…on covers. You know the ones I mean: the ubiquitous headless torsos that pose on the top half of m/m romance covers, above the scenery shot tucked under the title. I’ve always found them a bit ridiculous, preferring to see the whole person – someone with a face and a personality rather than just a set of pecs and washboard abs. But recently something made me question this – the cover for Harper Fox’s Driftwood:
This is one of those occasions where to me there was a complete mismatch between the faces on the cover and how I wanted to picture the characters. They couldn’t have been more different in my mind, and this certainly isn’t a book I would have bought on the strength of the cover. Call me shallow if you will, but I like covers to be attractive, so if you’re using models’ faces I want to find them attractive. These guys didn’t do it for me. With an ebook it’s not too hard to ignore the cover, but it really got me thinking about the dangers of using models’ faces on the front of a book.
Here are a few more covers of books I’ve read over the last couple of months. They’re all ones I find appealing, the models are wearing clothes (no torsos here!), and in most examples I was happy to picture the characters in that way – although I find it a bit odd that the model on the left in Talker and Life Over Easy looks like the same guy. Talker I bought on the strength of the cover alone, just because I loved the look of those tattoos, and Mason on the right of Life Over Easy was exactly how I wanted to picture him – yum! ;D
Strawberries for Dessert and Special Delivery just don’t work for me in the same way. Perhaps it’s the torsos creeping back in again. Sam (on the left on Special Delivery) looks nothing like that in my head, and the guy on the left of Strawberries for Dessert I find quite off-putting. I will read it, because the first in the series was great and it would be silly to judge it by it’s cover, but I just don’t like his face very much. I’m sure he’s a nice looking guy really, but the expression is odd. I realise that this is a very personal thing, and I don’t mean to criticise Anne Cain’s cover design in any way. I actually really like the design of the covers, but I’m just not attracted to those two models in any way.
The following four are all ones I’ve been voting for over on Elisa Rolle’s Rainbow Awards Covers Contest, and I’ve been trying to work out why I find them so appealing. Partly it’s the choice of fonts and restrained use of colour. Partly it’s the composition, but I think that mainly it’s because you can’t see their whole faces in so much detail because of the angles or the cropping.
Maybe it works better when part of the faces are obscured, or you only get a profile? That way you can fill in the details, and make a character look however you want them to in your own head. Admittedly you can do this with any cover just by ignoring it, but it does mean you have to work on banishing that image from your head. It’s like when an actor you don’t fancy plays a character in a film adaptation of book you then read. It’s hard to get them out of your head!
So anyway, I never thought I’d say it, but I’m starting to find the headless torso shots more appealing. I can understand why publishers and writers might choose them. Don’t get me wrong – I think I still prefer to see faces, but there’s more room to go wrong with faces and character match-up.
What do you all think? Ever read a book where the cover model was just plain wrong? Or have any favourite cover images you want to share? I’d love to see them!