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Dirty Snow

The author says:

Dirty Snow is a contemporary erotic romance retelling of Snow White set in a made-up Kingdom. Target readers would be those who enjoy the stories of Madison Kaye and Nikki Sloane.

Nathan says:

It’s a good cover, but I don’t think it would appeal to what you say is your target audience.  I couldn’t find Madison Kaye on Amazon (probably some funky variant spelling), but this is what came up for Nikki Sloane:

…which is pretty much what I think of when I hear “erotic romance”: people gettin’ it on. And yes, a couple of the covers crop out most of all of the face to concentrate on the bodies.

If you search “erotic romance fantasy” on Amazon, the covers are a little different: most of them concentrate on male torsos, not female figures (and yes, almost all of the men’s heads are cut off).  They also go bolder on the colors — bolder than your misty pastels, and the direct opposite of the monochrome images on Sloane’s covers.

So my takeaway here is: If I were to design the cover of an erotic fantasy romance that appeals to Nikki Sloane readers, I would use an image of a couple in an intimate position, but use deep, engaging colors.

Other comments?


  1. I agree. It’s a cover with a lot of potential, and you’ve done You’ve put together a nice cover that with a bit of tweaking could become very good – but I’m not sure it’s the cover to THIS novel.

    There’s no real hint at romance, much less erotic romance.

    That genre of books really always goes in one of thress directions: muscly male torso (as Nathan says); good looking couple getting it on; moodily lit ‘sexy’ objects (i.e. the 50 Shades knock off covers).

  2. This cover has a great sensuality to it. If the book could catch on and gain traction, perhaps it could lead the current cover trend of the genre into a new direction. Or maybe even create a new sub-genre.

  3. It’s a great-looking cover though I’m not 100% certain that a casual reader would immediately understand the subject and nature of the book.

    You might want to fiddle with the type placement a tad. The upper end of the S looks like it is crawling out of her decolletage while the D seems to be crowding the figure (she almost appears to be holding her arm out of the way of it). Either make the letter definitely overlap these lines or increase the space between them.

  4. Hmmm…I agree. Lovely cover, but I suspect that nobody would figure out that it’s erotic romance. I think that people would buy it, thinking it’s “regular” romance, and they’d be very surprised.

    You could possibly nuke the fantasy castle, and put the ubiquitous male hot bod there. Put in the usual steaming guy, with his top-button unbuttoned, in the mist, and that would work. That way, you wouldn’t have to sacrifice the cover. (Or, if her lover is a woman, the usual sexy babe. If it’s a threesome, not sure.)

    I’m a bit ambivalent about the font. As Ron noted, it’s unfortunately placed, but my concern is whether or not it’s right for the genre. I think that most of the top-selling books are using a tall, condensed sans serif. Not the foofier fonts–I believe that most of those are used on actual romances, chicklit, etc. As I don’t read or follow either, I admit, I could be 100% wrong on that. The Tallish/Condensed Sans Serif fonts are a bit popular right now, of course; but I guess I can see that realistically, you can’t come up with a “sexy” font, not without it looking absurd.

    If it were my book, I’d consider keeping the font color–assuming that you stick with this color palate–and switch it up to a more appropriate font.

    I really love the model, that image. That’s really great. If you decide to throw this over and start anew, I hope you keep her and find a home for her on a different cover. She is simply stunning, everything about the image. I can see why you snagged her. 🙂

    I don’t think much of what I said helps–but I hope so. Your artistic vision is really strong, so I hope we get to see the final cover.

  5. To be sure, I am seeing the general genre here: gal displaying copious cleavage = sexy book. The distinction some of my fellow critics draw between “romance” and “erotica” is (for better or for worse) rather murky, and always has been; consider (for just one example) the cover to the 1985 book Tender Is The Storm, which is ostensibly a “romance” novel. While people who’ve actually read it insist that nothing quite so kinky as what seems to be happening on the cover ever takes place in the story itself, I think just about anybody you ask these days would say that’s quite unambiguously an erotica novel cover.

    The main problem I see here, as with many well-drawn-but-vague covers we’ve had come through this site, is that it’s all just so generic. “Erotica” or at least “sexy book” I’m getting, but nothing on this cover (even the title, which could just mean “Sex in the snow when it’s twenty below!”) suggests it’s specifically Snow White erotica. Even her dress suggests nothing more than the setting being during the Renaissance or maybe earlier; the Disney-esque castle that looks like it might be from Sleeping Beauty is only barely visible in thumbnail, and still an awfully vague indicator of the setting up close.

    Speaking of Disney, your trying to base this story on Snow White in particular has put you on the horns of a dilemma: the one image that would immediately bring that particular story to mind for the vast majority of your target audience (especially here in America) is, in fact, Disney’s version of the girl. While Disney probably wouldn’t bother to give you any legal grief for showing a naughty-looking live-action cosplay of her on your cover under America’s fair-use laws (any more than it has the out-and-out porn sites that have used her likeness in many a disgusting porno “parody” scenario), your target audience probably won’t appreciate your associating such a fondly-remembered bit of their childhood with (essentially) soft-core porn. Yet if you don’t use the Disney-fied version, just as you haven’t here, you’ll have major trouble getting any of your target audience to recognize her. Decisions, decisions…

    Of course, considering that the Disney version of Snow White looked to be about twelve and severely underdeveloped even for a girl that age (with a chest as flat as a board), you’re probably right to try to steer clear of having your version look anything like her. About the only other aspect of the original story that might clue your readers to this being about Snow White in particular, methinks, is those “seven little men” (the Grimm version didn’t specifically call them “dwarfs” although one could certainly interpret them to be such) with whom she resides most of the time in all versions of the story. Even if they aren’t actually going to be participating in any of the, eh… less-than-family-friendly activities in this story, I think you may have to squeeze those seven little guys onto your cover somewhere to clarify what makes your story distinct from just any book about a gal in antique clothes displaying copious cleavage.

    Of course, even then, naughty “reinventions” of classic fairy tales aren’t all that original; didn’t Alan Moore do something like that with his graphic novel Lost Girls? I strongly doubt you’re the first one ever to notice how like a setup for a really ribald tale the whole original Snow White story is: beautiful and innocent maiden driven from her home by an experienced older rival’s intense jealousy of her (let’s face it) sex appeal takes up cohabiting with seven guys who probably haven’t had any female company for years? (This is even before Prince Charming shows up to infuse the story with all kinds of dubious implications about somnophilia and even necrophilia.) It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to guess which direction(s) any writer with a sufficiently sleazy mind might take this story next.

    Basically, if you want to sell your readers on this story, your cover is going to have to give them some idea what makes your story so much better than a lot of others like it. It needs to say “definitely a sexy reinvention of the classic Snow White story, but better written than anything some two-bit hack on Smashwords might crank out and it won’t defile your childhood by making you think of the Disney version!” Sad to say, I can’t offer you much more in the way of specific advice on how to give that impression than I already have; you’ve definitely got your work cut out for you.

    1. Yes, RK:

      You reminded me of something I’d wanted to say, in my comments: I don’t think one person in 100 will “get” Snow White with reddish hair and blonde highlights. We all know the story, right? Skin as white as alabaster, lips as red as a rose, and hair as black as the proverbial raven’s wing. Whether someone only saw the Disney version, or read the Grimm story (that was my first exposure to Snow White), you know the coloration of Snow White, coming and going.

      (In the Grimm Story, SW’s mother is sitting by the window, wishing for a baby–a daughter. She actually wishes for “a daughter that had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony.”)

      So, again, while I think the image is striking–in a zillion years, I would never look at that and think, “oh, yeah, hey, it’s Snow White who’s having a fling!”

      Offered FWIW.

      1. Yes, that’s another point: in all versions (though the exact wording in the poetic similes varies from one to the next), Snow White is basically what the Japanese call a “Gothic Lolita” with her raven hair and pale flesh and blood-red lips. Fun fact: even the Brothers Grimm insisted on sanitizing a few plot points of this story, swapping in the wicked stepmother for Snow White’s real mother (the original villain in the story as it came to them) and scrubbing out any mention of the protagonist’s age (seven years old when her mother tried to kill her for having a beauty surpassing the mother’s own in one of the earliest versions). One of those pre-Grimm versions also casually mentions that after her mother’s poisoned apple put her in a death-like coma and the seven little men sealed her away in her coffin of transparent crystal, little Snow White spent the next seven years of her life continuing to mature physically nonetheless, with the coffin somehow growing in proportion to accommodate her… which would make her a fourteen-year-old with the mind of a seven-year-old when Prince Charming came along to wake her up after developing a powerful desire to have her for himself upon beholding the ravishing beauty of her unconscious form.

        Yeah… this story’s potential for perverse implications seems very nearly limitless, doesn’t it?

        1. All Fairy Tales have near-limitless perverse implications. Remember the Snow Queen? And little Kai? The Sorceress (in that tale) and Gerda? There are always dark permutations, in fairy tales, and virtually all of them were far, far darker before they came to the western world of the 18th->21st Centuries. We’re fortunate that the records exist, so that we know that originally, the Snow White Child Bride (in both senses) ever existed. To be fair, of course, a 14y.o. was well marriageable. when the tale was created. Nothing creepy about that part, then. Now? Obviously, very different. And of course, the 7-y.o. mind? That was creepy then, and now.

          (Although I always sigh when I think how Snow was taken in for housework, no matter the age. And yes, there’s no end of possible ribaldry with 7 grown, albeit height-challenged, men.)

          Back to Snow’s coloring: whatever she was, age-wise, etc. she wasn’t Strawberry Blonde, or presumably, that’s what her name would be. I realize that most readers of erotica aren’t seeking historically accurate references to literature, but if “Dirty Snow” is supposed to instantly invoke Snow White, I don’t think it’s working.

          Confession: somehow, I’d missed that, when I came to, and looked at the cover. I didn’t see the comment about it being SW. And not ONCE did that come to mind, not with the castle, nothing. I didn’t know it until I’d read the comments. QED. I’m into Fairy Tales, and I didn’t get it or see it. Honestly, I kinda thought that the structure in the background was some fantasy palace, like a daydream, not a clue to her identity. Now, maybe I’m just dumb. But, I doubt I’m that atypical. (Maybe a different title name? To make it clear that she’s Snow White? Man, that’s kinda pushing a chain up a hill, isn’t it?)

          1. Indeed, neither the title nor the castle are going to carry this cover where it needs to go. Again, the title only vaguely suggests something about sex and snow, while the castle only brings to mind old animated Disney features in general (and Sleeping Beauty in particular, since that’s the one that had so many of those stylized unrealistically tall medieval spires on its castles). The gal herself, with the relatively short red hair and well-tanned skin and (somewhat anachronistic) reddish-brown lipstick is… just a gal; reasonably attractive, but not really what comes to mind when reading about a beautiful princess in any old fairy tales, let alone Snow White in particular.

            Any way we look at it, this cover’s definitely failed the “foreign language title” test, since we didn’t immediately pick up on its being based on Snow White’s fairy tale even with the title. Maybe retitling it Snow Not-So-White would help, but even that’s not going to carry the cover. Whatever else goes on the cover, the gal on it needs to have really white skin (possibly to the point of looking like an albino) with really black hair and really red lips; on that much, all versions of the story from that day to this agree.

            As to anything else, the only other distinctive element in all versions of the Snow White stories is those seven short guys, so they need to be on the cover in some capacity. Considering that this book presumably contains some–shall we say–“bedroom activities” with either those little men or Prince Charming (or maybe even both, depending on how naughty this version of the story gets), showing Snow White in bed in some seductive pose might also help maintain the “this is a sexy book” aspect the cover is trying to convey. Don’t all versions of the story have just such a scene, in which the seven little men first discover Snow White when they arrive home from work to find her sleeping in their bed(s)?

            With a little imagination, it’s not hard to imagine how that scene could be made into a cover image for this book. Give the Snow White model a skimpy negligee or maybe just have her completely naked with the bedsheets pulled up to conceal her naughtiest parts, and have her giving somebody (maybe Prince Charming or one of those seven little fellows or maybe us here beyond the fourth wall) a classic seductive “come-hither” look. The seven little men, for their part, can be gathered around and looking at her with either mildly embarrassed astonishment or obvious animalistic desire depending on what role they play in the story.

            If you go this route, you can have the room itself furnished in a manner suggesting the story’s medieval or Renaissance setting, it gives you a steamy bedroom scene to indicate the genre, and the seven “dwarves” (or little men) help establish this as some version of the classic Snow White fairy tale. Slap some kind of fairy-tale font (or maybe one of those contemporary sans-serif fonts you see Nikki Sloane using on her covers up there) on it for the title and byline, and you have a pretty good working draft for a cover, yes?

            1. Yes–you know, it’s funny (or perhaps, merely obvious), but the 7 wee men (hobbits? Dwarves? Little People?) gathered around the bed, with the Come-hither Snow White, was certainly readily available on the surface of my noggin.

              Or heck, even a somewhat befuddled, sleep-encrusted Snow, with the usual honking bosoms, with the sheet artistically falling off of one, showing her naked flanks, etc., with the 7 wee men gathered ’round…all of those ideas are pretty obvious and more importantly, instantly identifiable. That’s the thing. That would then pass the Ron Miller Language test, whether in Korean or Ethiopian or whatever. Everybody would recognize Snow White and her Seven Dwarves.

              If it’s fetishistic, an array of devices (whips, chains, collars) could be arrayed on the covers of the bed. That’s a little more detailed than I normally like, but..(or a spiked collar on Snow herself, mayhaps?)

              I suppose…No. I was going to say, if the castle disappeared, and some sort of erotic hanging device were pictured in the mists, that might work, but you still have the “ain’t Snow White” problem. I don’t see any way around the hair/skin/lips issue, I really don’t.

  6. What everyone else said. It’s nice and very professionally done (except for a little artifact on the very right edge), but erotica is the ultimate niche audience where you want to be dead certain that you’re appealing to that exact group of people. Yeah, that dress is sexy, but we really want people in poses that make it clear There Is Sex In This Book.

  7. Belated join in – somewhere higher up, someone said that the dress had a hint of renaissance. Not to me. Looks 1950s to me. To me the figure is more resonant of a modern day Marilyn Monroe, or Madonna in her Marilyn phase. The other thing is, she doesn’t look that young. Her face has a certain sophistication, as does the hair patting gesture, that makes her look more late 20s to me. Nothing wrong with late 20s, but unless this is what Snow did next, seems a bit mature.

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