Nov 4, 2013

Posted by in Question | 16 Comments

Question – What Makes a Better Cover…Headed or Headless?

Question Visual Again

Ah, the romance book cover.  Not the most intellectually stimulating but man, often very nice to drool look at.

There are a few different ‘types’ of romance book covers but today I want to discuss the two most popular types:  the headless and the headed.

For a while, the headless man on the cover was the most popular type of cover around.  I like this idea because you can use your imagination along with the help of the author’s description to envision the hero of the book.  YOU are ultimately the one deciding how the hero looks – not some art department.


Then we have the headed.  Before the headless man was so popular, you had the headed.  Actually, you mostly had Fabio and his extra-muscled friends.  Their heads were shown because people wanted to see them.  Then the headless fad came about and now, more and more you are starting to see headed heroes again.  I don’t mind this new trend as long as the look of the hero works with the books.  Now, Paul Marron (featured on the cover of Lara Adrian’s book below) can show his face anytime, in my opinion.  He is yummy and the art departments tend to do a good job transforming him to suit the character he is portraying.  For Ryker on the cover of Larissa Ione’s book below, the model is PERFECT so I don’t mind his being a headed model.  But for JR Ward’s cover below, that is NOT how I envision Wrath.  So I was not overly excited when I saw the cover for The King.

boundbynight midnightbreedseriescompaniontheking

What I mean by all of that is I don’t mind a headed cover guy as long as he fits with my idea of the character.  And that is where having a headed guy becomes tricky…because MY idea of perfect is not necessarily YOUR idea of perfect.  The art departments have their work cut out for them in the case of the headed and I can see why headless was so popular for a while.

As for what I prefer, I don’t know that I necessarily have a preference.  I find I am more drawn to a cover with a headed man on it but that only really works if I find the face of the headed man attractive.  But I like the idea of having the freedom to picture whatever I want as the hero with a headless cover model.

So there is my ‘not really an answer’ answer.  How about you?  What do you think makes a better cover…headed or headless?

  1. I love both but headless give me the freedom to explore ALL kinds of options in handsome ;),

  2. I’m with you 100 percent. If the face doesn’t match the character, or worse, if the face is off-putting somehow, it bugs me. If I already like the author, it won’t stop me from buying a book. However, if the model on a book by an author new to me is unappealing, I’m less likely to give it a chance.

    What bugs me even more is when a woman on the cover has a completely different coloring than the character, and that happens more often than you’d think. I get irked on the author’s behalf since the people marketing the book clearly didn’t bother to read the story.

    On the whole, for me “less is more.” I don’t need the 8-pack abs at all anymore. I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s a lot of definition make-up plus photo shop behind many of them, so I prefer to rely on my imagination anyhow.

  3. I like both! What can I say it just depends on whether I want to “imagine” what the guy looks like or if I want a template to base him on.

  4. HEADS!!!!!! Yes I do prefer them

  5. Oh whow – I don’t read a ton of romance novels, so I’d never really thought about this. But I’m going to have to vote for “headless” based on the pictures you linked. You are so right too – my idea of the “perfect man” doesn’t really mesh with most of the cover art models. So I guess I’d rather just see a rugged jaw line, and a pair of beautiful abs, and fill in the rest with my imagination. *wipes drool* 🙂

  6. Northwoman says:

    I never even noticed the headless ones til you mentioned it. Guess I was looking at something else. 🙂 So either is good for me. I’ll always picture my own version no matter what is on the cover.

  7. I like covers where I can’t clearly see the people’s faces. I prefer to use my imagination rather than be shown what they characters look like.

  8. You picked some great covers to demonstrate with the head and headless. I love them both.
    I just hate when the tattoos look totally photoshopped or when the hair colour is way off.
    I wish the authors had a bit more say in the cover art. I think the cover art is so important because I am one of the people who do judge a book at first glace by the cover.

    I’ll give an example. I absolutely loved the book “Spring Chickens” by Margaret Ethridge. It is an awesome romance about a mature couple which is what I was looking for. But the cover it so off-putting. The dude that is faded in the sky is so young when the protagonist is just turning 50. Plus all the barnyard chickens makes it look like a cartoonish cover not a mature romance. Good thing I looked past it but that is a great example.

    Great topics as always. Sorry I haven’t been around much. Hope you are having a great fall.

  9. Headless! I’ve always liked headless better. Just show me the man nipples without the face.

  10. Erica Pillera says:

    Definately headless I want to imagine who I want for the face.

  11. I think it depends on the covers, some are amazing with heads ans some with none. But I’ll think about it, I never realized the difference lol

  12. Viki – “ALL kinds of options in handsome” lol I like that!

    Mzcue – I totally get what you’re saying about women on the cover. It usually with them that the art departments screw up! Why, I wonder…

    Felicia – Both works 😉

    blodeuedd – I’m not sure you’ve made yourself clear 😉

    Mithril – So many abs… 😉

    Northwoman – Whatever could you have been looking at ;p

    Krista – I think I’m leaning to where you are. Nothing wrong with using our imaginations 😉

    Michelle – It’s too bad it’s hard to look past the cover sometimes…

    Jennifer – Man nipples! LOL

    Erica – Woot!

    melliane – It really does depend on the cover. I agree with you there. 🙂

  13. I like to use my imagination. Buuuut, I am with you 100% when it comes to Paul. His face can be on any cover 🙂

  14. Lol based on the covers you picked, I want headless. Most models are just not handsome in my eyes, or too young. Give me abs or shoulders 😉

  15. Before the topic of book covers disappears into the archives, I’d like to make a micro-rant about the hairlessness of the male models. I don’t need them all to be furry bears by any means. However, I don’t care for the mandatory chest wax. To me that comes across as fussy and, dare I say, metrosexual. If that’s the character’s personality, then, sure. But I can’t buy that all those macho cowboys, military heroes, athletes and alpha types are going to salons regularly for man-scaping. It’s out of character. I hope that the day comes when male romance models are once again allowed to sport a little more manly fuzz.

    Rant over. Thanks, I feel better now.

  16. Lexi – Paul… *drools a little bit* 😉

    aurian – It does suck when the model is too young for the role. Pretty to look at but not necessarily as the hero of the book 🙂

    Mzcue – Good point about the ‘man’s man’ going all hairless. I had actually never thought of that. High five!

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