Cover Art and Artists

Suddenly You First, from Rebecca, this is a fascinating article that profiles Claire Brown, who designs covers for romance novels from Forever.

I love this article because it's not condescending or snide- it talks about the art involved.

The design of the romance genre is driven by sales, but the formula works. “There are constraints in how much we can deviate without alienating the reader,” Brown says. “Familiarity in typeface and painterly style reassures the reader that this book is what you think it is going to be, and you are going to love it.

“With that said, there are an infinite number of design problems that need to be solved within the constraints of a romance cover. The canvas is very small and the typography and setting are grand. A knowledge of history and classical art, architecture, and furnishings is important. We have a library of classical art books, contemporary high fashion, architecture, and interior design. I take field trips to the Met for inspiration.

And speaking of the art involved, check this weirdness. I am on the mailing list for a local art supply store because they have fantastic sales on Crayola and other art supplies my kids love. So today Jerry's Artist Outlet had an announcement for a special program 2 June with artist Max Ginsburg.

Ok, neat, but I'm not into painting, so I didn't think much beyond, “Hey, that's cool.” I liked the samples on the page and thought they looked familiar, but then I went on to the other sixty-zillion messages in my inbox.

Until I signed into Pinterest – and hello, no wonder Max Ginsburg's art style looks familiar – he does romance covers!

He's done several of Kleypas and Quinn's covers, including Suddenly You – both the cover and the step backDreaming of You (I love how he describes the author as “the famous and important Romance Writer, Lisa Kleypas” — right on, Max), The Duke and I and Brighter Than the Sun.

His illustration process is fascinating. I'm tempted to go to the day with Max, except I'm totally busy that day, and I wouldn't want to rob someone who is a painter of the chance to see him in action.

At RT, Angela James was helping Nalini Singh at her signing, and told me one of Nalini's fans brought a giclee print of the cover of Archangels' Consort, which was created by Tony Mauro – who sells calendars of his cover art as well. I heard that the print itself, full size with the full background which isn't seen on the cover of the book, is just stunning.

Do you have a favorite cover artist, or piece of cover art? What book cover would you want to own in poster size?

ETA: Cover Contest for 2011 is Live and taking votes! WOO! 



Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Dan Dos Santos is my favorite. He does the Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs, and Alien by Gini Koch covers. He’s ridiculously good.

  2. 2

    As an art director for Harlequin for many years I had the distinct pleasure and honor to work with Max on many fine Superromance covers.  He’s truly an amazing talent and a treasure!


  3. 3
    Shae Connor says:

    My very first cover ( was done by Paul Richmond, and I was thrilled! I still think it’s some of his best work, and I recently got a print from him of the original painting. :)

  4. 4
    LauraN says:

    I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t be Headless Man-Titty.

  5. 5
    infinitieh says:

    Gosh, I have many favorites.  Craig White, Jon Paul Ferrara, Aleta Don Sipley, etc.  I love them each for different reasons.

    As for a book cover poster, I already have one.  I had a poster made of SEXY BEAST V – a particularly HAWT Paul Marron cover, so hot the book itself had to be fogged white from his waist down.

  6. 6
    infinitieh says:

    Oops, that’s Aleta Rafton.

  7. 7
    beletseri says:

    I just fell into a vortex of awesome. I loooooove book covers they’re so fun and pretty. Max Ginsberg also did the cover for A Separate Piece AND Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. Which both have great, evocative covers.


  8. 8
    Klara Jarc says:

    I have Kresley Cole’s Lothaire on my laptop background – and that is a first! I’d love to have it on my wall.
    I’m doing MA in publishing and hopefully I’ll get the chance to do something for romance novels in Slovenia. For example make covers like this…  illegal, they just ruin the experience in my opinion and degrade the genre.

  9. 9
    Susan says:

    He did the cover for Zemindar!  I so looove that book, and the cover.

    Thanks, Sarah.  This was a great post.  I know that there are many romance readers who have favorite cover artists and/or models, but I’m just not very knowledgeable about them.  It would be great to have more posts about what goes into the creation of covers, the decisions about what they should look like, and the people involved in the process.  (I know, I don’t ask for much, do I?)

  10. 10
    LG says:

    As far as print romance goes, I probably have favorite artists, but I don’t keep enough track of who the artists are to be able to tell. In the e-book world, though, covers were my first, desperate way to start narrowing down everything. I refused, and still refuse, to buy DRM’ed e-books, so that meant most publishers and authors I was familiar with were out and I had to slog through the tremendous amount of choice and find new favorite authors. I got a feel, right away, for whose cover art worked for me. Anne Cain has turned out to be my cover artist venus flytrap. I’ve learned that her covers, especially her illustrated ones (versus the ones that look like photographs, or more photograph-based), make me want to buy things. Unfortunately, since the quality of cover art doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality of the story inside, I’ve made a few bad buys because of her art. I now have to consciously rein myself in when I see her cover art, and, even then, it’s been so tempting to buy things she did the art for, even after I’ve read the excerpts and know I’d hate the books.

    To a lesser degree, I also have that problem with P.L. Nunn’s covers. I love some of her covers, while some of them manage to somehow repulse and attract me at the same time.

  11. 11
    Susan Reader says:

    My very, very favorite cover artist is Allan Kass, who did covers for a lot of Signet’s Regencies, a lot of Fawcett Historicals, and even a few science fiction/fantasy books, back in the day—1970s and 80s. 

    I liked his style, but I also liked that everything was “right”: clothes and settings (he did gorgeous Regency interiors).

  12. 12
    SB Sarah says:

    Sure! I can do that – I did a lot of interviews and research for Beyond Heaving Bosoms, so I can do more on the cover art. Any particular questions you want me to ask and find answers for?

  13. 13
    Sandra says:

    Not romance, but I’ve always thought that Patricia McKillip has gorgeous covers. One of the few authors I still buy in print, just for the covers.

  14. 14
    SB Sarah says:

    Yes! Anne Cain and Kanaxa are two awesome cover designers. I’ve done double-takes at some of Kanaxa’s covers. They’re brilliant.

  15. 15

    Tony Mauro is one of my favorites… he’s done several of my covers and I love him.  Angela Waters is another-she does the covers I use for my self pubbed work and I adore them.

  16. 16

    I have a real appreciation for those pants

  17. 17
    infinitieh says:

    Oh, yeah. Paul Marron’s backside…. mmmmmmm…..

  18. 18
    Susan says:

    Well, other than John DeSalvo, Fabio, and Paul Marron, I don’t even know who most of the (male) cover models are.  I’ll see the same guys a lot and would love to know who they are.  (I don’t pay as much attention to the women models, but would be curious about them, too.)  Maybe the occasional feature highlighting a certain model.  Do cover models make a living off of this, or do they have “day jobs”? 

    Who are some of the other big cover artists?  Wish books were more consistent in providing a credit to the cover artist, or even providing some additional info—or a link.

    I was also fascinated to read that having kilts/plaid on covers boosts sales.  Are there other “tricks” like this?  Certain colors that do better than others?  Certain settings or poses?  (Do shaved chests sell better than hairy ones?  :-)  )

    Do realistic photo covers sell better, or the more painterly ones?

    What goes into deciding on a certain look for a series?  The branding?

    What goes into a cover shoot?  And do they bring everyone in together for just one cover, or will they try to knock off several a day like an assembly line?

    I have tons of questions—not sure anyone else would be as interested in this as I am, or maybe they already know some of this stuff.

  19. 19

    I’ve done a few covers for friends, myself, but I find inspiration in four (off the top of my head) cover artists: Jon Paul (—fair warning: there is music on auto play on his site), James Griffin (, April Martinez (, and Kim Killion ( Jon Paul has more than one I’d love to have in poster size.

  20. 20
    Susan says:

    I also have an appreciate for those. . . pants.

    Reminiscent of the cover for Pickpocket Countess.  (The cover was the best part of the book for me, sadly.)…

  21. 21
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    Cover art is what drew me to romance novels in the first place.  i saw and recognized Fabio and knew he was a real person and picked up the book.  I’m still happily reading romance novels and still happily admiring the good looking men on their covers! And the artists who create those covers, of course. Many of my favorite models and authors have already been mentioned so I won’t repeat them.

    To anyone who’s interested in romance novel cover art, the 2011 Romance Cover Contest, sponsored by Cover Cafe, is online and open for public voting now at  We have categories for Series, Historical, Alternate Reality, Two Image Covers, Contemporary, and, last but not least, the Worst covers.  We’d love to have you join us in voting for your favorite (or not-so-favorite in the case of the Worst category) romance novel cover art.  The contest is open until midnight CST on May 16, 2012.


  22. 22
    Laragrey says:

    I really love Jody Lee and John Jude Palencar, who mostly do fantasy/sci-fi cover art. Palencar did the covers of Jacqueline Carey’s first four Kushiel novels, although I’m not sure if he’s done the others. Jody Lee does the covers for the Valdemar series, and her cover for Robin McKinley’s Deerskin is utterly arresting and lovely.

  23. 23
    LG says:

    I love voting on these, although I must admit that my favorite category to look over is always the Worst covers.

  24. 24
    Susan says:

    This is great stuff—thanks so much for the link, Karen!

    But I’m now feeling very deprived.  I love ebooks, but I’m obviously being shortchanged w/ cover art.  Some ebooks don’t even get the main cover, much less the inside cover or back cover.  I want to buy some of the “real” books after getting a look at what I’ve been missing.

    On the other hand—dang, I barely have words for those “worst cover” selections.  Those are definitely ebook reads, assuming I could even bring myself to read them at all.

  25. 25
    Rij says:

    Seconded. The artist is Kinuko Y. Craft.

    I don’t usually pay much attention to cover art but her style is different enough that it’s easily recognizeable. It also helps that I love the books.

  26. 26
    henofthewoods says:

    If you use calibre you can select the metadata from different editions (any with an isbn) – pick the best cover, trim the border off or make your own. Of course, I don’t always get that to transfer to my iPod in each of the apps I use, but it is a start.

  27. 27
    bookstorecat says:

    Thinking about covers, maybe one of the reasons I hardly ever go for historicals anymore is because the covers are pretty, but also pretty vague. The ones I borrowed off my grandmother when I was young depicted the characters as described in the book, often mid-scene, with obvious historical visual clues so you knew when the book was set.

    The human face is the most compelling visual cue for the human brain to “pay attention.” The human back—not so much. The human back-of-neck or pair-of-shoes (also very popular for historicals now) just don’t communicate much.

  28. 28
    Amterc says:

    Michael Whelan is a favorite of mine. I would lurve to own prints of his cover illustration for the first two books in CJ Cherryh’s Atevi saga. I use The Madness Season (CS Friedman) cover as a screensaver. John Jude Palencar is another favorite – his pointillist covers must take mind-boggling amounts of time to do.

  29. 29

    I had the same problem. Incredible covers with blah inside :( ah Anne, I’d pay for the art by itself <3

  30. 30

    Love this contest. You and Elise Rolle make me very happy every year w / the cover contest!

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