I’ve had my share of good and bad covers. On the whole, more good than bad, for which I am most grateful. Having spent many years as a graphic designer, I’m probably even crankier about covers than most authors (though by the same token, I have a better sense of what’s possible and what isn’t.)
The cover that probably made me craziest was this one from UNCOMMON VOWS, my second historical romance and only medieval. A person or two has told me that they bought the book because they liked the cover, so clearly tastes vary. But I looked at it and saw that my fey forest sprite heroine had been turned into a busty bimbo with a distinctively shopworn look. The falcon is an important element of the story, but why isn’t blood running down the heroine’s arm since she isn’t wearing a leather hawking gauntlet?
The hero is worse. My dangerous warrior, who had sought the cloister as a way of controling his potential violence, has been turned into a teenaged beach boy with a pouffy pompadour. And you could see the raglan seams carefully copied from the torn sweatshirt the model was wearing! Note that despite the slashed shirt, there is no sign of blood. Very clean blows those 12th century warriors struck. I got them to paint out the raglan seams, but he still looks like a teenager who has never faced anything more stressful than misplacing his cell phone.
As for foreign covers, take a look at the Chinese edition of SILK AND SECRETS. This is actually a take-off of the original American cover, which was very good. In fact, the original painting hangs in my living room, startling unwary guests. But it appears that the Chinese publisher ran a really bad color photocopy of the original, then used something like eyebrow pencil to make the characters look more Chinese. The effect of this on a Scottish redheaded heroine is—interesting. <g>
One thing is for sure: get a group of romance writers together and sooner or later—probably sooner—we’ll start talking about our covers!