Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Talk Time - What's In a Cover?

New Pink Heart Society columnist, AlTonya Washington, is talking about diversity and romance covers...

Diversity in category romance is definitely a loaded topic. There are so many ways to dissect the subject-so many subtopics that can be fleshed out while covering it. I publish traditionally and independently. In both markets, diversity in cover art is a topic that generates as much discussion as it does upset.

Recently, I attended the annual Romance Slam Jam Conference. This year, the conference celebrated its 20th Anniversary. One of my favorite parts of the RSJ weekend, is the Town Hall meeting. 

Here, readers and authors come together for a robust and honest conversation about the state of the literary world with emphasis on Multicultural romantic fiction. This year, the cover art topic took the lion share of the conversation.  

Editors from various traditional publishing houses were on hand to participate in the discussion. Readers were not shy about voicing their displeasure on everything from discrepancies in back cover copy to the systematic ‘watering down’ of romantic heroes, but the failure of cover art to accurately represent characters was a key point. Now we all know that a great cover does not always translate to a great book, but a great cover is a necessity in this business. Unfortunately, a great cover doesn’t always translate to an accurate cover.

My views on how cover art relates to diversity in category romance, are primarily personal. I didn’t even realize they were an issue until I became an author and saw so many of my darker complexioned heroines portrayed several noticeable shades lighter on the covers of my books. 

Imagine an author tirelessly and lovingly telling the story of a raven haired heroine and then finding an auburn haired heroine on the cover. This is not to say that one is better than the other. Earlier in my career however, I did have an editor hint that it was believed that darker models- darker (female) models weren’t well received on romance covers. Can you believe that?!!! 

Okay…I’m calm, but it still baffles me that we can have so little cover diversity in a market that; by its very existence, should be improving diversity. 

We want our girls to love themselves and embrace their differences, yet we give them few examples of those differences. Editors on hand for the RSJ Town Hall meeting noted a lack of abundant stock art as a reason why many of the same models are used for the same covers. 

At this point, a comment was made about diversity as it relates to the hiring practices for traditional art departments. Score one for indie publishing-authors have a REAL say in their covers. Clearly, this topic is not a new one. What bothers me is that we’re approaching 2016 and little has changed. It is past time that solutions not only be discussed but implemented. The readers are definitely sharing their displeasure over expecting one thing and getting another. 

We'd love to hear your opinions about diversity in category romance - and particularly your opinions on the covers.  Join the discussion with AlTonya in the comments!

AlTonya's latest book, Treasure My Heart, is available now: 

The man every woman wants…wants her 

There are flings, and then there's real life. Minka Gerald, assistant to one of the country's top financiers, is too smart to confuse the two. But a business trip to Miami is the perfect place for a workaholic to let loose, and Oliver—brother to her boss's fiancĂ©e—is the ideal partner-in-pleasure. And with his heartbreaker reputation, that's as much as she expects. 

A ladies' man doesn't become a one-woman guy overnight. But once property developer Oliver Bauer has a taste of real connection, he wants more. Outwardly reserved but full of fire, Minka could hold his heart forever. Can he make her believe in him, before an old enemy's quest for revenge puts her safety and their sizzling new love in jeopardy?

For more information about AlTonya Washington and her books, check out her website and her blog, and say hello to her on Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. Hi AlTonya,

    I think this is a fascinating topic, and one that I will admit to not having necessarily picked up on previously. I think it's so important to talk about diversity in books, and I suppose it didn't occur to me to consider how that translates to representation on covers. Thanks for writing such an eye-opening piece!

  2. Us indie authors do have more of a say in what goes in our covers but we're still dependent on the stock imagery we can find. I write historical romance set in the Spanish Caribbean and all my characters are hispanic-- you can imagine how difficult it is to find images that accurately represent what they look like!