Friday, June 11, 2010

A Beginnger's Guide to Paranormal Covers

This week I decided to do a paranormal romance book display in the window of Otter Creek Used Books. Since it's a relatively new sub genre, paranormal romance has been shelved in Fantasy and Romance, so for the window display I had to comb through the store looking for anything that would fit the bill.

Sound impossible? It was actually a lot easier than I thought. It seems that there's some unspoken agreement between publishers to design paranormal covers in a very limited color wheel involving black, white, blue, and purple.

So for the novice, here's a tongue-in-cheek, somewhat accurate, easy way to pick them out on the shelves:

1. Vampire Paranormal: It should hardly come as a surprise to learn that most vampire books involve a lot of black (because vamps are, like, dark-hearted and can only come out when it's dark outside) and red (blood! They drink it!).

2. Werewolf Paranormal: I've noticed that a lot of werewolf covers are blue. Maybe it's because of the emphasis on the night sky, full moon, and whatnot. Of course if there's a wolf in the foreground and a beefy guy's bedroom eyes overlaid over a full moon in the background, that's also a dead giveaway.Please note the continued use of red as an accent color (blood! Werewolves want it, too!).

3. Faerie Paranormal: As if to emphasize the more feminine, sparkly, glittery aspect of faeries, these covers tend to be purple. And pretty.

4. Young Adult Paranormal: Paranormal targeted at young adults often features a closeup of a beautiful, pale teen girl, or a part of her anatomy. I think it's safe to say that Twilight kicked off this trend with its closeup of a girl's hands (see above). The emphasis on female anatomy and extremely white skin frankly weirds me out. Just saying.

All The Rest: Yes, there's also paranormal books involving witches and angels. When in doubt, look for a bad ass woman on the cover dressed in tight black leather/ corset/knee-high boots, her hip jutting out and her hair flowing.


  1. Sometimes I go to the movies with a friend, and the day invariably ends with a trip through the bookstore. We began an impromptu game of pointing out all the urban fantasy/paranormal books on the scfi/fantasy shelf. Additionally, if there is a woman with a tramp stamp (is there a less offenisve name for that?), is standing and looking over her shoulder, or is baring her navel to the world. I find the ones with men on the covers are either male protags or much more heavily romance than fantasy.

    I have to say though, I am okay with the dark colors if, like Seanan McGuire's, the female lead is covered up. I've seen too many where the cover lady is wering a corset, thin tank top, or mini dresses with heels (how do you run from whatever wants you dead in heels?!).

    Also, seeing your Twitter feed on the right: it's great you found a fellow writer in the same building. It really helps me sometimes to write with someone else (not writing prompts, just in the same room, working on our own stuff). All of my writer friends live in town though, half hour drive or an hour or more on the bus. :(

  2. I agree with you about the covers. I don't mind the colors--I do find them humorous but they also make urban fantasy/paranormal easy to identify. What I do mind are the women in sexy clothes who, like you said, are not equipped to run from a small child, let alone a demon.

    Seanan McGuire's cover for Rosemary and Rue (see post) is much better. The girl looks basass in a believable, tough, yet still feminine way.

    Yeah, it's great having someone in town who writes--and writes about the fae, too! Having writing friends is so important. Sorry yours are a bit far away : (

  3. Rosemary and Rue is also nice in that the blue and orange contrast is striking, but definitely because Toby (the MC on the cover) is and looks badass.

    I'm not so happy that Charlaine Harris' books received new covers, much more typical vamp/paranormal romance in terms of coloring and style. The illustrated covers seem much more memorable.