Cover Question: Hooking Me Up

Kay and a few others have alerted me to this Carla Kelly cover, and it’s prompted me to ask for your opinion:

Book Cover

Not a bad looking cover – except that the hero has a hook for his left hand. He lost his hand in an accident at war and while it doesn’t bother the heroine in the least, it’s a part of the story in a big way. That there, as Kay pointed out, is his left hand. It’s not even a plot twist – it’s in the third paragraph of chapter one!

Bright stared at his rapidly cooling cup of tea, and began to chalk up his defects. He did not think of forty-five as old, particularly since he had all of his hair, close cut though it was; all of his teeth minus one lost on the Barbary cost; and most of his parts. He had compensated nicely for the loss of his left hand with a hook, and he knew he hadn’t waved it about overmuch during his recent interview with Miss Batchthorpe. He had worn the silver one, which Starkey had polished to a fare-thee-well before his excursion into Kent.

This inconsistency bothered Kay very much, while I can’t say I would have noticed – or even cared if I did. I’m so used to covers not really matching the story that I’m more apt to notice if they do in a particular way, like with Julie James’ Something About You.

Does that inconsistency bother you? I’m not even going to wonder about a hook appearing on a romance cover, though I’m sure Harlequin could pull it off. But does it bother you to see a hand on the cover when there’s not one in the story?


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ros says:

    I think that’s pretty unforgiveable as cover mistakes go, to be honest.  To the point of being downright misleading.  Also, she’s wearing a very strange shade of lipstick.

  2. 2
    Moth says:

    This does bug me. I hate it when they get the HAIR color wrong on covers. This seems much worse to me. Although, in fairness, the hook might look silly or awkward on the cover. I’m trying to imagine some subtle way they could have incorporated it and I just can’t bend my brain to make the image work.

    It’s not strictly a romance (strong romantic elements, though) but the second book in the Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold unabashedly has Dag’s hook on the cover. The fourth one too, come to think of it.

  3. 3
    MissQuoted says:

    It doesn’t bother me in the least.  I doubt that I would have noticed.

  4. 4
    AgTigress says:

    It doesn’t bother me, because I pay scant attention to covers anyway, at least in the sense of expecting them to bear much relationship to the novel.  I don’t like a novel to have a literal illustration to the text on the cover anyway, and experience indicates that when it does, it is inaccurate in some way more often than not.

    I am interested in cover art in the case of books that stay in print for decades (Heyer or Stewart, for example), when the changes in the covers over time, and the differences between UK and USA editions and the European editions in other languages, become fascinating and very informative about cultural preferences and changes and marketing assumptions.

  5. 5
    Ell says:

    I hope that it was someone who hadn’t read the book deciding to flip the image rather than the people who put it together not noticing he has a hook.

  6. 6
    Lisa says:

    It doesn’t bother me. Honestly, I don’t spend time analyzing covers all that much, so the small stuff passes me by. I think they were aware that they wanted to conceal one hand, they just messed up which one :) Though, I do think a hook would have looked just fine on the cover.

    I hate the big glaring mistakes – like putting kids on the cover when there are no kids in the story, or putting the wrong shifter animal on the cover :dash:

  7. 7
    Barbara W. says:

    This came up on my Amazon rec list and I was debating buying; it’s a pretty cover.  The could have worked it in in an inconspicuous way; he could have more of his arm wrapped around her and just a hint of the hook peeking out.  I doubt it would have bothered me.

    It does bother me when I’m misled about a huge character trait by the cover art.  I don’t care so much about a difference in hair color, etc., but when we’re talking about books that deceive you about race or even a character’s weight (substantially), for example, I start wondering about why the publisher is trying to fool me.

  8. 8
    redcrow says:

    Does that inconsistency bother you?

    Yes. Limbs that are supposed to be missed, limbs that aren’t supposed to be, wrong hair colour, wrong skin colour, male characters looking like bodybuilders even though they’re supposed to be ordinary guys, random Sexy Women who aren’t in a book at all… Not a fan.

  9. 9
    Emily H. says:

    I am familiar enough with the reasons why covers often have so little to do with their contents, but it does bug me—it makes me feel that someone saw the book as just a product to be moved, even though it could have had an editor who cared about it very much.

  10. 10
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Unless I’m missing it, his other hand is not visible.  Is it possible that the cover image has been reversed and that what we’re seeing is actually his right hand with the left hand (hook) unseen?  Or am overthinking the process?

    I usually don’t notice whether the covers match the story (this is not just a problem with romance novels—many novels have covers that seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with the action in the book), but I think if I encountered a hook on page 1, I’d be looking for the hook on the cover.

    BTW, I’m interested in this book—if only because the hero is older than I’m used to encountering in romances.  Does anyone know if the heroine also older?

  11. 11
    Marguerite says:

    I woudn’t have noticed – since I have been buying more ebooks, I remember just a vague impression of a cover from the retailer’s webpage, and that’s it.

    Having said that, even if I had noticed, I probably would have thought that they intended the other hand to be the hook, and flipped the artwork at some point during the design process. In other words, it would be his right hand at her waist, not his left. The hook wouldn’t be seen, but it wouldn’t be obviously wrong.

    Having said that, I would be interested in seeing the actual hook, given that it’s such a big part of the characters’ interaction even within the first few chapters. Same with the rogueish eyepatches and so on for other characters in other books. These are obviously “romancified” people on the cover, just like characters tend to be (pirates not always chivalrous? say it ain’t so! a highwayman won’t always choose love over material gain? women were always politically minded and fiercely independent despite their societies?!), but it’d be nice to start seeing 1) a little more diversity and 2) a little more attention paid to the book the artwork represents.

  12. 12
    Marguerite says:

    @DiscoDollyDeb She’s slightly older, yes, but mostly compared to the 18-year old heroines. She’s 30, as I recall, or maybe a year or two older.

    I will say I was delighted that she has—and the book talks about—stretch marks, though!

  13. 13
    ghn says:

    I don’t think I would think about something like that for a Romance novel at all. I think of the process of picking a cover for such books as something like this: Two stacks, one of cover pics and one of manuscripts. When a manuscript is OKed, the picture at the top pf the picture stack is cellotaped to the manuscript.

    It actually wouldn’t surprise me if the process is actually like that – those covers are always wrong in some way.

  14. 14
    Charlotte says:

    I hate romance novel covers and have learned over the years to just ignore them, so no, it doesn’t bother me.
    It wasn’t until I started lurking on romance sites like this one that I realised that not everyone agreed with me. I was baffled at the comments on coverdudes’ hawtness (I find the covers rather tacky, personally) or people obsessing over that Nathan Kamp..Kemp? dude.
    But I was also very relieved -that at least someone was enjoying it. It would have been beyond horrible if everyone hated the covers as much as I do.
    I only use covers as the code to content -this one obviously is historical, regency and fairly low spice level based on the cover (and I loved it by the way -Ms. Kelly is just plain great, imo). Paranormals have abs and UF kick ass chicks and so on. The code is very useful and distinct, I find. And in that sense the covers (including this one) works very well.

  15. 15
    Niveau says:

    Yes, it bothers me. As do hair colour mistakes, race mistakes, and body type mistakes. My current pet peece is when the heroine is supposed to be normal-sized and the women on the cover is obviously model-thin, but I go through hating all of them. (The ultimate racefail covers are sheikh stories, because I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, seen one feature a PoC model. Middle-eastern sheikhs? NOT WHITE.)

  16. 16

    I guess I’d need to know why it was left out before I had feelings about it. Did the author choose to omit it when submitting their cover art request form? Did the art or marketing department choose to omit it? Was it simply overlooked? Did someone upstairs fear it would scream PIRATE ROMANCE and left it out to avoid subgenre confusion?

    As I designer, I’d have just flipped the image, so the heroine was conveniently covering the left hand. Select All, Edit, Transform, Flip Horizontal. BLAM! Done.

  17. 17
    Anne Fescharek says:

    Isn’t there a saying “you can’t tell a book…” The cover lures you into picking up the book and finding out more. If I chose my books by covers I would have never read anything by Ellora’s Cave, Wild Rose, Siren or any other small ‘women’s’ publishers.

  18. 18
    kimsmith says:

    It bothers me immensely.  If a publisher doesn’t believe enough to get the cover right, then why should I buy the book?

    For what it’s worth, is that a hook on his right hand, resting on hers?  Maybe?  That may just be a shadow on my resolution.

    But, since I like characters that are physically imperfect, the publisher has, in this case, missed the opportunity to market to me by not making it more obvious, so I could see it when I’m skimming the rack.  If I had seen a hook, I would have gone, “Kewl.  Let me get a closer look.”

  19. 19
    Linzenberg says:

    I’m guessing it’s not an image that was flipped.  There’s a whole bunch of negative wall space to the left of the heroine’s head to allow for branding, which had to have been included in the art notes to the artist from the art director.  That’s pretty intentional; if they know from the get-go which imprint its pubbing in, then they know what specs are needed for the branding, even before the cover concept is thought up.

    They might have even gone through a couple of sketches of the couple with the hook prominent and come to the decision of “Yeah, we’re going to have to 86 the hook; we just can’t make it look like he’s not hurting her.”

  20. 20
    joanne says:

    I was so impressed that the male model actually looks 45- the age of the hero in the story- that I never thought about the missing hook.

    It’s also a nice romance about non-aristocracy characters if anyone hasn’t read the book.

  21. 21
    Nikki Logan says:

    I would have flipped the book shut to check out the cover the moment he started thinking about his polished silver hook. It’s just not the sort of thing you let go. And yes, it would have bothered me, but more for the author’s sake. I’m sure the hook isn’t something that would get left out of the art fact sheet.

    But yeah, a tough sell in a beautiful image. I’m with Linzenberg on the likelihood the hook got amputated in an artroom somewhere as too awkward, or cheesy. Or too Peter Pan.  Donna Alward got a great arm-less hero on her release earlier this year, so it can be done tastefully. But just not against a bright yellow dress, I guess…

  22. 22
    Jennifer Armintrout says:

    That’s actually kind of insulting to people who have missing pieces.  “No one wants to see your hook, it’ll turn people off.”  That’s not a very nice message, is it?

    Worse, the hook would have probably caught the eye better than that cover does.

  23. 23
    Mireya says:

    Over 6 years ago, when I was still reviewing for ARR, I had a chance to get my hand’s on the ARC of “Legendary Warrior” by Donna Fletcher.  Suffice it to say that I had a fit with the cover and had a hard time not making a comment in my review of the book.  From that point forward, I decided that it was in my best interest to NOT LOOK AT any covers that depict the main characters in the story… and I lived happily ever after … well, kinda sorta…

  24. 24
    Tamiris says:

    That’s one of the things I love about my Kindle. Cover art has never sold me on a book in the past, but it’s often turned me off from one. On the Kindle, I no longer notice cover art at all, even when browsing for books because they appear in tiny e-ink and are easily ignored. I’m able to turn all my attention to the writing and conjure up my own mental images of the characters and setting without any potentially inaccurate distractions.

  25. 25
    Erin says:

    HA – totally read this book in my monthly pkg from harlequin, and did not even notice the discrepancy until reading this post.

  26. 26
    JamiSings says:

    Yep, it bothers me. Covers should be an accurate representation of the character. And this one is bad enough that I would’ve written the publisher and told them to tell their art department to pull their heads out of their butts.

  27. 27
    sugarless says:

    Yeah I really don’t care. And I mean at all. Don’t get me wrong, if something has a cool looking cover I’ll say “Hey. That’s an awesome looking cover.” It may pique my interest; but that’s as far as I go about covers.

    I don’t know if I just don’t expect them to match after years of romance reading. or if I’ve always been this apathetic about it but either way, I ain’t bovvered.

  28. 28
    sugarless says:

    I just remembered after I posted – I remember reading Jennifer Crusie’s blog when she talked about the last book she released. The book had a dog on the cover, because the marketing people said covers with dogs sell more books, but originally there wasn’t a dog in the book, so she went ahead and wrote one in (she did say she thought it made the book better; she wouldn’t have written it in otherwise)

    But I think she wrote bigger dog – german shepard or something similar I want to say. When she saw the cover art, which prominently featured a smaller dog, maybe a yorkie or something, she actually went back to the story and changed the dog breed to match the cover.

    I can see if I can dig up the post about it, but not now since I’m interneting on my phone, not my computer at the moment.

  29. 29
    Natalie L. says:

    It really bothers me.  It’s erasing the hero’s disability, which is way more problematic than getting the hair color wrong.

  30. 30
    jayhjay says:

    OMG, this is a huge pet peeve of mine. I have learned to deal with the usual wrong hair color, wrong age, wrong body type stuff, even though it bugs me. But when the characters have a very distinctive physical trait (missing fingers, huge scars, eye patch, etc) that doesn’t appear on the cover it makes me crazy. I was reading one of the Gena Showalter’s where the hero has blue hair. This is commented on throughout the series, and even with the sort of graphic (versus true to life) looking cover, they couldn’t get his hair right.

    I guess it bugs me b/c it makes me think these books are just an assembly line.  If any random picture of someone in regency dress works with any random book, that basically means they are all interchangable.  I know that isn’t’ true, so why can’t the publishers be bothered to care more? How hard would it have been to hide this guy’s left hand if they didn’t want to show the hook?

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