It’s cute! It’s quirky! Welcome to extreme-closeup cover art!
Sometimes you only get the eyes, and sometimes only the nose, cheekbones, and lips. Sometimes it’s a profile, or only one eye, or a comfy, cozy mug held up to obscure the lower half of the face.
In a quest for visual variety, cover artists keep this particular style around for those cute, off-beat romantic comedies where the heroine is your average quirky it-girl. Expect awkward moments and hijinks aplenty during your reading adventures.
If the cover model is smiling, that is.
A serious expression might be cue for a different genre altogether.
This style of cover can be extremely effective outside the romance genre. For a thriller or mystery it creates intrigue; in sci-fi or fantasy, it can spark the imagination; for memoirs, it invokes honesty and frankness. The trick is not so much in the closeup as it is in the details revealed.
Fine-line wrinkles? Bloodshot eyes? Fangs? Scales? Yellow irises? Stark, blue veins?
It’s amazing the ambiance that such simple elements can produce in the mind of an inquisitive reader.
Even for romance, it doesn’t have to be cute.
Add a second model in that extreme closeup, and you establish intimacy, tension, or a dozen other possible relationship cues.
And, typically, you make me really uncomfortable. I don’t like stumbling across other people getting that close to one another, even if it is only in a picture. Movies at least give you the buildup to that moment (one hopes), but cover art is like “BAM! Two people on the verge of making out! Guess how this book ends!”
Go on. Guess.
Reader expectations are paramount, tho.
I get that readers go into books with a particular set of expectations firmly in place. I love a happy ending as much as anyone else. But when you’ve got a massive relationship spoiler indicated on the book’s cover, I kind of lose any incentive I might have had to read the book.
But, each to their own. Some people like spoilers. Others read the last page of the book first to make sure it ends right. Some even like that giggly, intimate couple on the cover, two characters so absorbed in one another that they’ll never realize there’s a third voyeuristic party staring at them from beyond the fourth wall.
Sometimes I like to imagine the camera panning back to take in the surrounding scenery: a beach somewhere, maybe, with these two makey-outy people all wrapped up in one another while a mother shields her innocent child’s eyes and a creepy old man leers and a cute dog cocks its head to one side in utter confusion.
But I’m cynical like that.
The extreme closeup captures a glimpse of honest emotion, a candid moment, an intimate atmosphere. It invites the reader, “Come. Discover the secrets within my pages.”
Whether you accept that invitation is up to you.
(Guess that makes me the wary “stranger-danger” type, eh?)