I pay attention to the covers of the romance novels I read (or look at) in part because, as a self-publisher, I should be aware of trends, but in all honesty mostly because I am the sort of reader who is sensitive to covers and always has been.
For example, I have always found it difficult to even examine, much less purchase, the romances that had shirtless men all over the covers. To me that cover treatment just screamed “illogical sex-fest aimed at lowest common denominator reader” AKA not the
droid book I’m looking for. Even now, with ebooks that I don’t have to carry to the register, I still tend to not look at books with that cover style unless the title or author was specifically recommended to me.
The thing that is bothering me lately is women in modern formal dresses against some generic background that may or may not actually be historical on the covers of historical romances. The covers themselves aren’t explicitly an issue; it’s covers like that combined with a description that does not make clear whether the book is set in a different era or modern times. See, you can get away with a cover that doesn’t talk about what year it is or what war is looming/just finished, etc., if you have, you know, ACTUAL historical dress on the cover model. But if you are going to use a prom dress as your “mistorical fiction” denominator, then your back copy had damn well better be clear about when and where your story is set.
I’ve lost track of the number of books I’ve seen lately that have this dynamic. It’s annoying. I don’t want to sound like I am the sort of person who will ONLY read in my little niche, but at the same time–I want to know what I’m buying. I want to be sure it’s the kind of book I’m actually in the mood for. Part of branding and marketing your book correctly (by which I mean, giving it every chance to catch the eye of the right kind of reader, should they stumble across it) is to make unambiguously clear what your book actually is.
What’s even more disheartening to me is that the actual trend seems to be reserving accurate historical dress for the Amish and Christian romances – though at least most of them do a good job of self-identifying by talking about God or faith in the back copy, so I can avoid them. No offense to religion intended; I don’t mind having faith play a part in the story if it is a part of a character’s life, but I am not looking for the stories that specifically include it as a plot point, nor am I looking for all the other trappings that go along with religiously-oriented romance. I just also find it annoying that 90% of the time I click on a description because I like the cover and its actual historicalness, the book turns out to be in a subgenre I don’t want to read. And the more historical dress on the cover comes to be equated with stodgy ole religious romances, the more entrenched the stupid modern Cinderella prom dress as analog to “any period from the Enlightenment to the Edwardian” will become.
I am officially filing a pet peeve on this one.