I’m working on the cover design questionnaire for The Seeds of Power (Christal’s book), and I’d appreciate your advice. I know she should be on the cover, but should she face the reader or should we see her back?
We’ve been talking a lot about covers lately. The choices are different depending on the sub-genre and the flavor of the book itself. It’s harder than you might think to tempt the reader to take a closer look while also giving them a clear promise of the kind of story you’re offering. For a taste of the challenges involved, click here to read more about covers for Jeanne’s complex, brain-teasing demon paranormal series; here for Kay’s attempts to update the cover of her Las Vegas contemporary caper; here for Justine’s historical suspenseful adventure and here for Nancy’s historical elegant battle of wits.
My books are epic fantasy romance, so they have to look historical but with a legendary-adventure kind of feel. They are predominantly romance, and the primary character is the heroine. So I know there will be castles and horses and Princess Bride-type stuff in the background. I’m clear that I want a person (the heroine) on the cover, if I can make that work given the challenges of working with stock photography.
What I can’t decide is this: assuming I can make it work in practical terms, should the heroine have her face or her back to the reader? There are excellent examples of both styles within the genre. I’m thinking the pros and cons are as follows:
If we see the heroine’s back, she is actively moving toward the world I’m depicting (castles, challenges, adventures). Her face won’t be visible to the reader, which means that the other elements of the cover, from her clothing to the setting, will have to tell more of the story. It asks the reader to work harder, but allows them to create their own vision of the character.
If the heroine is looking outward, she’s framed by the world surrounding her but she’s making eye contact with the reader. She becomes the most important element of the cover, but she may annoy a reader who has a different vision of the character’s appearance.
My current thinking is that having the heroine face the reader offers a different story promise from showing the heroine’s back as she moves toward the setting. I *think* the first suggests the story will focus more strongly on the heroine’s personal journey—her internal challenges and character arc, while the second suggests that the story is principally about her adventures and challenges in the external world and the way she overcomes those challenges.
Above I’ve included two covers from Ilona Andrews’ best-selling Kate Daniels series. They’re from the same series with the same main character. Both covers are beautiful. The English language cover has the heroine facing out, the French cover shows her back. Do you think they send different signals about the kind of story inside?
It’s a question of nuance, but I think this is an important choice and I’d like to get it clear in my mind. Right now I think I would like my heroine to face the reader, even though it’s likely to prove hugely more challenging in practical terms.
What do you say? Do you have a preference? Am I over-thinking this?