The Evolution of Romance Novel Covers

Elizabeth Camden The Book World 3 Comments

The Evolution of Romance Covers. Few things have come so far, so fast!

Let’s take a peek at some of the covers that have graced NYT bestselling books from the 1980s (on the left), and the current versions of the same book on the right.

Oh….. the horror!

These books are all from the mainstream romance market, so although they have some graphic love scenes, but the books contain much more emotional depth, character development, and downright good story-telling than the original covers would suggest. Was I the only girl who was horribly embarrassed to approach the counter at the checkout line with these books in tow?

What accounts for such atrocious covers?

Some people in the business speculate it was because the salesmen who marketed the books to retail stores (and yes, in the 1980s they were mostly men) insisted that such books sold better because women needed help identifying a romance novel on the racks. Hmmmm….even when I was a teenager I could read the back blurb and figure that one out! I was also intensely loyal to my favorite authors, and bought the books despite the covers, not because of them.

The pretty landscapes and evocative covers of today’s book market still clues in most readers that this will be a romance book.

Now, let us speak of one of the worst tragedies in book cover publishing history. Yes, it’s Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale. This is perhaps one of the most moving romance novels ever written. Twenty years after publication, it still makes the Top Ten List of romances ever written. And yet… brace yourself for the original cover:

I am deeply grateful for the evolution in marketing romance novels, as I work very hard to write moving, emotionally uplifting and insightful novels… and I would have been heart-broken to get stuck with an 80s-style cover. I give daily thanks that my publisher, Bethany House, has such a fantastic team of in-house designers.

Comments 3

  1. Debra E. Marvin

    oh, so true. No wonder romances were looked down upon! thanks for sharing. Now it’s all about the dress, I think, don’t you?

  2. Elizabeth

    Wow…. you’re right about the dress! They are featuring some spectacular dresses these days. Sounds like a great blog post. Must get on that one! E.

  3. Susan P

    I have that bottom left one of Johanna’s still in my possession! Oh yes, the horror of someone seeing those covers was so stressful to me that back then I bought one of those pretty, handmade, book covers that goes over any book you are reading so nobody could see the cover. 🙂 Great post!

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