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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today's Special -- Julianne MacLean

Today, we welcome USA Today Bestselling historical author Julianne MacLean to The Romance Dish! Julianne's first book was published in 2000, but I was introduced to her books in 2006 when I won an ARC of Surrender to a Scoundrel, the last in her American Heiress series and my favorite of all her books. The three-time RITA nominee's last full-length novel was released two years ago (When a Stranger Loves Me), but the wait will surely be worth it with her upcoming back-to-back releases in a new Scottish Highlander trilogy from St. Martin's Press! Plus, she has a novella titled, The Rebel, in the recently released Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance. Lots of Scottish yumminess! Please welcome Julianne MacLean!






Julianne MacLean on Romance Cover Art – What Sells and What Doesn’t?

Hello Romance Dishies! This is my first time here, and I’m excited to be blogging about covers, a topic near and dear to my heart.

I confess I’m not an expert. I don’t have a background in graphic design. All I have is my instincts and my royalty statements, which tell me which of my books have sold better (or worse) than others.

Of course there are many factors involved in how well a book sells. I like to think that a truly fantastic, book-from-the-author’s-heart will sell for that reason alone – because it’s just plain good – and word-of-mouth will make it a success.

Sadly, that’s not always the case, and the old cliché still holds true. Books do get judged by their covers, which includes not only the front cover but the back cover blurb as well – which is what we,in the biz,call “packaging.”

So think about it – what made you buy the last book you purchased? Was it a sure thing because you were already a fan of the author? (If it was Nora Roberts or James Patterson, let’s just move on.) If, however, it was an author you’d never read before,what inspired you to hand over your dollars at the cash register, or click the “add to cart” button?

In many ways, a reader’s response to cover art is subjective, but there are certain things that can make the packaging “pop.”

My first single title with Avon, TO MARRY THE DUKE, surprised everyone with how well it sold, and the last time I checked, it had gone back to print at least 5 times. There were three factors in its success, which I’ll share here:

1. It had a red cover. Fact: Red covers sell well.
2. It had the word “duke” in the title. Fact: Duke titles sell well.
3. It had a creative back-cover blurb written in first person, which was fresh and different at the time.



My second book with Avon, AN AFFAIR MOST WICKED, did even better than the first and remains my best-selling romance to date. It, too, had three things going for it:

1. A white cover. Fact: White covers pop on the shelves.
2. A sexy back cover blurb, again written in first person, just like before. (Hint: continuity is good. It creates a brand.)
3. Which brings me to point number three: Front cover continuity. It resembled TO MARRY THE DUKE with the same fonts and an indoor clinch with vertical drapes in the background.



Okay… let’s move forward to book #5 – PORTRAIT OF A LOVER – my worst selling book of all time. Take a look. What do you think?

It was certainly different, and remains unlike any other romance cover I’ve seen. But here were the problems: It was brownish/purplish/grey. Not a very sexy color combination. The hero’s expression wasn’t broody enough, and romance readers aren’t ready to give up their tortured alpha males. And evidently, high art doesn’t sell romance novels, and the notion of an unfinished oil painting basically made readers run and hide.

To top it all off, there was no continuity to make it clear that it was part of my American Heiress series. It stood out like a sore thumb.

But interestingly enough, if you look at my reviews on Amazon, that book has the highest starred rating, and I still believe it was one of my better books.

So here I am with three new books coming out this year – a new Highlander trilogy with fantastic continuity. If you hold all three books up side-by-side, it’s clear they are part of a series; even the fonts are the same. The colors are gorgeous, the cover models are beefy and masculine – definitely alpha male material – and I go to sleep each night with high hopes that they’ll do okay and no one will be disappointed.



So tell me, what covers do you like best? Heroine only covers?Hero only?Clinch? Do you want to see the character’s whole face? How about a house and a sailboat? Naked parts?

The possibilities are endless, and I would love to hear your preferences, and one lucky commenter will win a copy of PORTRAIT OF A LOVER, which I think was only read by about twelve people :)

66 comments:

  1. I tell you now, I will be buying "Claimed by the Highlander" because Paul Marron is on the cover. Yes, for a new-to-me author, I'm more inclined to buy a book if it has one of my favorite cover models on it (Paul or Jed Hill). Preferably shirtless, too.

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  2. I like a Hero on the front. Don't mind if his head isn't on it. Or his shirt for that matter.

    I know, I know it's shallow of me but I have a weakness for pretty men.... I mean covers. I also love a good clinche.

    Now that I think of it I have a lot of red & a lot of white covers. So that really is true.

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  3. Julieanne

    I have the American Heiress series on my TBR pile and have read the Pembroke Palace series and loved it I will be buying this series as well I do love those covers "hot".

    For me I buy books that are autobuy authors and from recomendations around the blogs and I do love to look at the covers but most important for me the blurb on the back.

    Have Fun
    Helen

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  4. I can see where all of those cover points are true, red does make you look twice. The blurbs are usually what does it for me though. Just a little disconcerting when the blurb and the book don't match which really can happen. I have been pleasantly surprised several times even when they don't.

    I am not a fan of the headless portraits but Higlander in the title will sell it for me, I am sooo easy when it comes to Highlanders. Okay, okay, I am sooooo easy when it comes to bare chests. Alright, I know, I am sooooo easy when it comes to romance.

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  5. Hi, Julianne! Welcome to TRD! Ooh, Highlanders! (Dancing a little jig here; I love Highlander stories.)

    I like covers to have the hero's face showing or mostly showing. I do not like the headless artwork. I also like the heroine to be on the cover, too, but if only one person has to be on the front, I would choose the hero. Note: especially an alpha male in a kilt, LOL!

    Congratulations on the releases and on your success!

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  6. Congrats on the new upcoming series. Those covers are gorgeous, and not just the guy portion ;). The colors make them pop and would definalty catch my eye & the stud would cause it to linger. I don't think I have any major preferences in covers though color (as mentioned above) & being a little different can help catch the eye to a closer look. I don't care for covers that are too busy (writing all over them) or too naked (I'm not a prude, just no longer a teenager - can tend to feel a little too hard sell on the sex & not the romance). Shirtless men are never too naked though, particularly when built on like the guys on your cover. :)

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  7. If it has Highlander in the title I'm grabbing it. :) My #1 favorite read is about Highlanders. Covers do draw us but I also rely on the back blurb if it's not an auto buy Author. I loved The Rebel in Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance. :)
    I love a cover with the Alpha male and shirtless is better. Sexy sells more I think. :)
    Carol L
    Lucky4750@aol.com

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  8. Good morning, Julianne! We are so happy to have you join us today. Congrats on your upcoming back-to-back releases! It's been too long and I need my JM fix. LOL

    I like when a person is on the cover--whether it's just the heroine, just the hero, or both--as long as the person/people resemble the description of the characters. It sort of irks me when they don't.

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  9. Oh, Sheree, Paul (and Jed, for that matter) is so good-looking. :) Glad to hear you'll be buying Claimed...you will love Julianne's writing!

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  10. Kirsten said: I like a Hero on the front. Don't mind if his head isn't on it. Or his shirt for that matter.

    I know, I know it's shallow of me but I have a weakness for pretty men.... I mean covers.



    LOL @ Kirsten! Ah, we know exactly what you mean. *vwg*

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  11. Oh, Helen, you need to pull the American Heiress series out of your TBR pile and read it. It's a terrific series!

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  12. Dianna said: Just a little disconcerting when the blurb and the book don't match which really can happen. I have been pleasantly surprised several times even when they don't.

    Very true, Dianna. I've had that happen to me a few times, also, and was plasantly surprised myself a time or two.

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  13. Deb, knowing your love of Highlanders, I knew you'd be thrilled for Julianne's visit! I hope you enjoy her new series!

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  14. gamistress66 said: I don't care for covers that are too busy (writing all over them)...

    Good point, gamistress! I have seen a few "busy" covers and wondered why someone thought it looked good. And then you have to wonder if that hurt the sales of the book. Hmmm....

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  15. Carol L said: If it has Highlander in the title I'm grabbing it. :) My #1 favorite read is about Highlanders.

    Then you fit right in here, Carol! I hope you enjoy Julianne's new series!

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  16. I just love you hot Highland Trilogy covers. Having a hot hunky guy on the cover is most definately eye candy..oops! I meant eye catching..

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  17. Hi Julianne! We're happy to have you visiting us today. I love your books and am so looking forward to meeting your Highlanders. Yum!

    I like a variety of covers. Covers with a dog/puppy on them always draw my attention. That's how I discovered Kristan Higgins. I discovered Robyn Carr because the cover of Virgin River (a rocking chair on the front porch of a mountain cabin) caught my eye. But it's the bare-chested Highlander in a kilt that will bring me to an O.M.G. standstill. Yep, guaranteed to make me pick up and take a look at that book every single time. *g*

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  18. I have to admit that an eye-catching cover gets my attention every time. Never thought about the cover color but then when I think of some books that I bought without knowing the author it was the cover that really hooked me in. Then it's the back blurb. And a sexy man on the front or beautiful lady for that matter never hurts! If it's pretty or sexy then I like it.

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  19. See, when I first started reading I was all "I don't buy for covers!" (and that's about 99% true) and then I saw the Highlander covers and I literally went, "Oooooh. This might be my fix between Monica McCarty books. Look at that guy."

    Yeah, I'd totally buy those books on cover and title alone. Definitely will be giving them a whirl.

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  20. Most important for me is that the cover reflect something of the novel…and that doesn’t always happen. Covers that grab me most are the unique ones. Think of the stunning covers for Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series, or the humorous ones for Gini Koch’s Alien books. Unfortunately, many covers on romance novels seem to be interchangeable. I think that does an injustice to the author.

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  21. Hi Julianne! I'm looking forward to your new series! :)

    For me, the blurb on the back is the most important for me. If that doesn't grab my attention, then I will most likely not buy it.

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  22. Wow - great comments everyone! I'm so happy to hear so many of you enjoy Highlanders. I sure loved writing about them!

    And I'm very happy with those covers. Sorry I couldn't reveal the third cover yet. It's not out until October, but it has a similar look. That one is blue.

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  23. A few of you mentioned how frustrating it can be when the cover art doesn't match what the characters are supposed to look like.
    I had that happen with LOVE ACCORDING TO LILY. The hero had golden hair, and the gentleman on the cover had dark hair. I mentioned it to my editor, but was told it couldn't be changed. I still get some angry emails about that :)

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  24. Oh - and by the way! For everyone who is posting here, I have a gift for you. My short story "The Rebel", which appears in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF SCOTTISH ROMANCE is also available as a stand-alone Ebook version for 99 cents, but I have a FREE COUPON for the Romance Dish commenters. It expires on Feb 4, so go grab it now if you are interested. Here's the coupon code: YJ49S

    You just plug that in when you place your order.
    And here's the link to the Smashwords page: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/36910

    And feel free to share this coupon code with any of your romance-reading friends on other blogs or message boards. Sharing is always fun :)

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  25. Hi Julianne,
    You know I've been a fan of your books since day one. I totally agree with you on that one cover not doing it for me. Any story with a kilted man on front - especially one with a naked chest! - draws my attention. The write-up on the back does have to draw my interest. There has to be a challenge to overcome for me to read it.
    I can't wait to read your new series. There's a spot waiting on my bookshelf!

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  26. As someone who loves to read, I used to be one who bought books because of the cover. I have found now that I am older my tastes have changed. I instead prefer to read the first page. If it catches my attention then it is MINE. Though I must say eye candy on covers do still catch my eye.

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  27. Christine said: Having a hot hunky guy on the cover is most definately eye candy..oops! I meant eye catching..

    LOL! Amen!

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  28. PJ, I LOVE Kristan Higgins's covers!

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  29. Hi, Kellie! I never really thought about colors either, but it makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

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  30. Hero on the cover preferred, but with NO face visible - they never get them right - that is, they never match the hero in my head...! But definitely the REST of the hero... definitely! :)

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  31. MsHellion said: Yeah, I'd totally buy those books on cover and title alone. Definitely will be giving them a whirl.

    I hope you enjoy them, MsHellion!

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  32. LSUReaser said:Think of the stunning covers for Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series...

    Oh, I LOVE Zoe's covers for this series. They are perfect!

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  33. I hope you enjoy Julianne's new series, Trisha!

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  34. Julianne MacLean said: Sorry I couldn't reveal the third cover yet. It's not out until October, but it has a similar look. That one is blue.

    Oooooo! Can't wait to see it!

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  35. Thank you for the coupon, Julianne!!! :)

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  36. Claudine said: Any story with a kilted man on front - especially one with a naked chest! - draws my attention.

    You're in good company, Claudine. *g*

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  37. EternalsBlissy said: I instead prefer to read the first page. If it catches my attention then it is MINE. Though I must say eye candy on covers do still catch my eye.

    Hi, EternalsBlissy! So, have you ever had a cover (of a book that you had no plans to buy) catch your eye that prompted you to read the first page and then buy the book?

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  38. Hi Julianne! Love the covers, best of luck with your new series, congrats! I love historical romances, dukes, anything Ireland or England! Also, thanks so much for the pointers on cover art as I've started to do my own covers.

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  39. Julianne, I'm sorry I'm a weak and shallow reader! LOL! I have purchaced or not purchased books based on their covers! I try not to let this happen too often! I have wasted alot of money on horrible books with hot alpha males on them! I still like them though I tend to like the clinch covers or just the hot hero model! I do like to see the heroes whole head though! If the cover is more sedate I like a clinch stepback page! Thanks for sharing today!

    evjochum[AT]aol[DOT]com

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  40. Jilly said: Hero on the cover preferred, but with NO face visible - they never get them right - that is, they never match the hero in my head...! But definitely the REST of the hero... definitely! :)

    LOL, Jilly! So what you're saying is, you like the bare chest... *vwg*

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  41. Deanna Jewel said: Also, thanks so much for the pointers on cover art as I've started to do my own covers.

    Best of luck to you, Deanna! Thanks for stopping by!

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  42. I LOVE any book that has a Highlander on the front cover! I will enjoy this one as well! Thanks!!

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  43. Johanna R Jochum said: If the cover is more sedate I like a clinch stepback page!

    I really like those, too, Johanna!

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  44. I hope you enjoy this series, Betty! Thanks for stopping by!

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  45. LOL Johanna! You made me laugh with your weak and shallow reader confession :)

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  46. Cool that you're doing your own covers, Deanna! That would be a lot of fun, I think, to have total control like that. At least you know you won't give your character the wrong hair color :)

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  47. I have been reading your books and was actually looking forward to getting to "Portrait of a Lover" because the cover was so different. But, as for your new Highlander series I must admit that I am in love with the man on the cover. You have to love a man with his shirt half opened, ripped, and in a kilt. Good luck with your new series I am sure it will be a huge success!

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  48. Hi, Julianne and welcome to The Romance Dish! It's a treat having you here today.

    I've become a fan of hero or heroine only covers. They really stand out. I was not always crazy about the headless covers, but when their bodies look like the hunks on your covers, I say bring 'em on!

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  49. I am not fond of scenic covers. I want to a glimpse of the characters. I don't care if it's the heroine or the hero. I just want the cover to reflect the characters in the story. I also hate it when the models on the cover don't match the character description in the book.

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  50. I like a variety of covers depending on the series. I usually like the two main characters to be the focus of the cover and I am usually more attracted to darker colors.

    smccar1 at hotmail dot com

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  51. I like covers like the one you got for "How to Marry the Duke" (it's so lush, if that makes sense) or those with just the heroine (like those that Lisa Kleypas has). I don't mind scenic covers; I particularly like it if they have a stepback...it makes you curious about what's inside. And they have to match the description of the characters in the book.

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  52. Julianne, welcome to The Romance Dish. I can't tell you how happy I am that you are spending the day with us. See, I have loved your books for a long, long time.

    My favorite book of yours thus far is An Affair Most Wicked. Man, Seger and Clara are a match made in heaven. And girl, that carriage love scene was smokin' hawt!!!

    Congrats on your upcoming releases! There is no shortage of love around here for Highlander heroes ;-) They are my favorite kind, LOL! And your covers are just delicious. Those books will sell really, really well. Thanks for the coupon code for the novella. Can't wait to read that too!

    I found your blog quite interesting. I really never thought about the color of the book cover in terms of sellability. I have to say there have been many occasions where I have purchased books solely on the hot looking guy on the cover. And most of the time I truly enjoy the story.

    Thanks again for visiting with us and I sure do hope you come back again.

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  53. Hi, DollyFinn! PORTRAIT OF A LOVER may have been Julianne's worst selling book, but it surely isn't because of the story. It is excellent. I hope you enjoy. :)

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  54. LOL, Gannon! Great bodies = great cover!

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  55. Danielle, doesn't it make you wonder why on the rare occasion when the characters don't match the cover, that the art dept. wouldn't change it to match if so many readers prefer it?!

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  56. I like darker colors, too, Stephanie...especially the rich jewel tones.

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  57. Antonia, I LOVE Lisa Kleypas's covers!!

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  58. Buffie said: My favorite book of yours thus far is An Affair Most Wicked. Man, Seger and Clara are a match made in heaven. And girl, that carriage love scene was smokin' hawt!!!

    Sigh. Buffie, you just brought back some good memories... LOL!

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  59. I love the clinch covers, and I don't like headless people, it freaks me out. I do enjoy a nice naked chest as well, yum.
    I enjoy your books Julianne, I can always count on a great read.

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  60. i like those highlander covers best of all the ones posted. I like a hunky good looking guy on my covers. I don't mind a women if it's mostly about the women if it's fun. I'd say the white cover pops so well because there are soooooo many dark covers out there. If i'm in a hurry and looking for your book and it's white and i know it i'll find it lickety split. I might miss it otherwise and have to go back for another pass or think i missed it all together and leave without it.

    I was looking for a book Tues at the local Walmart. It wasn't where i thought it was going to be and then it was also a dark cover. I didn't think they were going to have it at all and i stopped to ask the book lady who was still working and she didn't know and i happen to glance over where she was standing and see it. If i had not stopped to talk to her i would've left without it. I guess that kind of backs up what you were saying then doesn't it. I will admit a great cover draws me to it first before anything else. Unless it's a specific book i'm looking for.

    Lisa B

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  61. I prefer the partial faces since I like to imagine them myself after reading the author's descriptions. Only because sometimes I don't care for the cover model and I would hate for that to influence me. I like clinches, hunky heroes but it's not necessary. I do like your last to covers the best though!!

    catslady5(at)aol.com

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  62. I am not a big fan of clinch covers. Didn't read romance for a long time because of them.
    I like the new half face covers where the eyes aren't seen. It leaves the development of the character more to what is written in the book. Seeing the eyes of a person tells you much about them. I'd rather learn who they are by what the author tells me.
    It is sort of expected for a man in a kilt to be shirtless. However, less is more for both men and women. Leave a little bit of the mystery there in both the body and what will happen.

    When I look at books, the cover does attract first. But even a cover like PORTRAIT OF A LOVER will get a second look from me because it asks questions. Then it is up to the back cover blurb to hook me on the story.

    Like the covers for your new Highlander books.

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  63. I have mixed feelings about book covers. Sometimes I like for the couple to be on the cover but I don't like to see their faces and sometimes I prefer to not see anyone one it, just flowers or something.

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  64. I have to see both hero and heroine on the cover it helps to use the front and the info on the inside to form a mental image of the characters ,but of course the cover does not always match the inside info so sometimes just something eye catching on the front is great too!

    All the best
    Desere

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  65. I like any cover. don't need to show to much, but just enough skin. i like to see the faces but it you show just enough of the face it makes you guess on the rest. i like both the hero by himself or the hero and the damsel.

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