I read a blog article (here: https://www.whoamancepodcast.com/blog/2020/5/11/6-reasons-cartoon-covers-are-bad-for-romance) about why cartoon covers are bad for romance. It was an interesting and enlightening read. I did, however, disagree with the general assertion that cartoon covers are bad for romance, and here is why:

  1. Very, very few independent authors have $1k-3k to spend on a high-quality cover photo. In fact, just now– after self publishing for 7years– is my business able to afford a high quality cover photo (I’m currently working with a model/photographer to recover my Laws of Physics trilogy, moving from semi-illustrated to photos). Illustrated covers allow independent authors an affordable alternative that’s also high quality in appearance. As an author, the cover is a very personal decision, the best reflection of the interior of the book as is possible (balanced against limitations in resources) at a given time.
  2. Alternatively, stock photos are available (which are much less expensive). But good luck finding a stock photo that accurately represents the characters that are being written, especially if your characters aren’t a white blonde woman or a muscular, six-pack-ab white man. I searched and searched for a stock photo of a big beautiful Latina woman with a tall, bearded, hairy lumberjack of a man. I never found one.
  3. Illustrated covers are sex-positive, because they make the “heat level” a non-issue (is my opinion). Sex on the page should be as accepted and “normal” as sex in a relationship (is my opinion). Covers shouldn’t (in my opinion) give a short-cut as to the number of sex scenes. The story should dictate (in my opinion) whether and how many and how explicit the love scenes are, not the cover, just like the story dictates all the other scenes in the book. Why should sex scenes be so special (as opposed to all the other scenes in the book) that they alone contribute to the cover and creative direction?
  4. Illustrators are artists (as are many photographers) and illustrated covers are damn beautiful. As a author, seeing my books and the characters within accurately represented by an artistic rendering is a big f$@king thrill.
  5. Related to all of the above, representation matters. If affordable photos of diverse populations don’t exist, seeing oneself represented in a beautifully illustrated (done with obvious care) cover is so meaningful and important.
  6. Variety and innovation should be celebrated. Just because things have always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that a new approach is a middle finger to the past. I self-published my first book in 2013 and remember how unfriendly the environment was (at the time) to the innovations of self-publishing. But now (hopefully) we know better. Self-publishing and traditional publishing are two very valuable and viable approaches to publishing books. Another example: in my first real job, I encouraged the office staff to move from a paper system to an electronic one. So many people were resistant, telling me over and over, “We’ve always done it this way. We shouldn’t change how things are done.” We ended up with a combination system, because sometimes paper *is* better, and sometime electronic is better. Similarly, sometimes photo covers are better, and their awesomeness isn’t lessened by a new approach to cover creative. Illustrated covers are awesome too.

What are your thoughts? Are illustrated covers bad for the romance genre? It’s totally cool if you disagree with me. Discussions of these sorts, about the philosophy and approach of artists while balancing reader interest and engagement are some of my favorite discussions.

Best, Penny