Don’t Call It a Comeback (Stepback Covers Have Been Here For Years)
Conversations about romance covers always draw strong opinions. Are they a source of cringe or are they a form of art? What about stepbacks?
These striking covers that are attached to a singular page of artwork have been popular in the genre for over 35 years. One reason for that is due to discretion. With stepbacks, you can have your clinch and eat it, too.
Almost half of romance readers say they feel uncomfortable when seen reading a book with a “sexually explicit” image on it. Many outright dislike the provocative covers, feeling they lessen the perceived value of the genre. Even so, there as just as many readers who admire the vividly painted images.
Enter the stepback. The respectable-looking outer portion of the cover hides the more “lurid” illustration beneath. This enables one to read a romance in public without any self-consciousness.
We love the stepback at Sweet Savage Flame, but we also have zero shame about the over-the-top aspects of romance. Clinches featuring half-naked men and women are our jam!
Fabio and the Stepback Cover
It is interesting to note cover model Fabio and the stepback cover both came to prominence around the same time (mid-to-late 1980s). I have a “Fabio-penned” book, Rogue, that features a pull-out poster of the supermodel himself. And yes, that counts as a stepback!
Stepbacks have been used in many genres, even literary fiction. However, it’s the bestselling pulpy paperbacks such as horror, science fiction, action-adventure, historical fiction, and romance that genuinely embraced this cover design.
In romance, for a writer to get a stepback cover for their book is a sign of elite status. It shows publishers consider their books to be highly marketable. Companies invest more for a cover design that disguises the fun, romantic artwork. This pleases many readers and authors alike.
With stepback covers, artists would be able to experiment with their paintings in ways never seen before. Plus, the era of the romance super cover model would be ushered in through the popularity of the stepback.
Originally this very long article Stepbacks Are Back! was released as a unified whole. We’ve now broken it up into seven parts for easy loading since it’s pretty image-and-content-heavy.
Tomorrow, we’ll re-post a revised page of Stepback Covers Part II: The History of the Stepback as its own article.
Where do you stand on romance cover art? Do you like stepback covers? Do you prefer them to regular clinches? Are you more drawn to the modern cartoon-illustration style that’s being used today? Or does cover art not concern you that much thanks to e-readers?
Whatever is on your mind, we’d love to hear what you think. Please drop a comment, and let’s talk romance.