Cover up—Book Covers and our everyday lives.

Do we judge books by their covers? Is that good or bad?

My upcoming novel, Tactical Pursuit, is equal parts action and romance. When I thought about a cover to best represent the story, I knew immediately that I wanted to depict three things: Danger. Excitement. Sexy. My publisher agreed and I think the cover turned out fabulous. Check it out and tell me if you agree:


But when I posted the cover, not everyone was thrilled. That’s okay, I respect everone’s opinion, and differences make for great discussions. A few folks lamented that I was pushing the sex and not the “quality” of the story. My response? The cover represents both. Remember, I wanted danger, excitement, and sexy. Is there some rule in lesbian fiction that says if I have a sexy cover I’m somehow demeaning my work? I guess that’s the rub for me. Are we still bowing to outside forces and ridiculous messages asserting that as lesbians we are only interested in sex? What the messages are really saying is that we have no right to outwardly acknowledge our sexuality. We should hide that side of us for fear of offending straight folks. Whatever.

Writing is entertainment, plain and simple. Those of you who have read my work know that I try to tackle some pretty deep subjects, but I do it in the context of the personal lives of my characters, including their romantic sides. I’m a pop fiction writer, after all. Do I have to sacrifice one side of the story for another? For me the answer is no. Will all of my stories contain sexual content? I don’t know. For now they do, because I’m committed to showing my characters as whole, complete, humans without apology. I’ve said before that this is why I choose to write in this genre. I write for the lesbian community, and I want to engage and entertain my audience.

My author buddy, Isabella, is known for pushing the envelope with her book covers, and we’ve talked about this issue many times. We want to engage readers with our stories, but first we have to get your attention, right? Isn’t that what a cover is for? I’d argue that Isabella has the sexy cover thing down, and it’s working for her, from what I can see. Talk about dangerous and sexy. Here’s her latest cover:


So, here are a few questions for you, lesbian fiction fans: How important is a cover when you’re looking for a book? Will a cover like Tactical Pursuit or American Yakuza catch your attention to make you want to know what the book is about? Is this kind of edgier cover art something that will increase sales, and thereby introduce more readers to lesbian fiction overall? That’s the real goal, isn’t it? Selling books increases readership, which in turn raises the profile of our craft, and hopefully opens a few more minds. So, if my cover catches a reader’s attention and then they see Isabella’s book, and then that leads them deeper into the lesfic listings to discover other lesbian authors, excellent. I think whatever expands the horizon can only be a good thing for us all.

I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading.


20 thoughts on “Cover up—Book Covers and our everyday lives.

  1. Looking at the Tactical Pursuit cover, I would certainly pick that book up and read the paragraph on the back to see what it is about. It is intriguing to me.

  2. LM,

    As someone who’s been told that her covers are too risque, I would have to agree, a good cover gets a book noticed. How 50 Shades of Grey has rocketed to the top with those covers is beyond me. You have little time or space on Amazon to attract attention, so a good cover goes a long way to get your book noticed. Busy covers, in my opinion, do little to help an otherwise good book get noticed, but it will get it overlooked.

    A well written book deserves as much attention paid to the cover as it does the editing and story telling inside. But hey, I’m no expert, so my advice is worth what you paid for it, not much.

    Best of luck with TP. It’s a great read, if I do say so myself.

    Author of American Yakuza,
    Always Faithful and Broken Shield
    2011 GCLS award winner.

    • Hi Isabella,
      Well, you had to stop by, since I propped you up there right with me as an example. LOL You’ve got a great formula in place, and I congratulate you for that.
      Thanks for your kind words,

  3. Hi, Lynette, Susan Thompson here. Personally, I like your cover. Isabella makes some definitely titillating covers, no question of that. But I prefer my sexual implications on a book cover to be subtle, not slap me in the face. But hey, I’m a full blown romantic. Does the cover entice me to read the story? Not necessarily. A novel can have the most wonderful cover I’ve ever seen and I’m still not going to put out my hard-earned money if I don’t like what it says on the back of the book.

    I spend money for story content. Period. I’ve even got a few older books from Naiad that look almost like caricatures. As for sex in a story, I love to see when characters I’ve grown to love get together. As you said, I love my characters to be fully human with natural needs and wants. Just my opinion.

  4. I agree that a good cover is what will get noticed first and either capture my attention to pick it up or in this day and age, click on it to see what it’s about. What i am looking for depends on my mood too. I assume when picking up a book with a cover like TP that it would have action and romance. The same as if I pick up one with cottage on a beach wouldnt be action packed,but be at a different slower pace. My expectations will either be confirmed or not by reading the back cover. So depending on what m in the mood to read, a cover should be an indicator of what’s inside.

    • Hi Jenn,
      Great to see you here. That was the point I was trying to make. The cover shouldn’t shy away (IMO) from the content just to appease anyone.
      Thanks for reading, and keep creating those awesome pens!

  5. LM…
    i love the cover ; )
    mostly i love it because of what it represents
    it does say Danger, Excitement, and Sexy
    my opinion on danger is… it should be worth the risk
    my opinion on excitement is… the more exciting the better
    my opinion on sexy is… if the characters are sexy, they are sexy
    why would anyone want to hide their sexy inside?
    sexuality is normal, it’s healthy…
    lesbian, gay, straight, bi whoever… why hide sexy inside…
    whether it’s the cover of a book or the cover of our lives
    i don’t think anyone should hide their sexy
    …jaynes ; )

  6. It is really not a question of Cover Art being Sexy and or Dangerous, as much as it is a statement or should I say the subtle art form of Advertising. Like with most Ads its a balance between the two you are trying to strike to attract the most customers. Where the Cover Art may fail is when it does not hold up to all the promises that are provided or suggested on the cover. To help seal the deal is the short synopsis on the back, which is really the hook.
    Like most people there are certain images that will attract or distract when viewed. A promise of sexy women and danger with a dash of mystery wrapped in a great story is a powerful thing. As with any great power comes great responsibility to deliever. If the author fails to fulfill what they promise with the Cover Art and or the back synopsis, they will not only lose the reader but potentially future readers.
    Authors must use their powers to provide Sexy and Danagerous for good not cheesy art that panders to conservative views.

    • Hey Chris,
      Thank you for that well thought out response. So, we’re starting to see a consensus building here. As long as the art is tastefully done and accurately represents the story, then sexy is good. Yes?
      Take care,

  7. This blog is just what I’ve been waiting for. I am a retired graphic designer, and have always been interested in book covers. I spent several years as a manager of a publishing house working mostly on technical material. Now I have the time to read what I’m passionate about. Women! Yes, a cover will lead me to a book faster then anything. I’m really a newcomer to lesbian fiction and when deciding where to start, I chose R.E. Bradshaw, “Waking Up Gray,” simply for the cover. I’m an ocean lover and needed the peaceful tranquility of her material. Of course, inside the book was exciting and fun, so choosing the next book to read was easy. Now, while researching other authors, it really is the cover that draws me first and with Amazon’s sneek peak I have endless choices. I’ll use
    “All That Matters/” by Susan X. Meagher, seriously what good standing lesbian wouldn’t want to read that book? All the best, looking forward to reading your works.

    • Hi Linda,
      Thanks for your perspective on this as an industry professional. I’m with you on Susan’s cover. If you don’t react, you must be dead. LOL
      Let me ask you, then, did this topic come up when your were managing your publishing house? And if so, how did you handle it?

  8. I am in agreement with intriguing cover art. I like the cover of TP because it is indicative of what’s inside. I liked the cover art on Faithful Service, Silent Hearts because, again, it was a good hint to the story without giving too much away. If you pick up a book that has a flag-draped casket on the cover, a helicopter and a soldier in uniform, then you can pretty much tell it’s not going to be a love story. Love may be in it but clearly the protagonist is going to face some heavy obstacles. The split cover for Tactical Pursuit immediately tells the hopeful reader that there will be action and there will be sexual adventure.

    I personally don’t shy away from sensual or titillating book covers but what I read on the back should match the cover. If it is a sexy story, I believe tastefully sexy cover art is not only acceptable but necessary. On the other hand, I believe a publisher will go for subtlety. If you self publish, you have much more freedom with your cover art and back blurbs.

    So I fall in line with the majority here.


    • Hey, Cheyne! Good to see you here. I agree, I’m not going to throw a half naked woman on the cover just for the sake of doing it. Now, there may be a half naked woman, but something else will be portrayed to let you know what the rest of the story is about. Thanks for chiming in. I’ll take your advice and keep doing what I do.

  9. OH yes, it always came up, but the material was mostly technical so the cover needed to reflect content more than anything. We would try to “jazz” them up somewhat just to make life interesting.

  10. Covers are VERY important to me both as an author and a reader. The cover gets my attention, the blurb on the back cements the deal if I’ve not heard of the book or read a review. But I’m speaking mainly of print books. For eBooks, the cover is also very important to me as a writer, but I suspect less important to ereading customers. It’s good for promotion, but when I actually buy an eBook (which is how I buy the great majority of my books, now), I pay more attention to the blurb or synopsis AND the reviews than the cover. A great cover is a bonus, but I’ll probably still buy the eBook whether I like the cover or not if the title and content intrigue me. Titles—that’s another favorite subject of mine. But I guess it IS a different subject!

    • TT,
      Interesting point about the ebooks. I know I like having the collection of colorful cover graphics in my kindle library. 🙂 Titles? Another important aspect of the entire package. I wish titles were easier for me to come up with. I struggle with most of my story titles, but you’re right, that’s another topic.
      Take it easy.

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