When I was beginning to consider covers for my own series of Regency romances, naturally I looked at what was being put out there in the genre. I checked the bestsellers’ list, the hot new releases and the Kindle Unlimited lists for ideas. There were a few styles that came up over and over. And, to be honest, there were even a few stock photos that came up over and over.
I really like this image. It’s very pretty, it indicates the genre perfectly and it’s one of the rare stock photos in which the costume actually isn’t too far from authentic. That white dress is also easy to modify; it can be colour-altered, inverted and cropped to give different looks. Still, it’s such a striking image that it’s very recognisable whatever you do. I’ve found
eleven twelve fourteen variants of it so far (I’m sure there are many more).
But what are the alternatives? Here are some other cover styles that came up over and over again.
1) The Big Frock
We can probably blame Courtney Milan for starting this trend. A woman in a huge-skirt ball gown, typically off the shoulder, in a vivid colour, all of which has not the slightest relationship to the Regency era. I understand the need for a striking image which conveys the romantic element, and the rather grand background to many of these books, featuring as they do the upper echelons of wealthy, titled English society. But I still shudder whenever I see one of these adorning the front of a Regency book. Victorian, maybe, but please, not Regency! Lots of stock photos available for these, for self-publishers with a budget.
2) The Couple In A Clinch
These generally get closer to authentic Regency costume. The woman might wear a gown with a narrow skirt, short sleeves and long gloves. There might be a bonnet and a swept-up hairdo with ringlets. The man might be sporting breeches and a cravat (or not!). But still, they don’t usually come close to historical accuracy, especially as most of the couples are half undressed. There’s also a lot of bad Photoshopping and repeated use of the same stock photos. Still, they do at least inform the reader that’s there’s likely to be a hefty dose of sex in the book.
3) The Tasteful Floral Display
This is most often seen on Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF), or, as they like to call it, Pride and Prejudice variations or continuations or retellings or whatever. I assume the lack of human figures is intended to leave the actual faces of the characters to the reader’s imagination, so that she can picture Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen or Matthew Rhys, as preferred. I’d always assumed that the flowers implied a lack of sex, but even a brief look at some opening chapters suggests that one purpose of JAFF is to fantasise about getting it on with Mr Darcy. To each their own. These have the virtue of being incredibly cheap to run up at home and some of them are lovely, but it’s not easy to do them well.
4) The Stylised Silhouette
Popular with traditional Regencies, these save the bother of finding stock photos with accurate costumes. The outlines used can be quite quirky, which makes me feel they’re aiming for the Regency-romp-style of Georgette Heyer (but her publisher doesn’t use covers like this, so what do I know?). Another simple option for self-pubbers who are handy with Photoshop or Canva.
5) The Serious Painting
The cover is a painting taken from the era. Again, the tone conveyed (to my mind) is less of the sexy bodice-ripping and more of the old-school romance, or maybe even a stab at tackling serious social issues of the day, or a darker tone in general. Easy to find for self-pubbers, but the good ones are very overused.
6) The Historically Accurate Gown
I’ve heard of one lady who makes her own gowns, and photographs her friends wearing them for her covers, which is totally awesome, but for those less skilled with a needle, it’s extremely hard to source authentic clothing images. What’s really needed is some way to connect cover designers with the thousands of historical re-enactment societies. Until then, this type of cover is the province of traditional publishers, who can afford to commission the costumes.
7) The Genuine Fashion Plate
There were innumerable journals published in the era which contained fashion plates, designed to show fashion-conscious ladies living in the provinces what the highest levels of society were wearing so that they could make cheap copies. These make excellent cover images if you don’t mind the rather stylised tiny hands and feet, and dainty faces. Generally used on traditional Regencies.
8) And then there’s mine…
I have an absolute abhorrence of historical inaccuracy in cover photos, so my options were limited. In the end, I took the serious painting idea, and modified it to make it a bit different from the many others. Most have dark backgrounds, inappropriate for my frothy, light-hearted tales, so I decided to use only the head and shoulders, surrounding the oval portrait shape with a lighter tone. Not having any artistic skills myself, I called in a professional to create the final images for me. I’m incredibly pleased with the result! ETA: I’ve added some covers from my later series, just for contrast.
Which style of cover do you like best?