One of the things that’s happening behind the scenes here right now – besides Tupperman getting his HEA, and the Bride Quest II books getting new type on their covers – is that the Rogues of Ravensmuir are getting new covers. I’ve been ’round and ’round about this, but finally decided to go for it. The thing is that I love these three books so much that I want everyone on the planet to read them and love them, too.
Packaging this trilogy has always been a challenge, mostly because I made it one. The three books are linked, but not a tightly linked trilogy. They are all darker historical romances with Gothic elements, but they have their differences, too. THE ROGUE is the one I think of as a true Gothic, with a mystery, an intrepid heroine, a mysterious (and possibly guilty) hero and plenty of secrets to uncover. It’s even set in a castle on a cliff. THE SCOUNDREL is more of an action-adventure book – I think of Gawain as my medieval James Bond, the guy who specializes in derring-do and is believed to have no heart, but discovers in the key moment that he had a heart until the heroine stole it away from him. THE WARRIOR is a paranormal medieval, filled with portents and danger and dreams. All three of them – I think – have powerful core love stories. So, they are the same but different.
I always believed that their covers should make them look different from other medieval romances, even different from my other medieval romances. Warner wanted to put a half-naked man on the cover of THE ROGUE – lounging against a four-poster bed, he was, and (to be fair) looking quite rogue-ish – but I said no. I wanted a dark candy box cover (i.e. with no people) maybe with a guy’s stuff, like Merlyn’s box of secrets, a brass spyglass and a night sky. My idea was that the cover should appeal to historical fiction readers, as well as historical romance readers, because I thought the book would. (I was wrong about this so have finally surrendered this conviction.)
For the Warner original edition, we ended up with the red cover with the tone-on-tone plaid background and a white box with a key with a ribbon. It’s pretty, but it looks more like a Regency romance to me than a medieval Gothic.
When Eithne and I repackaged the book last year, I thought we should have a shot of just Merlyn. Photo stock was even harder to find eighteen months ago than it is now, so we chose one of a guy’s face. I did love the type she did with all its golden swirlyness, and I thought the tone was right – but what I learned about digital covers this fall made it clear that at least the type had to be updated. I also found it annoying how often this stock photograph was used on romance covers last year!
This fall, I had a hard think. The series hasn’t been selling that well in comparison to my other titles, which is might be more evidence that the covers might not be sending quite the right message.
I didn’t want clinches, because I don’t think the books are sufficiently sexy to justify that. That might send another wrong message to readers!
I was quite stuck until I remembered this cover, which I always liked, for the Spanish edition of THE WARRIOR.
It’s very Photoshop-y (I wouldn’t have put my name on his face!) but the combination of images clinched it. It’s time for the man-chest covers. I surrender. I give it up. I am going for man-chest. These books are romances and they are hero-focused romances. Having the guy alone on the cover makes sense – just as it does for all of my other books. When I found stock photos with the right look on the guy’s faces, they had bare chests.
At least they don’t look quite as forbidding as the Spanish dude.
And I picked the castles to match the stories.