Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Tale of Two (or More) Covers

by Anna Sugden

I'm delighted to welcome back a Lair favourite and a dear friend, the fabulous Kate Walker. Kate is not only here to share details of her latest wonderful book - The Proud Wife - but also to tell us some exciting news .... and give away an extra-special prize to celebrate! So, without further ado, I'll have you over to Kate.

Happy April Banditas – I really do think that Spring has started to arrive here in the UK. The crocuses (crocii?) are flowering, the daffodils are starting to open out in glowing yellow, and my new (well six month old) ginger and white kitten is out chasing flies and bumble bees in the sunshine.

I'm really happy to be able to be back with you to say Hi again and to share my good news about my newest title – and one of my older ones. Every new book that I have published is a real thrill. It’s a delight and an excitement that never goes away – no matter how many titles I have in my backlist. This latest, brand-new, beautiful ‘baby’ is one I’ve never seen in the shops before. It’s a ‘first’ for this title and seeing it in all its untouched beauty in a new cover, new title is a very special thrill.

It’s one of the best things about being an author. That feeling of seeing your work in print is something that never fades – or it hasn’t for me.

But with my latest book, The Proud Wife, a March release in UK, there was an extra edge to the excitement this time around. Because this was my very first paperback edition with the new style UK covers.

I’m assuming that you’ve spotted the new covers on the UK editions of the Mills & Boon books – but just in case you haven’t, here’s an example of how they've changed.

My last UK release, The Good Greek Wife, was out in paperback in this style cover

My current title The Proud Wife is in a UK cover like this.

I’ve had a lot of emails and messages from readers telling me just how much they love this cover – and I have to agree that it is beautiful. Stylish, elegant – and quite a long way from the clichéd clinch covers there used to be. I also love the fact that we now have great new titles – well, some are great and they’re all new titles and a long way away from the Ruthless Greek/Italian/Spaniard/Sheikh’s Blackmail and Revenge on the Innocent Virgin Amnesiac Housekeeper Heroine titles that were used for too long. The Proud Wife is a much better title.

But I have to admit that when I first looked at the cover of The Proud Wife, what I really thought was – huh? This may be a lovely cover - but it isn’t the cover to my book. The heroine on the cover my by lovely – but she’s not my heroine – not the Marina I’ve written about. My heroine is a feisty, voluptuous redhead, a woman of spirit, full of defiance. This woman looks cool, calm and collected - a bit icy perhaps. Can you imagine her throwing the papers containing her divorce settlement in the face of the man she once loved to the point of madness?

No, me neither! So I have to admit that, clichéd as it might be – maybe even a little old-fashioned - but as an author I like the cover of my Presents Extra edition that bit better. At least here my heroine looks as if she has a bit of a spark about her. She also had the red hair that so attracted her hero Pietro when he first met her.

But as a reader, and a buyer, I do like the new covers that Mills & Boon have brought out. I like the way that they have a freshness, a less stylised design. I like the way that the picture of the heroine/heroine/any combination of the two is above the title and underneath the title and the author’s name is another photograph that gives a clue to where the book is set or what happens in it. I love the way that every line – from Modern Romance Medicals, Historicals or the brand new RIVA – all have their own individual looks, designs that tell the reader only too clearly that these books all have their own flavour, they’re own style, they are not just more of the same, ‘cookie-cutter’ stories – which of course they are not.

Thinking about the new covers started me thinking about the way the covers of my books have changed since I started out over 25 years ago. (I was a child author, honest.) My very first cover looked like this (The Chalk Line) and they couldn’t even get the hero’s hair colour right. Then we had the ‘half a heart’ design (Flirting with Danger) The first set of photographic covers , the blue ‘swoosh’ (Good Greek Wife) and now we’re back to photographs again.

Of course, as an author, I have to say I love the emphasis given to the name of the person who wrote the book in the new style covers. And the change in the design of the covers shows how romance writing is a living, growing developing thing. Not just something set in stone and never altering. The new look M&B covers seem fresh and interesting on the bookshop shelves. But then again that Presents cover with it s white cover, the red banner at the top and the image in the circle has become a real icon over time – I know lots of people would hate to have it changed.

What do you think? Do you like the new-style covers? Would you like to see the Presents design given a make-over? Or would you prefer things to stay the same? And what are your favourite covers? Cover designs you really love – or the opposite? What about the ones you hate? Are you one of the readers that journalists claim are part of the boom in ebook buying because you’re embarrassed by the covers on the books? I’d love to know.

Which sort of brings me to my great news and my cause for celebration. Because one of my books with a cover I don’t like very much at all is The Konstantos Marriage Demand. It’s a cover that just doesn’t appeal to me. But I’m very very fond of that book because, as I’m now finally able to announce, The Konstantos Marriage Demand, has just been awarded Best Presents Extra 2010 in the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards. I just wish I could be at the RT convention next week to pick up the award – but I’ll raise a toast to the book – and to everyone who’s going to be there anyway!

And as anyone who knows me knows that when I celebrate I love to share my joy – so to celebrate this award, I’m adding in a copy of The Konstantos Marriage Demand to my giveaway this time. I have two pairs of books – The brand new The Proud Wife and the Award winning Konstantos Marriage Demand - to give away to someone who posts a comment about the covers you like – or not.

You can find out all about Kate's books, and all the latest news by checking out her web site at: or her blog at


Helen said...

is he coming to my place

have Fun

Helen said...

Well the GR has come to my place to help celebrate my birthday LOL not only will there be Tim Tams but chocolate mud cake as well and all the family here to celebrate.


I do love the new style covers and I have seen some of the new Riva covers and like them as well HMB had some at ARRC2011 last weekend. I am proud to show the covers of the book I am reading to anyone I never hide them and never have LOL.
As for giving the presents covers a makeover I guess everything needs a makeover sooner or later I know I will still keep buying them and reading them. The only thing that I really don't like is when a cover has a hero or heroine on the cover with a different hair colour LOL.

Kate congrats on the award well done

Have Fun

Sheree said...

Happy birthday, Helen!

Makeovers are good for everyone/everything (except for New Coke).

Kate Walker said...

Helen - I have a secret to admit to. I woke early this morning - dreadlines can do that to you. And when I came to check if the post was up and ready, I saw the GR spot was unclaimed and I was so tempted . . . But I thought it wasn't quite right to claim the Rooster on my own post! Now I'm glad I didn't so that he could be with you to celebrate your birthday. Happy Birthday to you!

The new RIVA covers are very diferent, aren't they? T've seen some reaLly great ones on those books. (And some not so great!)

Thank you for the congratulations - it's a fabulous feeling knowing I've won that award. And I'm with you on disliking covers that show a hero or heroine with completely the wrong hair colour - that really disappointed me for my very first book.

Kate Walker said...

Hi Sheree
I agree - makeovers are good - even if you feel that you liked the old look better, the new one makes you take more notice

barb said...

Hi Helen.... hope GR doesn't get trampled on by all the kids and grand kids LOL...He will love the mud cake....Happy Birthday

Hi Kate...... I like the new covers but you think they would take note of what the heroine looks like.... it is like every thing .... you have to keep up with the times....

desere_steenberg said...

This post was awesome , I adore the new covers , don't get me wrong the old covers were stunning, but the new ones really stand out they grab your attention right from the get go before you even read the name or back cover of the book!

Keep up the amazing work !

Anna Sugden said...

Happy birthday Helen! I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing to have the pesky bird on your birthday!

It is infuriating when a cover character looks so different from the story, with something so blatantly wrong as hair colour.

I remember Leigh Greenwood laughing about the cover of one of his books which showed the hero as clean-shaven, when he was supposed to have a beard! The art dept got round it by showing him shaving!

Anna Sugden said...

I'm with you, Sheree. As a former marketing person I don't mind changes and updates - but not to classic favourites like Coke! Changing pack design is one thing, but flavour?!

Anna Sugden said...

LOL Kate - that was so restrained of you! I'm sure the pesky bird would be no help when you're on dreadline!

I must admit to not liking the new Intrigue covers in the UK. Or the ones before them. I loved the dark purple ones that looked classy, but the last two revamps have looked dull.

Anna Sugden said...

You would think that, Barb, especially as authors hand in art sheets.

Sometimes, though it can be a mistake. Remember the famous 'three armed woman' cover poor Christina Dodd had to suffer with?!

Anna Sugden said...

Glad you like the new covers, Desere. One thing I think the UK has done well for a long time is the way they've shot the hero and heroine so they look appealing.

Nas Dean said...

Hi Kate,

The new covers are amazing and makes one pick up the book. But I really love the Sexy cover of The Proud Wife!

Congratulations on the award for THE KONSTANTOS MARRIAGE DEMAND!

The Konstantos Marriage Demand with its emotional plot and intense passion is a book to be added to the "keeper" shelf. It's reunion/reconcilation theme and the way it was executed by the author(Kate Walker) was exceptional. It is an emotional roller-coaster of a ride! (part of my Amazon review)

BiteMeAsh said...

Happy Birthday Helen!

Congratulations Kate on the award for THE KONSTANTOS MARRIAGE DEMAND! I love that story !!!! You deserve to win for it was a beautiful story ;o)

The new covers are simply sensational, there is just something that pulls a reader in to take a closer look!

I love my copy of The Proud Wife!
Rita from South Africa

Anna Sugden said...

Thanks for sharing your praise for Kate's award-winner, The Konstantos Marriage Demand, Nas.

Even though Kate isn't fond of the cover, I know she'll be tickled to have readers giving her book such high praise.

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Rita from South Africa! Are you our first South African Bandita Buddy?

Thanks for giving Kate's books another resounding (and much-deserved) thumbs-up!

I'm intrigued to know which covers you get - are they the UK covers, the US covers, or do you have your own covers?

jo robertson said...

Hi, Kate, welcome back to the Lair and super congratulations on the RT Award. How thrilling!

I love the cover of THE PROUD WIFE, even if she's not a redhead. I do like the photo covers. What I dislike most about covers is the "beheaded hero" design even though that bit of torso is intriguing. What I like most is deep rich brilliant colors. Yeah, it's about the colors for me.

jo robertson said...

Happy birthday, Helen! Yummmy, chocolate mud cake. Do you want to share the recipe with us LOL?

Kate Walker said...

Hi Barb - I think that's the biggest concern about covers - that the authors know an artist/designer might not necessarily have the same idea of a hero or heroine as we see in our imaginations - but we do wish they would take note of what colouring/build/whatever they have. My feisty redhead doesn't look like the elegant lady on that cover!

For my next book, my hero wears a single emerald stud earring - it's a very important point in the story and a part of his character - I'm intrigued to see if it turns up on a cover or not!

Kate Walker said...

Hi Desere - and thank you. I have to say that I was dubious when I first saw the new designs but now when I see them on the bookshop shelves they do look fresher and make the books look less uniform - I certainly hope they have that grab the attention effect!

Kate Walker said...

HI Anna and thak you again for settign up my blog post for me - and for helping me respond to everyone. I must admit that I was tempted to grab the rooster but the thought of him meeting Charlie my 6 month old Maine Coon made me rethink - flying feathers and a dreadline don't mix!

Kate Walker said...

PS Anna - I agree about the Intrigue covers. When I saw your comment I thought I quite liked them - then when I checked I realilsed it was the Blaze covers I liked. Which sadly shows that the Intrigue covers are not that memorable.

Kate Walker said...

Hello Nas - how lovely of you to post part of that review - and what a great review it is. I'm thrilled by the response of readers and reviewers to The Konstantos Marriage Demand. I love writing 'reunion' stories and I think lots of readers love reading them.

Anna Sugden said...

LOL I love the term, the 'beheaded hero, Jo. Sounds very romantic suspense!

I prefer photos too. Funnily enough, I'd rather not see the faces, so I can imagine what the characters look like. Often, the models don't look anything like the picture in my head.

I also appreciate the bodies on those headless men ;)

Kate Walker said...

Hello Rita! Lovely to see you here - and I'm glad you enjoyed both those recent books. It's interesting really - one had an old style cover, one a very new cover. I know I wasn't keen on the cover for Konstantos - but perhaps in the end, the cover only matters if the reader doesn't kow the author. Those of us who buy by author, will probably not care too much what the cover is like. But an appealing cover will make a new reader pick up the book.

Kate Walker said...

Anna - there are two new visitors to the Bandits on the post today - Desere and Rita both come from SA. I think they get the UK covers there - but I'm not sure. Desere? Rita?

Kate Walker said...

Hello Jo - and thank you. Like Anna I love your' beheaded hero' description. I know exactly the covers you mean. There are lot of 'beheaded' heroines/queens in historical fiction. I once had a 'beheaded wedding' - though I called it The Headless Wedding cover for my book Their Secret Baby.

And I'll agree with you - rich, vibrant colours will usually have me reaching for a book rather than a pale cover.

runner10 said...

I love the cover of M&B The Proud Wife. It is very sophisticated.

So funny to look back at the old covers You've come a long way, baby.

desere_steenberg said...

Your very welcome Kate and trust me they definitely have the "grab me " effect and yes Anna I fully agree with you !

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Kate! Have to say, even if the image doesn't fit your vision of the heroine, that new cover is sexy. Love it.

Personally, I don't think the popularity of ebooks has anything to do with people embarrassed by romance covers. It has a lot more to do with price, convenience, and portability - I think. But that's just my opinion.

Donna MacMeans said...

Forgot to say Congrats on the RT award! Those people obviously have good taste!

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, I think you're due some time off after getting a new grandson this week and all your hard work at ARRA! And yet here you are, wrangling a wrooster! Sheesh!

Kate, welcome back! Love the sound of the new ginger kitten! And congratulations on your new release. Sounds great. I must say I love those new UK covers - I love the pics of the setting and the less 'evocative' titles, if you know what I mean. I remember Mills and Boons in the 1980s had really nice titles - nice that they're going back to something similar.

I just recently did the keynote at ARRA and I did a potted history of Aussie romance novels - had a wonderful time looking at old covers to put the slideshow presentation together. I'm glad the waif heroine who featured on a lot of those covers (generally staring gormlessly out into space while the tall, much older hero glared at her from behind, clearly waiting for the moment where he shook her hard and said, "You little fool!!") seems to be a thing of the past.

chey said...

Congrats Kate!
I like the the new covers.

Anna Sugden said...

I agree, Runner10 - it is a very sophisticated cover and one that would fly off the shelves even with out Kate's name on it - though it'll obviously fly off twice as fast as readers love her!

Anna Sugden said...

Hey Desere - so which covers do you guys have in SA?

Anna Sugden said...

I'm sure your'e right about the growth in ebooks, Donna. I will be joining the trend when we go to Australia later in the year, for the simple reason that we have limited luggage weight and can't take our usual pile of books with us!

Anna Sugden said...

Sadly, I think M&B's became a parody of themselves title-wise, Anna, in latter years. Then again, I have enough trouble coming up with a title for my books, so it's probably a nightmare when you're trying to get agreement from all the various depts in the publishing house.

LOL about the waif covers - those were the books where the heroines all had violet eyes and heaving bosoms and the heroes all had Roman noses and high foreheads!

Anna Sugden said...

Hey Chey - thanks for chiming in. Looks like everyone in the Lair likes the new covers.

Anna Sugden said...

LOL Kate - the Intrigue covers are indeed that memorable!

The move to 2-in-1's combined with the merging of several lines has forced me to stop my Reader Service subscription (which I've had since the 90's) ... I think the new covers were the final straw for Intrigue as well as for Special Edition (or whatever they call it now).

kaelee said...

Another new to me blog spot about Romance. Followed Kate over here.

Congratulations on the RT Award Kate.
Please don't include my name in your draw as I have both the books.

Since my mom and I read Presents from the beginning I'm going to have to say I love the white cover with the circle on it. Didn't like where the names of the Presents books went to for a while but I am enjoying the new titles. Since I have boxes of the older original books it's easy for me to look at the older titles and wonder why they went to pick an adjective out of the hat titles.

Beth Andrews said...

Welcome back, Kate! Congrats on your RT award and your latest release *g*

Both covers for The Proud Wife appeal to me in different ways - I'm not sure I could pick a favorite (though I do like the models to resemble the character description given in the book *g*)

Thanks for being with us today :-)

Leni said...

I've been reading romance for a few years now, so I'm use to the new covers and like them. When I see pictures of earlier releases I like the artwork, but was never tempted to read them.

Louisa Cornell said...

Good on you, Helen! And many happy returns of the day !!! I am trying to decide if the GR is a birthday present or a mean trick!

I do like the new style cover for your latest, Kate! Very elegant looking. If only she had red hair!

I do have a touch of nostalgia for the old covers as my Mom has a box of old Harlequins she bought when we lived in England. They are quite old (We lived there 1967-1971.)but loads of fun to look at and still good reads!

Nicola Cornick has been blessed by the Harlequin Historical cover goddesses of late. I have the Brides of Fortune series framed because they are so lovely.

I think everyone knows of my fondness for covers and cover flats. They adorn the walls of my writing studio and serve as inspiration. One day, one of those lovely covers will have my name on it!

Kate Walker said...

runner10 - I so agree - the new look cover of The Proud Wife is very sophisticated and I love it - on a book it suited! It's just not my heroine ;o)

Kate Walker said...

Hello Donna - see my answer to runner above about the cover! And yes, as a cover of any book - it is lovely and sexy.

Oh I so agree with you about ebooks - I've never believed it had anything to do with that supposed 'embarassment factor' - just people loving the new readers - and the fact that you can carry around so many books on one. I don't actually have an ereader myself(yet) but if I did, then the numbers of romances I read would go on it - if only to save myself so shelf space! I'm already double racked (I mean my shelves are!) in some places

Kate Walker said...

Anna - the kitten is a real sweetie - he has the loudest purr of any cat I've ever had and he's pretty gorgeous to look at - you can see him on my blog - though he's grown a bit ( alot!) since then.

Covers - I know the 'waif' ones you mean. Someone did some fun greetings cards with some of those on a while back and when the M&B 100th year exhibition went on show there were lots of them on display there. The new covers do make the heroines look like real people - though (for me) the heroes look scarily young! But I am so SO glad to see the titles change - I was never embarrassed by my covers as much as I was by some of 'those' titles!

Kate Walker said...

Hi Kaelee - thank you for following me over here. Thank you too for having both Konstantos and The Proud Wife already.

I know just what you mean about the titles - I think they made it hard to remember whether you'd read a particular bok or not. I know I sometimes got confuzzled whether I'd written The Italian's Bride or the Italian's Wife . .!

Kate Walker said...

Thanks for the welcome back - and the congratulations, Beth. I always love coming to visit the Bandits - I get such a warm welcome and lots of interesting comments.
I'm like you in that I like both of The Proud Wife covers - the Presents version is a lot like one of my all time favourite Presents covers - The Italian's Forced Bride so I like it because of that. I think if the UK cover's heroine only had red hair it would have felt more like my book.

Kate Walker said...

Leni - that's interesting that the older covers attracted you but you weren't tempted to read them. I wonder if the new look covers have won romances any newer readers - I'd like to hope that they have.

Kate Walker said...

Hello Louisa - so you collect coerflats? I know a lot of people who do that. Next time I have some new ones I must remember you. Book covers are a special sort of art - and it's always fascinating to see how they change over time. I'd love to raid your box of early romances - I'm sure there are some really great reads in there.

And I totally agree with you about Nicola Cornick's recent covers - in fact so many of the new Historical covers have been so lovely they almost made me want to write historical romances.

Kate Walker said...

So now I need to go and find Sid the Cat so he can pick some winners for me . .. I'll let Anna know and she can announce the winners later

Thanks for the great welcome again!

Laney4 said...

Darn. Too late to win the books, but at least I can comment on the covers.

I am accustomed to the Presents red logo at the top of the books. That's what I have always looked for in the stores. It is disconcerting to me to see a book without it. That being said, I think your "Angelina Jolie" inspired cover is beautiful, so I'm wondering if a compromise can be made by incorporating the logo with the photograph. It's doubtful, as white would be required as a "border" to the photo.

Dunno. I prefer understated, but then again, I am old, LOL.

desere_steenberg said...

Hi Anna,

We mostly get the UK covers over here don't really see the US ones very often.But either way they are stunning !