05 September 2009

Look, Ma! No heads!

This morning, an interesting reader poll landed in my email box, from one of my favorite sites, Joyfully Reviewed. It concerns one of the top three sources of angst for authors (behind writing synopses and blurbs/taglines). Book covers. Here's the poll:

Titles, Covers and Decision Making...
Ever buy book on title alone? = 6.6%
Ever buy book on cover alone? = 27.9%
Ever not buy because of title? = 13.1%
Ever not buy because of cover? = 52.5%


Personally, so far I've been richly blessed by the Cover Goddess. No complaints, here! And overall, with the improvement in technology, ebook covers overall (at least for the established epubs) are works of art compared to the first cheesy efforts of a decade ago.

However there's a recent trend that I just don't quite get. The Incredible Headless Torso. For a while there, it seemed at least half the new release covers featured a ripped male torso with...no head. And I'm still seeing them often enough to notice the trend.

Now, I'm all for a nice-looking male bod. I'm all for using one to sell a book - there's a hot, bare-chested guy on my latest release. Except mine has a head attached. Why do so many of the recent releases I'm seeing look like near-sighted Aunt Millie got ahold of the camera at the last family reunion?

(Disclaimer: The following examples in no way reflect my opinion of the content between the covers. Check them out - I've read many of these authors and love 'em!)

This is just a random sampling of literally hundreds of releases within the last month or two.

Now, call me old fashioned, but in life and in reading, when it come to heroes I'm just as interested in what's above the neck as below it. Are the headless torsos a clue as the the book's heat level? (not all of them are what I'd term smokin' hot stories). Is it a lack of willingness (or time) on the publisher's part to find a photo that closely matches the hero's appearance? Is it so the publisher can more easily re-use an anonymous torso on multiple covers?

For what it's worth, the couple on the first draft of the cover of my novella Wildish Things didn't match the couple in the book. Changing the heroine's hair color was simple for talented artist Anne Cain. The hero was perfect except the model had short hair; Kellan has shoulder-length hair. Rather that ruin the otherwise pitch-perfect cover, I told her to just leave the model's hair alone. An easier solution would have been to cut off the tops of the couple's heads, but that wasn't an option for me!

I'm not saying that the covers look bad - not at all. They're artistic and very well done. (Check out the gorgeous covers for Jody's and Jorrie's books in the sidebar of this blog! Yummy!) I'm just wondering why the sudden rash of headless heroes (and sometimes heroines)? Does something like this affect your decision to buy the book? As for me, probably not. The covers are indeed enticing and I'd definitely at least read the blurb and an excerpt.

Just gimme a nice set of eyes, please, to go along with those ripped abs and broad shoulders? Pretty please?



Suzette said...

Could it possibly be so that we as readers can put a face to the model? Like you stated, sometimes the model does not match the hero in the story so rather than worry about fixing or redoing the whole cover, they give you a torso. I dont mind the torso myself since many times Ive read a book and the model doesnt match how a guy is described in the story. That actually puts me off a bit. Not enough to stop reading the book if its good, but it just ruins the picture...you know what I mean?

Sela Carsen said...

Mine cover heroine doesn't even have boobs! I still love her, though. Those legs just won't quit!

Carolan Ivey said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Suzette. :) I see your point! When I read a book I construct my own version of the character's face in my mind. I can think of one instance where a character's appearance on a cover had completely different hair color than the one in the book, and it bugged me. I guess that's why the hero's hair color on the Wildish Things cover concerned me more than its length. :)

Sela, you're absolutely right! Those are million dollar legs, for sure! :)

I think that I've seen the headless torso done SO MUCH recently that it drew my attention.

Another idea - there are plenty of headless and armless Greek statues that are considered works of art, so why not extent that idea to a book cover? :)