Thursday 28 February 2013

Cover Love - Heather Massey

Cover Love: Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express 

The topic of science fiction romance covers is a topic near and dear to my heart, so when Pippa Jay announced she was launching a “Cover Love” feature I was all over it like a bear on honey. Slurp, slurp. While many sci-fi romance covers do an effective job of marketing their stories, five in particular have hit my sweet spot. I’m presenting them below along with commentary on why I think they stand out. 

While DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR was, sadly, never released from Medallion Press, its cover is one of my favorites. Many different elements fuse into a compelling whole. The characters engage the reader with warm expressions and most importantly, come across as genuine. Nothing yanks me out of a cover fantasy faster than models with inert, vacuous stares and stiff postures. The composition draws the eye right to the characters in a pleasing way. And the woman holding the crystal makes you wonder what’s going to happen. That’s the job of a good cover. I also like the warmth of the color scheme. It conveys the futuristic setting and passion/romance. Another great detail is that the hero is wearing a uniform. Futuristic military uniforms are HOT. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing the cover designer gave this image a painted look using some kind of digital tool. The effect makes it seem like an illustrated cover. The various details seem designed to specifically represent the story. Overall, the end result says someone cared about readers’ desires for a professional, eye-catching cover.

Lucy Woodhull’s RAGNAR AND JULIET Cover design by Lyn Taylor 
The image of RAGNAR AND JULIET is a clever cover premise and very high concept. The playful tone promises a fun time. The over-the-top face-off tags the conflict in the romance as well as the story’s comedic elements. Another aspect I like about this cover is the risk-taking. It takes a risk by avoiding the man titty route. Quite daring considering the publisher could easily have exploited the story’s racier elements. 

Angelia Sparrow’s SKY RAT Illustrated by Christine Griffin 
This digitally illustrated cover’s unique look is total eye candy. I don’t know the technical term for the color scheme, but I love how it pops. Another appealing factor is the composition. The SKY RAT cover is epic in scope and reminds me of similar movie posters I’ve liked. The story’s m/m romance and steampunk elements are clearly represented (however you wouldn’t know the story is erotic from the cover). And you gotta love the hero’s sardonic grin. He sure looks up to something and his expression dares readers to find out! 

Gini Koch’s TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN Illustrated by Dan Dos Santos 
Dan Dos Santos’ illustration is superior. No surprise given he’s a leading cover illustrator in the SF/F fields. By placing a near-kissing couple against a background literally exploding with action, the image perfectly captures the story’s mix of SF, romance, action adventure, and comedic elements. The visual story draws you right into the middle of the action. Interestingly, the heroine’s clothing and pose tag the story as urban fantasy. It’s a clever technique—intended or not—of attracting urban fantasy readers to this book. Some of them may very well enjoy the Men in Black plot devices and Earth-bound setting (Las Vegas, anyone?). This cover simultaneously excites and depresses me. I wish more science fiction romance covers could be of such high quality. They’d be able to compete better, for one thing. But given that the majority of SFRs are ebooks currently, it makes good business sense to stick with more minimalist covers. 

K.S. Augustin’s BALANCE OF TERROR Cover design by Derek Murphy 
I like this cover because a) it’s heroine centric and b) it completely flies in the face of what everyone else is doing with SFR covers at the moment (this is an indie SFR so the author had 100% control). The image is striking and powerful. It doesn’t tag the story strongly, other than to convey the science fiction setting and heroine POV. In terms of marketing, I can’t decide if that’s a plus or a minus given the story’s romantic elements. But I appreciate how the author took a chance. 

Anitra Lynn McLeod’s THIEF Cover design by Kanaxa 
The cover of THIEF is a great example of how stock images can be executed in a visually striking way. The cover is boldly hero centric while keeping him mysterious at the same time. The planets clearly convey the space opera setting. This cover is all about seamless integration of the elements—title, composition, color, and contrast. I hope more cover designers who rely on stock images for SFR titles emulate Kanaxa’s innovative approach. 

Thanks for coming aboard my “Cover Love” tour! What’s your opinion about any or all of these covers? Are there any elements in particular you think should be routinely included on a science fiction romance cover? Have you noticed any cover trends in SFR? 

Bio: Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.


  1. I really like all of these covers. "Ragnar and Juliet" and "Touched by an Alien" covers stand out for me. They are both really well done and creative. I also like the play on typography used by "Thief" I do like that there is a lack of "beefcakes" on this covers post. I think I am starting to see a welcome trend in SFR covers that are moving away from the half-nekid muscular men often associated with Romance covers. The covers in this post are all unique, fresh and a welcome change.

  2. >there is a lack of "beefcakes" on this covers

    They are too ubiquitous for any to stand out, really. Be like trying to find a blade of grass that's more striking than the rest.

    I'm enjoying the trend toward couples, myself.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. You picked some great covers. Emphasis on the "art" in "cover art." I love seeing creativity in any form.

  4. I'm prolly the most non SF person alive (though I recognize Pippa's 'Never give up- Tagline quote lol) but I have to say these covers are beautifully done no matter the genre. I enjoyed looking at them, particularly Touched by an Alien, which for me had a James Bond-ish feel too. Thanks for something different.

  5. I'm such a visual person and drawn by covers. Although I read sci-fi, I don't read a great deal of it any longer (I used to read it almost exclusively!). I love the cover of DARKSCAPE, but THIEF is the that stands out for me. It would definitely have me picking it up for a closer look. I love the boldness of it!

  6. Anitra Lynn Mcleod's Thief is one of my favorite covers, and I bought that book based on the cover. I had to have it!

  7. Enjoyed your post very much. I have several SFR books just based on their covers attracting my eye.

  8. All great covers! Daniel Dos Santos does a fabulous job with Gini's covers. And I have to admit, I bought Thief because the cover caught my eye. Made me want to read more about the book. Wonderful choices, Heather! :-)

  9. I love the Darkscape cover - striking, vibrant colours, and it makes a change to see a sfr cover without makes torsos (not that I've anything against them). And Balance of Terror really caught my eye the first time I saw it.

  10. So First Heir never got released at all??? That's so sad! You made some good picks. Was thinking Skyrat pushed my Dr. Who button, too. LOL

  11. Fun post! I love these covers too. You're presenting some mighty fine material for my TBR list!

  12. Love them all. I'm also one who appreciates the trend toward couples or individuals on covers that tell us what the story is about. Not just that people get naked in them.

    Thanks for sharing : )

  13. I think Ragnar and Juilet is my favorite. I love how it gives the impression of a couple who are always on opposite sides, but still can't stay apart.


I always love to hear your thoughts.