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Friday, April 8, 2016

Romance Novel Cover Models: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Life as a Romance Novel Cover Model

     If you have ever attended the annual RT Book Lovers Convention, you probably noticed (or were part of) a long line of enthusiastic women lining up to have their pictures taken with one or more of the virile romance novel cover models who stare moodily out at you from hundredsperhaps thousandsof novels in every romance sub-genre (including paranormal romance).

Jason Aaron Baca
as Michael
     This year's RT Con will be held in Las Vegas from April 12th through April 17th. Read more about it by clicking HERE or HERE. If you go, you might want to attend the "Kickass Cowboys, Cops, and Kisses" session featuring nine western and law enforcement romance authors. The session includes an hour of photo booth time with their hunky male cover models. And then there is the first annual contest to determine America's Next Top Cover Model, in which some handsome unknowns strut their stuff on stage, competing to win an appearance on the cover of an upcoming romance novel. As the RT Con program advises, "Come ready to clap, hoot and holler." Throughout the convention, you'll see lots of muscular models strutting the halls (usually in pairsa buddy system for safety in the sometimes overly enthusiastic, largely female crowds).

Pepe Toth as
Damon Black
     But what is day-to-day life like for the models? Are they millionaires who live in posh penthouses in Manhattan or lavish beach houses in Malibu? The answer to that question is a resounding "No!" (with the possible exception of Fabio, but more about him later). This week, the NY Times published a fantastic article entitled "With Romance Novels Booming, Beefcake Sells But Doesn't Pay." (Note: Just click on the pink-link title above to go directly to the article.) The author, Laura M. Holson, takes a look at the experiences of two cover models: Jason Aaron Baca and Pepe Toth (whose covers transform him into Damon Black of Jennifer L. Armentrout's LUX series).

Fabio Lanzoni
     In addition to taking us behind the scenes at a photo shoot, Holson reviews the history of male modeling on romance covers, going all the way back to the 1980s and 1990s, when the fabulous Fabio dominated the paperback book racks with his bulging muscles and massive waves of bleached-blond hair. Eventually, Fabio added romance writing to his list of talents and appeared on the covers of his own books. Back then, cover art was mostly painted by hand, but these days Photoshopping is the key to putting together a perfect male body. Take a head from one photo, a bicep from another, six-pack abs from yet another, andVoila!the perfect man in all his glorious sexiness!

     This is a great article with an interesting look at a highly competitive industry. About mid-way through, the author has inserted a fascinating section entitled "The Journey to a Romance Cover," which includes a photograph of Baca in his original pose alongside three different cover mock-ups from which the publisher selected the final cover for Susan Stoker's Saved by a SEAL. The four photos are accompanied by a brief narrative explaining the decision-making process. Who knew that there was so much hard work and strategical planning involved in designing a single paperback cover?

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