Imitation and flattery

Another of my mother’s favorite sayings was “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

So take a look at the new backlist reissue of Laura Kinsale’s Uncertain Magic for Kindle. Then take a look at the cover for the (I assume) original paperback. Am I just flattering myself by seeing something there that’s not? And of course it might genuinely just be coincidence, but it seems naked male chests and naked female backs are the “in” romance covers these days, and the Uncertain Magic Kindle cover isn’t either of those, is it?

It’s also a shame. I’d be one of those who would purchase several of her backlist books for my Kindle, but not so long as these dinosaurs in publishing keep thinking they can support their paper book business by overcharging for ebooks.


34 Responses to Imitation and flattery

  1. paula says:

    So true on both points, Ellen. All of my Kindle friends enjoy the search for the reasonably priced fare for e-books. After steering them your way, they say if an author of your caliber can offer books for low prices, there has to be more…

    Just for the record…have two friends who were sitting on the fence with purchasing a Kindle but after hearing me continue to rave about your books, Eyes of Silver and Sing My Name, ordered one. You now have 2 more who are spreading the word.

  2. mesadallas says:

    I’m so glad I’ll never see a shirtless man on one of your covers. Seems as if every romance book has to have a manditory shirtless guy on the front. Not that I can’t appreciate a shirtless male torso but to me they look as cheesy as the old bodice ripper covers.

  3. McD says:

    I’m also glad that perhaps the nekkid male chest (with manscaped waxing) may be going out. I love looking at them, but they are way too overdone. Like headless ladies on historical romance covers.

    And thankfully I have a heap of Laura Kinsale’s printed books that were way cheaper than the e-books.

  4. Hi Paula – Thanks for spreading the word. I’m more than proud to be incentive for anyone getting a Kindle. I still have my K1, and it works, and I indulged in a K3 this past fall anyway. I love them. Only one friend has gotten one, and she has mentioned the cost of books as a negative. I think she’s a bestseller type reader, and people like that could really get skinned. Another friend is asking her husband for one for the next gift occasion.

    The fact I now have a stubbornly adversarial attitude towards the big pubs is kind of sad. I’ve loved many of their books in my life, but last spring’s price rises so that many ebooks cost more than their paper counterparts did it for me. I’m still reading all those books, but free from the library. What gets my money are those pubs who put out reasonably priced books, authors who are putting out their own backlists at good prices, and indies. I really think the high prices are helping convince readers to try books like mine, so I ought to be grateful. ~Ellen

  5. mesadallas and McD – I’m afraid I’m thinking of a naked chest on my next one. He will have a head. When the time comes I’ll post it here and see what you think.

    And, yes, McD, for me they have to be manwaxed smooth, although I suppose sooner or later I’ll have to give in and let some guy have chest hair – no butt fuzz. I swear it now and am really, really sure I’ll never change my mind. If he has it, it will go undescribed.

    Actually I noticed a post on AAR today that seemed to be talking about the other extreme – heroes of ethnicities that wouldn’t be hairy who are described as hairy by the author. The point seemed to be that readers would prefer hairy guys. Here I am marching to a different drummer once again. ~Ellen

  6. McD says:

    Ellen, if you have a hairless naked male chest on your next cover I’m still going to read your book! Mind you I really don’t mind looking at them – just too overdone.

    Are you saying you like man-waxed chests over hairy (but not gorilla-hairy!) chests? Then you definitely go against the trend. Most ladies I know (including me) like a bit of chest hair.

    And butt fuzz-less?? Come on Ellen, don’t tell me you like a man-waxed butt as well!!

  7. Thanks for the vote of confidence, McD. Yes, naked and hairless chest on next cover – at least that’s what I’m thinking right now. I bet when I get there, you’ll actually think it’s suitable and approve.

    It does seem to me that the headless, naked male chests I see on so many covers are hairless, though. Since I have the Kindle, I only see postage stamps of most covers, but that’s what I seem to see a lot of – chest hair no; 6 pack yes.

    And let’s put it this way – if a guy has butt fuzz I don’t want to hear or read about it. Or about hair on the back, or for that matter even the legs. We all know it’s there, but dwelling on it isn’t romantic as far as I’m concerned. For that matter, while I like a lot more realism in my romances than most people seem to, I don’t want to read about hairy female legs and armpits in the good old days either. ~Ellen

  8. mesadallas says:

    Ellen, if you are going to put a bare chest on the next cover you must have a good reason for doing so but I’ll admit I’m bursting with curiosity as to why.

  9. Ah ha, mesadallas, if I could only hum suspenseful sounds, I would. When the story is enough done to have a blurb, I’ll start working on the cover, which I’m thinking I may have to contract out this time. I’ll bet you agree with me when the time comes. ~Ellen

  10. mesadallas says:

    If I guess right will you tell me? He’s been swimming?
    Hense the reason for a bare chest?

  11. Paige says:

    I love all those naked male chests on my romance novels 🙂

  12. McD says:

    Ellen,I’m going to have a guess too as to why you’re going with the trend of naked male chests on covers.

    You’re not doing a historical western at all, but a re-telling of Tarzan? How’d I do?

    Oh, and the cover model would have to have a hairy chest in that case, to fit in with the locals.

  13. Ha, ladies. No on swimming and Tarzan, and as someone who read a couple of Tarzan books and remembers tv portrayals – Tarzan did not have a hairy chest! If I could think of a prize, I’d up for a guessing contest. Anyone reading here already has my books, so giving them away isn’t an option. Does anyone want to be a character in a book? If you have a modern name you might have to be in a mystery. Would you hate being a bad guy?

    I like some of those naked male chests on the books too, Paige. Didn’t I mention once before seeing a cover on Maldivian’s website that made me feel breathless for a bit? And I think some of the covers with women in elegant dresses with bare backs are lovely. The problem is when pretty much every book has some version of one of those covers. When they’re all a blur and nothing stands out, surely it’s time for a little creative variety.


  14. McD says:

    Yes, I’d love to have the chance of my name as a character in your next book. I’m pretty sure that McD would work in nicely as one of the baddies.

    So, is the contest guessing why your man on the cover has a naked chest?

  15. mesadallas says:

    Ok, I admit, I DO like looking at a well-defined male torso, but it seems as if EVERY cover has the same thing- a bare chested man. Plus they are just illustrations- not real men. When every cover looks the same it just starts to look cheesy. I mean how many different ways can you design a cover with a bare-chested male?

    As far as chest hair goes- realistically, most men have it. I like some hair on the chest but not too much.

    Ellen, if I win I would love to be a character in one of your books. Could I be 26 again? That year I had an offer to sign with the Thompson agency to do commercial modeling and acting. Those were the days of my 23 inch waist,and my 36D bust. At least I still have the bust.

  16. Well, I can do my best to find a character who fits certain characteristics, but we have to be real here – some stories just don’t have that kind of person in them, which is why I think characters in the mysteries have to be possibilities.

    As you can tell from my name, I come from an Irish family, and none of the men in the family whose chests I remember seeing were hairy. My mother used to joke that my father had a single chest hair and she plucked it regularly. Maybe that’s why I feel the way I do about it.

    If you want another challenge – find me a naked guy torso cover with a hairy chest. ~Ellen

  17. Yes, let’s say that the contest is to guess why I’m considering a guy with a naked chest for the next book. The winner is the first person to guess right, and I’m the sole judge, all decisions final, blah blah, etc. The winner gets to have her name (as she wants her name to appear, so McD could say the character has to be “McD” or could say she wants me to use her full name). The name will be for a character in a future book where it fits, also my decision. (I’m making that stipulation because I’m not going to name someone in a western historical a modern name like Tiffany.) We’ll give it a week, and if no one guesses right by the end of St. Paddy’s day, I win and can keep the secret for a while. 🙂 ~Ellen

  18. mesadallas – I think I have twice as much bust as when I was 26, and I’d be happy to go back.

    If you want a chuckle, the first time I heard the word “hirsute,” a friend used it to describe a guy who definitely was, and you didn’t need to see him without a shirt to tell. Can’t remember how old I was, maybe 16, and I was sure she was describing the guy as a “hair suit,” which also fit. ~E

  19. P.S. If anyone is looking for that cover with a hairy chested guy – no werewolves (wherewolves? evidently avoiding them means not being able to spell them). ~E

  20. mesadallas says:

    You have to throw us some kind of a bone or this would be like finding a needle in a hay stack. Does it at least have something to do with part of the plot?

  21. McD says:

    Okay, my first guess is that he lost his shirt in a card/betting game. Literally he lost the shirt off his back.

  22. Paige says:

    Is the hero an indian?

  23. That was a short contest. Paige wins!

    Paige, if you email me with the full name you’d like to see in a book, I’ll do some research. My first thought is that the name Paige wasn’t used in the 1800’s and that your name would work better in the mystery Rottweiler Railroad, which in fact has a lot more female characters to choose from than the new western will have. ~Ellen

  24. Paige says:

    I won! 🙂 Thanks Ellen. I’ll email the name soon. Gotta think about it a little.

  25. McD says:

    Paige, congratulations!!
    Knowing Ellen’s predilection for hairless male chests it should have been obvious. Well done.

  26. mesadallas says:

    Congratulations, page!

    All right, Ellen fess up- you have a thing for Native American men.

  27. Paige says:

    Thanks everyone 🙂

  28. Paige is going to be a character in Rottweiler Railroad, and there are lots of good female characters in it that I can choose from. I won’t make her the murderess. She also had a great old fashioned name suggestion that I’ll use in the romance.

    mesadallas – The physical description of Cord Bennett is pretty much my idea of the perfect guy. However, I will have to say I think Matt Slade would be a whole lot easier to live with, and I was thoroughly in love with him long before I finished Sing. ~E

  29. mesadallas says:

    So is this hero going to have the personality of Matt with the looks of Cord?

  30. One of the things I’ve always disliked are those romances by a given author that feature “different” heroes who are the same guy. He may be described as different, but if you read several of that author’s books, all the heroes actually behave the same way towards the heroine and towards anyone or thing else in a given situation. I’m pretty pleased with myself in coming up with 2 guys as different as Cord and Matt who are, IMO at least, both strong men without the chest-beating alpha b.s. that, again IMO, actually indicates insecurity.

    So, no, the new guy isn’t going to be like Cord or Matt physically or in personality. I wish I had more confidence that my heroine will be as different. I seem to have more trouble with that. ~E

  31. mesadallas says:

    We love your heroines!

  32. Thanks, mesadallas. We’ll see as more stories hit the streets as time passes. ~E

  33. Laurie Osborne says:

    The cut out cover is all over the place now, though Eyes is the first place I saw one. Check it out:

  34. Hi Laurie – I’m sure there were others before Eyes, but I didn’t see them. During summer and fall when Eyes, was way up in the Historical Romance rankings and then later when Sing was, those covers sure stood out and looked lonely.

    The one you pointed out is another indie cover (and I know Ruth Ann does hers herself too), but needless to say, the one on the Kinsale book had to be done by professionals, although it looks more raggedy than either mine or Ruth Ann’s. Probably raggedy is artistic and clean cut is low brow. ~Ellen

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