 16th, 2007 at 3:54 pm · Link

    Thanks so much for sharing your adventure. Can’t wait to see what the hero on you book cover looks like!

    Best wishes,

  34. Mary Danielson
    · April 16th, 2007 at 5:03 pm · Link

    Welcome back, chica! I’m so glad you had such a wonderful time @ Avon!

    I’m with everyone else – Caskie’s cover is fantastic. I’m normally one for more subdued (read: non-naked h/h) covers, but I love that one! Avon is getting better with their h/h covers – every month the covers are more interesting.

    I’m loving the inside scoop, Tessa – can’t wait for the rest of your blogs this week! (And congrats on the Tessa Woodward news – I’m crossing my fingers for GotH)

  35. Manda
    · April 16th, 2007 at 6:13 pm · Link

    Tessa! So glad you had a great time! I don’t think I knew that they actually painted the covers. I’m glad Avon still does it.

    Personally, I like all types of covers. I haven’t been fondest of clinch covers but sometimes they work. I really like the cover of Anne Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan. It’s so understated. But sexy with a clinch at the same time. It fulfills both my discreet side and my wild side;)

    Can’t wait to hear more about your trip! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer gal!

  36. Tessa Dare
    · April 16th, 2007 at 6:53 pm · Link

    Liese, Lacey – thanks for stopping by to say hi! Great to see you both.

    Hi, Laurie! One more vote for Candace Hern’s covers .. they are lovely.

    Elodie, I’m totally with you on the “losing my inhibitions” thing. Sometimes I think this whole year has been about losing my inhibitions!

    India – Sorry I dissed your man, Fabio. If that cover does it for you … great. Personally, I found it rather hard to visualize Fabio as Jervaulx. But then, now that I think about it, the mangled English bit might just work. Hmm.

    Kellye – I think you’re absolutely right. Eye-catching cover art is way more important for a new author than for a best-selling author. How else is the book going to get noticed?

    Chris! So good to hear from you! I hope things are going well with your writing.

    Mary – Awesome to see you, too. Have you heard anything from the Teen Fanlit winner about her trip?

    Manda – Thanks for dropping by. I know you’re busy over at RV today with Anna Campbell! I agree that her cover is great – very atmospheric.

    Thanks, everyone! Be sure to come back tomorrow!

  37. BethanyA
    · April 16th, 2007 at 7:03 pm · Link

    TessaD, it was so nice (haha) to receive your email and hear that your day was fabulous.

    Sigh. It seems only yesterday I was asking you how to italicize words for my Fanlit entry. When I was an intern for one of Avon’s major competitors, I remember talking to Liz Carlyle’s editor about covers and she said something to me that is still ingrained in my head. It is so basic, and so true: the bigger the name on the cover, the more money an imprint has invested. This usually translates in my head to: big name, glossy cover = worthy author and satisfying read. Now, of course, that isn’t always the case, but I tell you, before I knew who Sabrina Jeffries or Madeline Hunter were, I kept noticing their books everywhere.

    In Ms. Jeffries case, it was To Pleasure a Prince, and the bedroom scene on the cover, done in midnight blues and purple, with the striking heroine in a white nightdress, and the title emblazzoned in a shocking pink definitely drew the eye.

    For Madeline Hunter, I’d heard her name tossed around, but when I saw The Rules of Seduction with her name taking up a third of the cover, I gave in. “Okay,” I said to Avon. “I give in–I’ll give her a try because you obviously find her worthy and I trust your taste implicitly.”

    Anyway, my editor-mentor confirms this. I swear.

    My last comment about covers is sort of funny. I am an expert at finding erotica in a bookstore amongst the sea of historical and contemporary romance. Go into any B&N’s romance section and find a book that has a picture of flower on it–and just a flower. I guarantee that will either be an old-school Susan Johnson or Thea Devine novel. I’m serious–it is truly fool-proof.

    Last thing–I noticed online that HarperCollins has some editorial and marketing job openings–any chance that you’d know if any of those open jobs were for Avon? Let me know! (Privately is fine, if you feel more comfortable.)

    Bless you,