Cover Image Preferences

cowboy hat

I spent three hours yesterday looking through a stock photo site to find images for a new historical series. (I know I’ll spend an equal time today on other sites.) The setting is 1870s Texas and the genre is clean romance. So far the heroes are ranchers or cowhands, so my idea was to have a man and a horse against a background.

Although the stories are centered around a specific holiday, I didn’t want to limit the appeal by including any symbol of that–maybe just a background depicting the season.

bluebonnets in Big Bend





My quandary is the number of couples in authentic dress is limited and are used and re-used within the subgenre. And I always want my covers to be “different.” My question is, for a western historical, would you expect to see a couple? Or would a lone cowboy be enticing?

horseman with big skyI’d love to hear any and all opinions.




18 thoughts on “Cover Image Preferences”

  1. Linda, I think a guy alone is just fine–or a woman alone, for that matter. The important point to me is that the reader can make an emotional connection with the subject. Also it should be historically accurate, if possible. Good luck!

  2. I think the lone cowboy looks good. He actually looks lonely, like he’s in need of a good woman! Since some of my settings and eras for which there aren’t a lot of stock photos (Depression era and 1870 Japan), I usually ask my cover designer to NOT put people on the cover. It’s much better than having the characters misrepresented.

    1. Patricia, I agree an object or scenery works for some genres. Because I’m particular I do spend lots of time looking for models who resemble my characters.

  3. I asked a pub to use a couple silhouette against a dramatic background. They made the couple too small to be effective, but I liked the idea. You can use “wedding” silhouettes since the clothing is often the right shape to work for period clothes, and details aren’t visible. Just a thought if you’re struggling to find images.

  4. I agree, a lone cowboy works great. I used to not want people on my covers, afraid it would not meet mine, or readers image of the characters. I’ve been told, though, from a marketing standpoint, people on covers are more appealing to readers. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, though. The ideal would be to have people pose for your covers. That’s costly and difficult, though, but those kind of covers are often phenomenal and definitely original.

    1. Alicia,
      with historicals, the current trend is to have people. I can only hope I reach the day when I can afford private photo shoots. 🙂 Thanks for chiming in.

  5. Hey Linda and All,

    There is a site for self published authors to use … one of a kind book covers for flat fee. You can have them create the full OR if Indy published through Create Space, use their ‘cover creator’ to do the spine and back using the front image you purchase.

    Check ’em out!

    Good luck and God’s blessings.

  6. I’d go with the lonely cowboy. My thought would be that I’d need to take him home and, you know, cheer him up, so…SALE! Guys in cowboy hats are hot, and I’d like to imagine myself as the heroine–don’t need some other hussy cloggin’ up my cover! Can’t wait to see i!

  7. I’m going to be publishing my first book soon and I’ve been struggling with covers as well. I am writing contemporary romance set in Montana but I’m not a fan of shirtless cowboys on covers. I’ve come to the conclusion that something that’s evocative of the romance but not explicit will work for me. So, yes, I think a lone cowboy on an appropriate background works.

    1. Lynda Jo, Lots of cover of half-naked guys are available. Most of my stories are sweet so I just bypass those and review the few ones with fully clothed models. Although my cover artist told me she could take one of the images where the guy’s shirt is unbuttoned and extend the shirt to cover his body. Interesting trick, but I haven’t done that yet. Thanks for commenting.

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