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Romance Novel Cover Design
October 17, 2008 7:23 PM   Subscribe

The Best Romance Novel Covers of the year - click on the winner of each category to see the Top Ten and explanations. Also the site doesn't avoid the snark with a worst cover category [The winner is Big Spankable Asses [maybe NSFW]].
posted by meech (44 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The second-place worst cover is much worse than Big Spankable Asses. It's the title that does it in.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:34 PM on October 17, 2008


Big Spankable Asses can never be the worst of something.
posted by Benjy at 7:47 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The title alone of the third-place finisher (Mommy for a Minute) is enough to make me hurl, never mind that awful photograph. The worst part of Big Spankable Asses, as noted by one of their reviewers, is that the photograph violates all truth in advertising standards.

But looking through the entire set of winners in all categories, mostly my reaction is of "this is the best they could find?" Most of the covers are dull and dated, at least to my non-romance-reading eyes.
posted by Forktine at 7:56 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah. If Big Spankable Asses is wrong, I've no interest in being right.

I'm not a publisher, but I'm sure that would fly off the shelves at Borders.
posted by Keith Talent at 7:56 PM on October 17, 2008


Apparently it took three people to write that big spankable asses book.

Frankly though I find it hard to believe that someone who could give a sincere award to this cover really ought to be snarking about anyone.
posted by delmoi at 7:57 PM on October 17, 2008


If such a category existed, The Inherited Twins should have won for Best Self-Mocking Romance Cover. Little girl in the "Significant Glance At Man Across Fence" pose? Check! Little boy doing his best "Hey There, Purdy Lady! I'm A Strapping Ranch Hand!" hat doff? Check!

I never knew that Harlequin had a special American Romance series... I'm not sure what do make of that.
posted by CKmtl at 7:59 PM on October 17, 2008


The comments on the Worst covers page were great: "But this gets my vote because that is not a big spankable ass. It's barely an ass. It's more an asslet."
posted by jokeefe at 8:21 PM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I get their criteria -- the author of the piece doesn't get what's so bad about Bustin', which is easily the worst of the lot. If you wouldn't be embarrassed to have that book in your home -- much less to be seen reading it -- well, I don't know. What a horrifically terrible piece of artwork. Even if it were drawn well, it would still look fucking stupid. Drawn as poorly as it is, it's even worse than it ought to be.

The porny covers look fine to me, but then I'm in favor of women with rat's-nest hair if it got that way in the Throes of Sweaty Passion. But they do miss the mark w/r/t knowing one's audience, I guess. I agree that the creepy mannequin bridegroom guy is creepy. The average, lurpy guy on the cover of the baseball one is interesting to me...is this supposed to be a more down to earth breed of romance novel? Is that really bad? I dunno. Again, not the audience. But if that's what it's trying to get across, I'm not sure it fails.

I actually really like the covers for Kink and that paranormal romance thing that seems to feature Goth Christina Ricci menaced by a shadow dude or something, and am not sure at all what's supposed to be wrong with either of them.

Big Spankable Asses should, I think, depict big spankable asses. YMMV.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:27 PM on October 17, 2008


I was once on a flight from Atlanta to Chicago, seated next to a woman that was so obese, I feared she would literally be unable to extract herself from the seat and the seat row in case something bad happened. I think she bought both seats; I don't know for sure, as I had the aisle.

She was feverishly reading an honest-to-god Harlequin romance. She was glued to it. Engrossed. I had only seen that kind of lost-in-another-world glassiness from 8-year-olds with Pokemon on the Nintendo DS.

The title of the book I wasn't able to catch, but I was able to read the back cover and get the gist of the story. Apparently, a young, up-and-coming female executive was finally going to get the chance to travel on business (gasp!) to Las Vegas (double gasp!). Only there's been some kind of mistake -- there's only one room left at the hotel, and she'll have to share it with (oh no!) the gorgeous guy from the sales department (triple gasp!).

I silently said to myself, "If anything bad does happen, there will be nothing you can do to save that woman. But you'll be just dumb enough to try anyway, won't you?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:46 PM on October 17, 2008


Nancy: “…But Touch of Madness hit a new low; the cover is depicting main characters as evil. Attempted porn or lack of imagination in a book cover is one thing, but evil demonic allure as a romance selling point? The customers can rightly call the publishers idiots.”

So in the world of romance novels, evil demonic allure is a bad thing?
posted by xchmp at 9:05 PM on October 17, 2008


Big Spankable Asses can never be the worst of something.

Indeed. Spankproof Asses Of Various Sizes would be worse.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:15 PM on October 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


Is it just me, or does the woman in red on the cover of Woman in Red (winner of Contemporary) have kind of a funny shaped head? Like, maybe it's an alien head under there? It's creeping me out.
posted by harriet vane at 9:27 PM on October 17, 2008


Is it just me, or does the woman in red on the cover of Woman in Red (winner of Contemporary) have kind of a funny shaped head? Like, maybe it's an alien head under there? It's creeping me out.

The focus group thought that Manatee in Red wouldn't connect as well with the target audience.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:58 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Understanding why the judges found the winning covers so attractive would be the key to understanding the female psyche, because I sure as hell don't get it.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:10 PM on October 17, 2008


Is it just me, or does the woman in red on the cover of Woman in Red (winner of Contemporary) have kind of a funny shaped head? Like, maybe it's an alien head under there? It's creeping me out.

Maybe it's Alice
posted by borkencode at 10:14 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Comments on To Scotland With Love:These women obviously have nae met a true Scotsman.
posted by pracowity at 10:56 PM on October 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


To Scotland With Love

This sounds like an ill-conceived Austin-Powers sequel starring Fat Bastard.

You, wit' the bodice! GET IN MAH BELLY.
posted by zippy at 11:20 PM on October 17, 2008


Wow. Am I ever surprised to see Poison Study on the list. I was given that book as a birthday present and read it as a bit of a throw-away fantasy book, not a romance book. And best cover? What the hell?

Takes all kinds, I s'pose.
posted by Phire at 1:03 AM on October 18, 2008


Understanding why the judges found the winning covers so attractive would be the key to understanding the female psyche

Maybe it would be the key to understanding the judges' psyches. I'm not sure that it's the rosetta stone to the minds of the general population of women, some of whom might have different opinions.
posted by MsElaineous at 5:03 AM on October 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


i wanted this preserved for posterity.


Karyn: “Looooove Scotsmen! And that's only one reason for picking this cover! My first impression of the outer cover was rather fuzzy yet delightfully sepia, and I definitely wanted to know what was going on in that bathtub. Everyone's a little voyeurist inside, right? *sweat* What made my breath stop was the actual...well...gentleness of the inner cover. It looks like they are a newly-wed, madly-in-love couple and that was a refreshing difference to what we know... the usual rather in lust than in love pictures... And! both of their body positions actually work in real life, too! It's a homely, serene scenery, yet it's made sizzling by the looks of the cover models, and the prospects of the positions plus this niiiiice bathtub.”

Kathy: “My visceral reaction to the images was immediate and unmatched. The spare background hints at mystery, and the image of the couple on the back is, for me, passion incarnate. Fantastic!”

Kristen: “The couple looks so in love and in a bathroom, no less! Her gown is slipping off and he's wearing nothing but a plaid (of course!) blanket, embracing her leg. They both love each other, obviously.”

Cover Cafe’s Jo-Ann voted for this one and said: “The stepback decided me on this one. Hands down the prettiest and sexiest.”

Lauren: “This cover is hypnotic, you can't stop staring at it. In comparison to the other entries it is softer, more romantic and less gaudy. The couple staring into each other's eyes look genuinely in love.”

Lynn: “Because how can you resist that bonnie Scotsman not quite wearing his kilt?!”

Nikki: “The colors used for this cover are very subdued and yet eye-catching. In fact, the front is downright subtle and the stepback is extremely sensuous. And I like that the couple is not reclining somewhere, although it appears they just haven't gotten to that point yet.”


and yes, this is about porn for ladies (not necessarily women).
posted by geos at 5:13 AM on October 18, 2008


Cool Papa Bell : I silently said to myself, "you can't judge a book by its cover"
posted by fullerine at 6:12 AM on October 18, 2008


If you think the covers are bad, try reading one of these things. If you can stop giggling and retain presence of mind, read with the intent of comparing the men in these to actual men you know.

It's not just porn for ladies, in the sense of cheap thrills and masturbation fodder, it's porn for ladies in that it's pretty much everything negative hurled at visual, male-oriented pornography wrapped up in a softcover and sold by the bushel. Unrealistic? Check. Helps develop impossibly high standards? Check. The gender portrayed rarely behaves like that? Check. Continues to promote stereotypes? Check. Focuses on molding said interest into a complete parody, dehumanized and subjugated to the perceived desires of the target audience? Check. Manages to not do the gender of the target audience too many damn favors either? Check.

Might as well do it up ACT-style. Vivid Entertainment:Film-Making :: Harlequin-aspiring bodice-rippers:Literature.

Kudos for at least finding the kind of titles that might provoke their owner into not displaying their collection to all and sundry, much like the "other porn." Now, if only half my local used book store wasn't consumed by trade-ins of this smut. Either that, or we just make the other half trade-in porn DVDs for store credit. Equality, here we come.
posted by adipocere at 7:54 AM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: "Who wants to see a woman’s crotch....just...noooo!"
posted by stet at 9:01 AM on October 18, 2008


Judy Christenberry is my new Non De Plum/Breakfast cereal.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2008


Is it just me, or does the woman in red on the cover of Woman in Red (winner of Contemporary) have kind of a funny shaped head? Like, maybe it's an alien head under there? It's creeping me out.

Personally, I think it's Arwen. Maybe it's a lotr spin-off. Either way, that totally reminds me of some clip from those movies, just change the color of the cloak...
posted by Kimothy at 10:19 AM on October 18, 2008


so sad that none of these books will even be considered for the nobel prize in literature, on account of being American. Damn you Swedes!
posted by jenkinsEar at 10:28 AM on October 18, 2008


My girlfriend pointed out that Big Spankable Asses looks like it might be about a Real Doll. She also brought my attention to what the receptionist at her office has been reading lately: Thong on Fire.

Oh, by the way, here is your new issue of "Gigantic Asses".
posted by hydrophonic at 10:49 AM on October 18, 2008


I love the commentary, it's quite thoughtful.
posted by Nelson at 11:09 AM on October 18, 2008


It's not just porn for ladies, in the sense of cheap thrills and masturbation fodder, it's porn for ladies in that it's pretty much everything negative hurled at visual, male-oriented pornography wrapped up in a softcover and sold by the bushel. Unrealistic? Check. Helps develop impossibly high standards? Check. The gender portrayed rarely behaves like that? Check. Continues to promote stereotypes? Check. Focuses on molding said interest into a complete parody, dehumanized and subjugated to the perceived desires of the target audience? Check. Manages to not do the gender of the target audience too many damn favors either? Check.

Might as well do it up ACT-style. Vivid Entertainment:Film-Making :: Harlequin-aspiring bodice-rippers:Literature.


Nope. There's one very big difference between this stuff and 'visual, male-oriented pornography'. Can you tell what it is?
posted by jokeefe at 11:20 AM on October 18, 2008


In Vivid Entertainment stuff, women are being paid to have sex in front of cameras.

In Harlequin-like books, there are no actual men ripping bodices or actual women wearing them. Fabio and his friends pose for the bare-chested cover shots with bodice-wearing women, but no one is having sex unless there's a casting couch problem in this industry.

It would be better to compare Harlequins to men's one-handed books, the unillustrated sort. And even then, I don't think Harlequin is publishing much in the way of fetishes. When Harlequin starts a series on women who, for example, like Scottish lairds to shit on them and then ejaculate on their faces, we'll have something to talk about.

What do I win?
posted by pracowity at 12:20 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


pracowcity has it! In romance fiction, there are no actual human beings performing and being paid (or abused). When people argue for the equivalence of women's fluffy fiction with men's (speaking broadly) porn, it seems very odd to me that this is so easily forgotten.

What do you win? How about a favourite? :)
posted by jokeefe at 1:23 PM on October 18, 2008


I never knew that Harlequin had a special American Romance series...

American love; like coke in green glass bottles, they don't make it anymore.
posted by Grangousier at 2:29 PM on October 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


pracowcity has it! In romance fiction, there are no actual human beings performing and being paid (or abused). When people argue for the equivalence of women's fluffy fiction with men's (speaking broadly) porn, it seems very odd to me that this is so easily forgotten.

The underlying idea, though -- that both sell a fantasy that (a) in some unhealthy cases, may come to take the place of a sexual/romantic reality, and (b) more to the point, may give their audience an unrealistic idea of what to expect from a real world relationship -- seems consistent with regard to both things, however. Whether people are abused in the porn industry is an issue that doesn't have much do with why people watch porn (uh, except in certain cases, of course, but I don't think anyone is trying to draw a parallel between a Harlequin Romance and 2 Girls 1 Cup*).

*A case wherein, if the video was not faked (I'm pretty sure that it is), the participants are clearly being abused -- it's just about impossible for me to imagine anyone doing that without some kind of duress. But I'm just about positive no one is being abused in a Vivid production (the parallel that was placed on the table). It's just too high profile for that to even be an issue.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:45 PM on October 18, 2008


"Dude. Dude. Check this out!"

"Fine... What stupid book do you want me to read now?"

"It's not stupid. Here, read this."

"OK... Uh, wait... What? No way! They aren't going to...? O-Oh god! No! NO! *gurk* OH GOD WHY?!"
posted by CKmtl at 3:11 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess you guys also worry that children will be damaged by Cinderella? I don't think that most women reading romance novels are in any great danger of thinking that they are real and therefore being forever disappointed by the fact that no Scottish Lord marries them and lives happily ever after, always being sensitive to their feelings and never forgetting an anniversary. Nor do I think men really believe that women are like porn stars. It's called escapist for a reason: it's not anything like real life. Most of the people using them for escape know all too well how unreal they are.
posted by Maias at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2008


I never knew that Harlequin had a special American Romance series...

You inspired me to look it up. Seems to be mostly cowboys, Old Town-ish traditional stuff, farms. What, no harried and overscheduled New Yorkers and Los Angelenos?
posted by Xere at 4:43 PM on October 18, 2008


also: Longmire does Romance Novels.
posted by Xere at 4:45 PM on October 18, 2008


I believe when you engage an Earl you're supposed to keep your pinky extended.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:03 PM on October 18, 2008


Actually, here you go Xere:

New York City, Chicago (with Texans!), Alaska, St. John, Denver, Los Angeles.
posted by CKmtl at 5:27 PM on October 18, 2008


The titles actually connect powerfully with a certain mindset.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:41 PM on October 18, 2008


In romance fiction, there are no actual human beings performing and being paid (or abused).

Unless they're posing for the cover?
posted by hydrophonic at 11:39 PM on October 18, 2008


Well, not to belabour the point, but the use of cover models for romances of various sorts is hardly equivalent in number or kind to the female bodies appearing in porn....
posted by jokeefe at 1:03 AM on October 19, 2008


What makes an ass unspankable?
posted by spamguy at 7:31 AM on October 20, 2008


What makes an ass unspankable?

The answers to this question are too horrific to commit to text.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2008


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