A History – Trends in historical romance novel covers

There seem to be coherent trends in romance novels from each decade. There are always exceptions, but here are a few.

The 70s gave us a lot of romance novels with hand drawn covers. The heroine and/or hero were often featured on the cover.

Scrolling titles were often seen on these covers.

The 80’s featured a large number of Hero/Heroine centered covers. Lots of cuddling and leaning pictures.

Lots of almost kissing, deep longing, and implied sexual tension. Usually with a nature or occasionally an indoor scene in the background.

The 90s gave way to a lot of floral covers where the hero and heroine were often featured on the inside jacket.

Another popular theme was the coy woman with the hero and heroine on the cover (especially for regency).

The 2000s kept the hero/heroine free cover theme for a while.

Also backs became more popular as 2000 came to a close and 2010 began.

For 2010, who knows what the theme will morph into .
Here are my covers, and a few others released in the beginning of 2010.

What would you like to see more of on romance novel covers? What do you think the newest trends will be?

April Dawn


3 responses to “A History – Trends in historical romance novel covers

  1. Thank you for your post, April.

    I love rendered covers that feature a man and a woman in a scene that broadly hints at something dramatic going on. The way they’re posed and the expressions on their faces should indicate there’s a love story here.

    Other elements of the artwork should contribute to this feeling of drama and romance: the background, the color scheme, the lighting and shading, the composition in general, the artist’s technique.

    I didn’t care for floral covers in their heyday; I still don’t. I say if a book is about two people in love, the cover should display two people in love. If it’s about flowers, it should display flowers.

    Likewise, I can do without cartoon covers. Unless, of course, it’s a book about cartoons.

    More importantly, what I well and truly dislike on romance covers, but which we see so much of nowadays, is what I call “the invasion of the headless romance heroes and heroines.” Either their whole heads or the top halves are cut off at the top edge of the cover. If we can’t see their eyes, we can’t tell their emotions—a critical factor in romance-fiction illustration.

    All we see is the chest of a hunky shirtless guy, a from-the-neck-down picture of a woman in an elegant gown, a faceless couple embracing or about to—whatever. Or if their heads are present, they’re shaded so that we cannot see their faces. Or their backs are turned to the viewer. The most important aspect of illustrating people is missing.

    Why do publishers insist on this type of cover art? I have a few suspicions, but I can’t be sure. Does anyone know? Please share this information with us.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for the comment. I suspect the missing head covers are chiefly used in order to avoid giving a predisposed idea of what the hero heroine looks like. (Of course I’m no cover artist, so I can’t be sure.) That way the reader is free to go wherever their imagination might take them.
    What do you think?

  3. I found this post on romance novel cover trends quite interesting and wish I had read it before we designed my book cover. It might have made the selection process go a lot faster.

    I think the use of backs and partial or missing faces may be a simple dollar and cents decision. When we put together the cover for my book we had an issue with the cost of paying for the face of the person we used for the cover. Because the artwork was done on a budget, knowing a publisher might not buy what Karen Swaty put together, we wanted to keep our investment down. To pay for the perfect models to come in and do the photoshoot for the perfect pose would have drastically increased our cost.

    Since I had done a lot of free work for the couple who were on the cover I got my models for free. However the female did not fit my heroine’s description so we have a back view. The hero was also not a perfect fit so he is distant, which is also how the story starts so it works in nicely with the storyline.

    I kind of like the idea of letting the reader come up with their own image since my book is fantasy based but for me personally I prefer to see a whole picture, not one that has been cropped.

    ~~ES Tilton

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