Selling Your Book: Is Cover Nudity Required?

Maybe it was because as a young woman that I was never drawn to traditional “bodice rippers” but I’ve began to wonder about the art of cover art. Is nudity in some form required on the cover to be successful at selling your book?

Being fairly new to the business I only have my own taste as a reader to go by. I’ve never purchased a book erotic or otherwise simply because of the cover art. Don’t get me wrong packaging is a huge part of the sell, I have definitely been drawn to a book because of the cover, but it takes more than that to close the sale.

My stories are more of what you would call erotic-romance with sub-genres such as paranormal, suspense, and mythology. Yes, there is graphic sex in my writing, but that’s not what it’s all about. I have a plot that is elaborate, a story that brings the heroes together, a romance that includes erotic elements, and a cast of supporting characters that help and sometimes hinder the heroes in their journey towards happiness.

Just because I have graphic sex within the context of the story does that require nudity on the cover? I’m not being factious when I ask this question. I’m honestly curious.

There is so much more to the story and being an artist myself I aim to have a cover that speaks towards the entire story rather than just the sex. Yes, I do realize that sex sells, but when is it too much? Does the fact that I prefer nudity-free covers hinder me as a writer? Should I reconsider my opinion? Just the thought of going mainstream on the idea of “nudity required” cover art makes me wonder if I’m selling myself out.

For me it is the “complete package” or nothing at all. Just because I write erotic-romance doesn’t mean I should package it as pure sex. What happens when the reader drawn in simply because of the cover finds themselves disappointed when there’s not sex in every chapter or every other chapter?

I seriously want the opinion of my fellow writers and the readers.

How do you feel? Nudity required or not?

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16 comments on “Selling Your Book: Is Cover Nudity Required?

  1. I think not. I like a hint, something to tease me. I’ve seen some wild covers that just looked like bad porn rather than art. I suppose I’m finicky because I do covers, but I don’t things that aren’t classy looking.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion, Lex. I’m not a prude by any means. Anyone who’s poked about on my computer can tell you that. *grins* But I do like something left to the imagination. Nudity alone in my opinion does not a erotic cover make. Class and talent need to be present as well in the creation of a cover.

    • Thank you for commenting, Marc. As Lex said in her comment a hint is nice for a tease. Some covers I’ve seen go overboard though and verge on being porn.

      I took a peek at the covers for your books. I’m not an expert by a long shot, but I do know what I like. The cover for “Kissed by a Rose” is my favorite by far. The composition is clean and concise, a nice balance. It has an erotic feel without being over the top. The composition of “Lost & Found” from my personal perspective seems a bit cluttered. “Charlotte’s Secret” is nicely done, but I’m not big on pink (just a personal preference).

      Thank you for sharing your covers and your opinion. 🙂

    • Thank you, Kate for chiming in. I don’t mind a little nudity at all. I think it really depends on the situation, the story, and the publisher.

      I was originally supposed to be published by a different publisher who unfortunately closed their doors before my book came out. I recall the excitement to see my first cover and when I did it horrified me. Upset I ask a few of my closest friends opinions and they had the same reaction. That cover (which thank the Goddess never saw the light of day) became known as the “Angry Rent Boy” *giggles*

      Long story short the cover was an injustice to the story I was trying to tell. Perhaps that is the reason I shy away from nudity as an element of my covers. I have no doubt that when done with class and style it works for some stories, but for now I’ll still weigh the matter in my mind.

  2. Oh, Miriam! LOL Perfect!!!
    One of my favorite sayings, “Desire begins in the mind.” I’ll stand by that any day. I think that it goes for covers too. Less is more…keep me wondering! LOL

    • That’s a lovely saying and a legitimate observation. I’ve always felt less was more and now I’ve discovered I’m not the only one. Yeah! \o/

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. And yeah, Miriam made my day with that perfect line!

  3. I have to admit, my newest book cover made me blush. I haven’t posted it all over everything because it’s not exactly work safe, and even my husband’s eyes popped out when he saw it. It’s not the person who usually does my covers, and I’m a little… anxious to see how it turns out.

    The thing is, I went with it because the book is about a journal of antique erotic art, and the cover looks like it could have been taken from the journal, and it was the one cover they presented for my approval that really fit the book.

    Two things worry me. First, that people will think I picked the cover for the nudity, which is absolutely not true. And second that it will set up the reader to believe the book itself is far more erotic than it is. I’m really a romance writer, not an erotica writer. I guess time will tell on that, when I start getting people wanting their money back.

    Bottom line, I think the cover should fit the story, and no, really I prefer a little mystery. Clothing is very nice, people should wear it as often as they can when I’m looking at them. A book cover should first and foremost whet the reader’s appetite for the book. (although people have told me more than once they bought my books for the covers. Thank you Anne Cain!)

    • It’s nice that your publisher gives you some say in the cover. I’ve run across a few writers who’ve been quite upset about the covers that publishers decide on for their works. The cover is a huge part of the sell and unfortunate some people believe that with out some type of nudity it can’t be either erotic or romantic.

      The first publisher I was with (they are now defunct) had a cover artist that horrified me with my first cover. I told the story to one of the other writers who commented. The cover became known by my friends as “The Angry Rent Boy”. When I tried to converse with the artist (and I use the word lightly) I was told verbatim “You said dark hair green eyes. That’s what you got. Do you know how difficult it is to find pics of gay men?” WTH? Her comment just shocked me. A man is a man, you can’t tell from a photo if someone is gay and what does it matter anyway. I later understood why, though I won’t go into it here, she would say something like that.

      Things like that are why I love my publisher Dark Roast Press. People are not required on the covers and if I don’t do the cover myself, I do have finally approval. Our on-staff artist is a woman who writes as well (though not professionally yet) and she gets how important the cover is to the author. She did the cover for my second book “Le Jardin de la Lumiere” and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect cover for the story.

      Time will tell whether the cover you chose will work for your story. I have no doubt it will. Being the author gives you insight into the material that an artist who hasn’t read it could ever have. Hang in there and have faith. 🙂

  4. Personally, I would have preferred not to have any people on my cover at all, but my publisher told me that due to the erotic nature of my novel I had to have them, and a little nudity on the cover. I think she did a pretty good job trying to handle my wishes in spite of that.

    I don’t actually like to have such graphic covers if I’m buying in print, because it just invites comments when you’re trying to read in public. I read one that had handdrawn artwork of a very simple scene with a shirtless man reclining on a sofa…..and had several people asking what kind of a racy book I was reading. It was crazy.

    Elle Parker
    http://elleparkerbooks.blogspot.com/

    • As I stated to Z.A. Maxfield above I love my present publisher. They prefer non-people covers, but if you want people that’s fine. They want tasteful and professional covers that don’t scream and beat their chests about the ‘sex’. Each publisher has their own take on what is required for erotic/romance covers and I’m quite sure that the standard was set by Harlequin and other romance publishers back in the 70’s with their bodice rippers.

      My personal belief is that what worked well in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s worked, but at some point you have to find your own style. It’s the 21st century and just because it contains eroticism that doesn’t mean nudity should be a requirement. Many people feel we’ve went too far with the explicit nature of such things, I’m not one of those people, but I do believe there is a line that once we cross it we go from being erotic/romantic to pornographic.

      The main difference between erotic-romance and pornography is the fact that we delve into more than just the sex, but also delve into the emotional aspects of that sexual relationship. We explore what brings two people together and evolves their relationship from friendship to love and desire. This journey of the human spirit and all it’s aspects can be represented by many things besides just nudity. Yes, nudity is a part of it, but not the only part. Eroticism has as many faces as our readers do. That’s what we have to keep in mind as we move forward.

  5. For me a cover must be eye-catching, meaning color, title, picture, for example Mitch Acevedo’s Felix Gomez series (The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, The Undead Kama Sutra). No nudity but lots of bright color, wicked titles, silhouettes of women (you decide if they’re naked or not). Whether there is nudity or not doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to pick up the book if I like the look of the cover. A rule of thumb used to be, the more skin on a cover, the more sex in the book but I’m not sure what the rule is today. I don’t think about the cover fitting the story after I’ve read the book. I worry more about the blurb being better than the story, which has happened to me. Drives me crazy when that happens.

    • See that’s how I feel about covers. They should catch the eye and represent the story as a whole. The covers you described sound great without being over the top.

      The main question of this whole thing was whether I was hurting myself by not including nudity on the covers. Everyone who has commented seems to be of the same mind.

      I agree whole-heartedly about the blurb. When I’m writing up a blurb for any of my work I try to be as honest as possible. As a reader I’ve come across the same issue you have. I buy a book not just for the cover, but for what the blurb promises. I’ve bought a few and then went WTH? after reading the book. It’s quite disappointing and yes it drives me crazy as well. 🙂

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