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HMB Book Covers & Some Editing
Friday, June 16, 2006
Why is that the American versions of HMB romances always have better covers than the UK versions? Does Harlequin have some kind of rule that says our covers have to be crappy compared to those in the US? Because it sure as hell seems that way!

Just look at this one:

That's the UK cover of Liz Fielding's book "The Marriage Miracle". In this book, the heroine is confined to a wheelchair. Does it then stand to reason that she'd be standing nice and straight at the altar?

Now take a look at this one:

That’s the same book but in the US cover. Better? Yes, I'd definitely say so. Some have said it looks as if the hero's wading through water but I don't think so. To me it looks as if he's wading through a meadow of bluebells or some similar kind of flower. Or it could just be the way the late evening light's playing on the grass. Whatever the answer is, it's still much better than the UK version.

This is just one example but the same goes for so many HMB romances.

I really think a lot's lost because of the covers. Very rarely am I attracted to one; mostly I buy a HMB because of the author's name, which must make it difficult for newcomers if others do the same thing. And why should it be so difficult for the powers that be at HMB to find pictures that actually match the characters in the story? If I had a pound for every time I've read one about a blonde heroine who's depicted as a red head or brunette, or a dark hero who's depicted as a blonde, etc., then I'd have enough money now to take my family out for a very nice slap up meal.

Oh well... I don't suppose for one moment my rant's going to make a blind bit of difference, but it feels better to have got it off my chest.

Moving on, I came across an interesting blog post earlier today. It's about 'Weedy/Hedging Words and Negatives' and makes for some thought provoking reading. It certainly got me thinking about my own editing, anyway. Mind you, there are never any hard and fast rules. Take, for example, the part about negatives. The author, Jennifer, says that of the two following sentences:

The cave was dark.
The cave was not light.

The first reads better. Well, that's true, BUT there are times when you'd want to use the second alternative. Well, I would anyway. I might write:

He poked around inside the cave which, although not dark, certainly wasn't light. Similar, he imagined, to what he'd see if he looked through a pair of ladies grey tights. Not that he'd ever done that. And if he had, he doubted it would have been in a cave.

I think it depends on what kind of pace you're looking for, who your target audience is and the genre. And being able to feel whether something sounds right or not. Perhaps that's where the skill of writing comes into things. Why some will make it as authors and others won't. Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not saying that was a brilliant example. It was straight off the top of my head and I'll probably look at it tomorrow and wish I could curl up and hide away from blogland for a bit, but it's there now and it's only supposed to be a quick example.

Another excellent article about editing can be found on Melly's blog. The post's called Hash, Slash and Tighten - Taking A Machete to my Writing. What a great title!

One thing Melly mentions is repetitiveness of words. That's really one of my pet hates when reading and a problem far too many authors appear to have. In fact, there's one HMB author (no names mentioned and don't even think about asking) that almost drove me to distraction by repeatedly using the same phrase throughout a story when so many other alternatives were available. That kind of thing really makes me wonder where the hell the editors are and whether they're actually doing their jobs! I mean, shouldn't they also pick up on that kind of thing? Not that I'm excusing authors and laying the responsibility at the doorsteps of editors, but surely it's a joint thing? Or am I completely off track?

Anyway, if anybody's worried about word repetitiveness, there's a handy tool called a Word Frequency Indexer that will tell you exactly how many times each word appears in your manuscript. It's dead simple to use and the results, when I put Leo & Sherry's story through it, were surprising. Not because I'd been repetitive, but because the word LOVE only appeared six times in 52,000 or so words! And that in a romance!


Technorati Tags: Mills and Boon, Romantic Novels, Editing, Writing Tips
Posted by Sharon J on 11:58 PM   

Blogger Vivienne King said...

Love your site! And how cool to see the covers to the same book pubbed in two different countries. Amazing that the heroine is confined to a wheelchair and yet they have her standing. I suppose she was being held up by a pack of mice or something. LOL.

Well whatever. Just dropped by to say hi. :D

7:01 AM   

Blogger Minx said...

Sorry forgot to congrats to completion yesterday. I usually feel utterly miserable for a few days afterwards, as if someone has chopped off a limb!

The cover thing stinks, someone should campaign but I don't think either are that brilliant. Surely someone could come up with something a little more stylish!
I would be gutted if my work was sandwiched between such a bland cover!

11:08 AM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

Vivienne. Mice? Now that's a possibility I hadn't thought of :) Nice of you to drop by, anyway.

Minx. I know, the covers really are the pits, aren't they? I think most HMB authors agree on that, but the powers that be just aren't listening. I suppose is everybody refused to write for them until they did something about the covers, they might listen, but that kind of solidarity is never going to happen.

When I eventually twist their arms enough to have them publish one of my stories, I just hope the cover's reasonably acceptable (can't hope for too much). If it's totally twattish, I shall cry.

1:11 PM   

Blogger Eva said...

No more purple covers! What a thrill it was to return to Canada to discover that Harlequin books, particularly historicals, look pretty much like every other romance novel! I agree, I don't know what Mills & Boon is thinking.

Thanks for the editing tips, Sharon!

6:21 PM   

Anonymous Sharon J said...

Lucky you, Eva. I only have one historical here and yes, it's purple! Are they afraid people won't find them in the shop if they don't all have similar covers? Surely that's underestimating the British public? I mean, I'm perfectly capable of finding a decent horror story, murder mystery, [fill in the blank], so why not a category romance? I don't know what's worse - the covers or the titles.

Fingers crossed that whoever gets published first gets a title that includes the words 'virgin', 'mistress' and 'secret'. "His Secret Virgin Mistress"? I wouldn't put it past them!

8:00 PM   

Blogger Vivienne King said...

HAHAHAHAHA! I love it, the perfect cliched title. ;)

4:31 AM   

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