Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Covers, Then and Now

I've been at war with this post. I had thought that it would be a fun thing to go through the years and see how romance book covers have changed over time.

Ugh, I was utterly and completely wrong. This has, by far, been the hardest post I've ever done. If you want to pay a fee, you can access a data base for romance books and do an advanced search. But I'm cheap and refuse to spend the money, so I did it the old fashioned way and googled what I wanted. Only vintage books are not easy to find. It has taken me HOURS to share with you a few pictures of ugly, funny, pretty, and breathtaking covers.

Part of my problem was that Inspirational romances didn't really come into play until the late 1970's.  Janet Oke came on the scene in 1979 and was the catalyst for romances with a Christian world view.

Mainstream romances began as early as the early 1700's. Pamela, by Samuel Richardson, is touted as the first romance novel when it came on the scene in 1740. Jane Austen came into play in the next century, and inspired the prolific Georgette Heyer, writer of historical regency romance in 1924.

In the 1930's, Mills and Boon published hardback romances and sold them to two-penny libraries. In 1950, they began to publish paperbacks, known today as category romances. Harlequin bought out Mills and Boon in 1971, which has become the king of the romance publishers.

Let's take a quick look at some romances from the last 80 years or so. First we will go through mainstream books, then we will stroll through what the Christian arena has to offer.
Pride & Prejudice 1945
Published by Boon & Mills 1950

Harlequin 1960
Beginning of the modern romance genre 1972

Regency 1972
Harlequin 1988
Harlequin 1994

Harlequin 2000

Harlequin 2005

Signet 2009

Pocketbooks 2010

Christian/Inspiration Books




Heartsong 1991





There is such a broad variety of covers and much of it depends upon what publisher you have. Some tend toward drawing. Some use models and photography. (which is the trend I am seeing now.) Trends come and trends go, but hopefully we will love whatever cover we get when we get published.

I intended to share some of my favorite covers, but is it almost midnight and blogger is giving me fits. Unwholesome thoughts have been tumbling through my head and I don't want to wake the family with my grumbles and roars. (They are already afraid of me with my Cranky Pants on today.) So I will leave you with the wild variety of covers and let you dream of what kind of cover you would like when you are famous with books on the shelves.

What kind of cover do you prefer? What book cover has really drawn you to it's pages?



Rachel said...

Interesting post! I have to say that I'm more drawn to covers with photographs of people on them rather than drawings. One thing I hate right now is that a lot of British publishers are trending towards wishy-washy covers with swirly writing and flowers on them, particularly in the chick-lit genre (Cecelia Ahern, etc) which gives away no clues about the plot!

On a side note, I think you have a typo regarding Samuel Richardson and meant to say that he came on to the scene in 1740, not 1940? :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Yikes, yes indeed! Thanks, Rachel! Going to correct that right now. :)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Tough post, but so cool to see the changes. Thanks for working on this!
~ Wendy

Jaime Wright said...

I love book covers. The ones that I am most attracted to lately are Colleen Cobles - but then i'm always singing her praises. Her historical suspense series (Lightkeeper's Daughter / Bride) are stunning. I also really like Karen Kingsbury's covers ... even though I've yet to read more than 1 of her books. shocking, I know.

Angie Dicken said...

I am very shallow...I do judge a book by its cover...initially. I usually don't pick up books that have a modern photograph of a person on them....I like artwork on a cover...especially landscapes if it fits with the theme. I do like pictures of people if it's historic and presented as a painting portrait...Wow, I didn't realize how picky I am!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Wow, Sherrinda, VERY interesting! Thanks for all the work to put this together! That Virgin with Butterflies cover will sure get your attention, huh? (Um, and not necessarily in a good way) :)

I tend to like photos on a cover, but I'll buy a book whether they have photos of people or not.

Linda Kage said...

Wow, thank you for putting so much time into this. It really is neat to watch how things change over time. Though I have to say, the Christian romance books haven't changed as much as the secular romance books covers.

What a neat study. Some of the titles totally cracked me up. Ooh, you could do research on how titles have changed through the years next.

Jan Cline said...

My favorite covers have been the ones on Liz Curtis Higgs Scottish series. I just dont understand why a publisher would want to put out a cheesy cover. I would be disappointed if the novel I had slaved over ended up with a cover that wasnt really nice.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Wow, this is interesting. Thanks for taking the time to browse these for us, Sherrinda. Christy's cover makes me think of Julie Andrews at the beginning moments of Sound of Music.

I like covers without people on them....or without showing face. But now that I think of it most of those are not in the romance genre.

In the romance genre, I think Linda Lee Chaikin's silk house series have beautiful covers (w/o faces). Siri Mitchell's A Constant Heart and A Heart Most Worthy have beautiful covers without showing all of the face.

Casey said...

Well it is a great post Sherrinda. I enjoyed how you put some history and the evolution of the book cover in there. Some very interesting ones to be sure! :)

I love cover art. But I am getting a bit tired of the h/h heads being chopped off. If you want to behead someone I don't want it done on a cover anymore. Sigh. Ah well, it isn't my decision. :)

I am sucker for a beautiful cover and one of my favorites is Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty. A good cover grabs your eye and makes you want to pick it up.

I think you did great, thanks for putting so much effort into it. :)

Casey said...

LOL, Julia you beat to mentioning Siri's book covers. Hehehe. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

LOL, Casey. Those guillotine covers. Maybe for the Elizabethan era, but otherwise ;).

Then again I'm all for a beautiful cover with NO people. :) I prefer to imagine the people the way I imagine them without allowing a cover picture to get in the way :)

Jeanette Levellie said...

What a riot! I love the butterfly-headed men on the first one.

I like covers that are colorful and realistic, not cheesy.

Thanks for all the hours of work you put into this, Sherrinda!

Tamika: said...

Wow, book covers have certainly transformed over the years! I enjoyed this a great deal, thanks Sherrinda:)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Hey everyone! Taking a lunch break and re-read my post. Boy, does anyone want a little CHEESE with all the WHINE in the post? Gracious! I'm sorry about that. I was getting so frustrated at blogger and ran out of time to really find covers that I wanted.

I could have done several posts out of this one. One for CBA, one for ABA, then take it further into category vs. single title. Historical verses contemporary. Such a huge variety!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Wow, Sherrinda, you put a lot of work into this. I LOVE book covers. I love to search on Amazon or look in the bookstores and see what's out there. I'm drawn to books by their covers and I know others who are, too. I still take a peek at the back cover copy to see if it sounds good, but the cover really does influence whether or not I'll pick it up.

I like covers with people on them, especially if there are interesting backgrounds. I also like covers with more abstract and bold designs. There have been a lot of those on YA novels lately and for whatever reason, I'm really drawn to them. (Of course, those kind of covers wouldn't be suitable or make any sense for a Christian romance :D)

Kav said...

Well, I appreciate your dedication. Talking covers is just plain fun. I notice you left out the risque ones. There was a time when every book seemed to have a heaving bosom on the cover. LOL. I think women readers finally revolted.

One of the most striking book covers I have seen is Melanie Dickerson's The Healer's Apprentice. It's so rich and textured and stunning. Also love Laura Frantz's Courting Morrow Little because I think the cover art really gives the reader a 'picture' of what is to come once you open the book and start reading.

For contemporary fiction covers -- loved Siri Mitchell's "The Cubicle Next Door". I think it was brilliantly staged. Love the colours, the girl's expression, the tag line. It just fits the book. Campy and funny and makes you smile.

Christie Wright Wild said...

I don't know about covers, but Lori Wick is my favorite author. Even some of her books have come out in reprints with new covers.

Jessica Nelson said...

Wow, awesome! LOL As for covers, I'm not a big fan of people pics. But if it has one, I tend to like the profile covers.

Sylvia said...

I definitely prefer people on the covers of books and like to see their faces. Actually, I think I prefer to see the hero and the heroine. If there are two guys trying to get the heroine than show both of them. I'm not particularly fond of this trend right now to show a person's body with no face or just a little bit of their face showing. I know it's very popular even in wedding photography, but it's not my favorite. If the book is about historical costumes, than yes, by all means show just the outfit. I'm not saying I think the pictures are ugly. In fact most of them are beautiful. I just don't think they're showing us the point of it being a fiction romance novel.

Also, the copy of the 1945 P&P that is pictured here probably had a dust jacket. I think all of those hardcover books had dust jackets during that time.

Pepper said...

I think that book with the butterfly faces is probably a paranormal/speculative ;-)

Tessa Emily Hall said...

Love this post! I'm very relieved that most book covers published these days are of real people. It makes the story seem more genuine and intriguing. =)