Tag Archives: bookshelves


Stepback Covers Part II: The History of the Stepback


The Stepback’s History: The “Tip-In

The history of stepback covers goes back to the early/ mid-20th century. Stepback covers are also known as “tip-ins.” That is what industry types called the inserted page(s) originally added after the binding of a book.

Tip-ins can be placed anywhere among the pages. They could be placed inside the front cover or before the back. These inserts were usually glued in. The paper is usually of different stock and texture than the rest of the pages.

“Tip-ins” were used first in hardbacks. These pages were for special additions such as the author’s autograph, offset prints, photographic images, maps, etc.

duel in the sun
Example of a “tip-in” Duel In the Sun, Niven Busch, World Publishing Co, 1944
duel in the sun
Another example of a “tip-in” Duel the Sun, Niven Busch, World Publishing Co, 1944
duel in the sun
Yet another example of a “tip-in” Duel In the Sun, Niven Busch, World Publishing Co, 1944
(See how the page is glued in, not bound?)
duel in the sun
Example of a first regular bound page after the “tip-ins”

Early 1970s Stepback for The Terminal Man

In the early 1970s, these covers were popular in pulpy genres like science fiction and horror.

I have yet to determine what the first mass-market paperback published with a stepback cover is. Fortunately, I have come upon an early example. Surprisingly it’s one book, Michael Chrichton’s The Terminal Man, but with two versions, both with keyhole designs.

Special thanks to @arkhamlibrarian on Twitter for these images. If you’re even the slightest bit of a bibliophile, I highly recommend following her account.

The American paperback version is simple, revealing the only artwork on the page, a floating head connected to wires. When opened, there is no illustration, just the blurb.

And here is the British Corgi edition of The Terminal Man:

terminal man corgi

Front cover and interior page of The Terminal Man, Michael Crichton, Corgi, 1974, artist unknown

Lou Feck and the Stepback Cover

1976 would see several stepback covers in various genres with artwork created by talented artist Lou Feck.

First, it was the cover for the Bantam published Burt Hirschfeld potboiler, Aspen. Feck created a tawdry clinch on the front. Inside was a sketch showing an assortment of faces. The image stretched from the edge of the cover to the end of the attached page.

aspen lou feck
aspen stepback

Aspen, Burt Hirshfeld, Bantam, 1976, Lou Feck cover art

Then later that year, Warner Books‘ paperback reprint of Thea Alexander’s “macro-philosophy bestseller” 2150 included a die-cut keyhole cover showing the faces of a man and woman. It reveals a head floating in an outer-space background and a couple who look right out of Logan’s Run when opened.

2150, Thea Alexander, Warner Books, 1976 reprint (1971 orig. pub), Lou Feck cover art

Pocket Books and the Stepback Cover

In 1977 Pocket Books created a stepback with a design similar to what Warner had used for 2150. It, too, had an inner page of artwork and an exterior with a die-cut/keyhole opening. This famous cover was for the bestselling Young Adult/Gothic Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews. This style became so successful for the publisher and the author that the term “keyhole stepback cover” is now synonymous with Pocket Books and V.C. Andrews.

Staring through a red-shuttered window was the face of the heroine, Cathy Dollanganger. When you opened the cover, it revealed an image of Cathy and her haunted-looking family with their creepy-looking old grandmother looming above them. The artist is Gillian Hills.

The History of the Stepback in Romance Novels

Kathleen E. WoodiwissShanna was an exception to the lack of stepbacks in 1970s romance–sort of. This hefty romance had a map insert that you could unfold that showed the Caribbean island of Los Camellos. The fictional island was where Shanna’s family had their plantation. I’m unsure if the original 1977 mass-market edition contained this map or not. My Avon seventh-printing edition (circa 1989) does include it, so I don’t see why not.

Shanna, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Avon, 1977, H. Tom Hall cover art
Shanna, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Avon, 1977, book designer Deborah Speed

However, as nice as the map is to look at, it doesn’t count as artwork. The history of the stepback in romance begins not with Avon but with another publisher.

Your Opinion?

The 1970s expansion of the stepback into genre fiction was simply the beginning. Which paperback romance novel was the first to employ a stepback cover? We’ll let you know in the following 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.


How To Organize Your Bookshelves

books in black wooden book shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Your Personal Library

We’ve talked about posting books on Instagram and becoming a #bookstagrammer. What happens when you build up a substantial library? You’ll want to show off your reading material.

We’ve got some ideas on how to organize your books and bookshelves in a few eye-catching ways.

Bibliophiles love their sorting their collections. Now that being bookish is all the rage, it’s natural to want to share images of books with friends and followers. But it’s possible to get too caught up in the aesthetics and ignore practicality.

Stop Rearranging Your Bookshelves

This past week I read a fascinating article from https://inews.co.uk/ on this topic.

I used to spend hours arranging my books until I realised it was a colossal waste of time and changed my ways.

Kasia Delgado wrote:

I support those who want to arrange their bookshelves in artful ways, but it can go too far. I had a dream before moving to a new flat this month in which I was arranging my shelf for so long that each book began disintegrating and I started to eat the pages. In the morning, I decided enough was enough and I vowed to change my ways… As I unpacked my moving boxes, I forced myself to put books on the shelves arbitrarily.


So while playing around with different looks is fun, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.

Also, don’t be afraid to cull your hoard. You can donate your books (in good condition, of course) to libraries, hospitals, thrift stores like Salvation Army & Savers, used bookstores, and charities.

Where I live, we have The Book Fairies, a program that donates books to schools and organizations in the Long Island/ New York City area.

arrnage books

There Are Many Ways to Arrange Your Books

There are a variety of ways to organize your books.

Alphabetize by any category you want. Set hardcovers separate from paperbacks. Organize by size, trade backs with trade backs and standard paperbacks together.

Books should provide comfort, so it’s essential to present them in a way that brings you peace. Choose whatever makes the most sense for your needs, whether decorative or practical.

By Author

One of the simplest methods of grouping your assortment of volumes is by author name.

If an author is on your automatic to-buy list, you’ll want to keep them all together!

Here are some historicals by Deana James–one of my favorite romance writers–stacked in a pile (a couple of them are in storage) for easy access.

Deana James
Deana James Books, Jacqueline’s Collection

Likewise, I’ve organized some of these paperback romances similarly. While this arrangement is more random, if you look closely, you’ll see I’ve sorted out my Lisa Kleypas romances into one section.

Other authors, like Day Taylor & Roberta Gellis, have their books organized near each other.

Romance Novels from Jacqueline’s Collection

Organize By Color

One of the hottest ways to exhibit your reads is by color. White shelving is another big thing. You can go all-white to match the bookcase for a minimalistic approach.

collection of books in bookshelves
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Of course, what’s the fun of arranging by color if you only choose one hue? Make a rainbow out of your library, and don’t worry about the rest. Give ROY G BIV a try and see if this is the right fit for you.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Subject Matter/ Dewey Decimal System

Channel your inner librarian by placing your books by subject matter.

I’ve amassed a little collection of volumes on Spanish/Hispanic history (Also pictured are a few books about pirates. Pirates raided Spanish ships, so there you go, that’s my reasoning for putting them together.)

These books would be filed under the 900 Class in the Dewey Decimal system for historical or geographical books. Remember the Dewey Decimal system? Remember using index card files to search for books?

arrange books by type
Jacqueline’s Books on Spanish/Hispanic History (and Pirates!)

Spine Facing Inward

Are the spines on your books too cracked? Don’t want viewers to know what dirty reads are on your shelf, like Taken by the T-Rex? (It’s an actual book. There’s a whole subgenre of dinosaur erotica out there! Billionaire dinosaurs, too!)

My inner aesthete and librarian both shudder at this popular trend. However, many appreciate the clean look of pages bound by their covers.

Add a plant or photo frame next to it, and you’re set with a contemporary look for your library.

bookcase with assorted books between tropical plants at home
Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com

By Publisher/Imprint

Do you have a particular publisher or imprint that you love? One way to organize your books is by line, series, or publisher.

I collect Harlequin Presents. I have about 1,000 of them, just one-quarter of how many are published.

To my eyes, the (typically) white covers make them a little bland-looking. So the black case makes them pop out.

arrange books by type
Jacqueline’s Collection of Harlequin Presents

Reaching up to the ceiling, placed on the tippy-top of one shelf, I’ve put my unread Zebra romances together. Next to them are ones published by Dorchester.

You can’t see it from here, but these are stacked vertically and are three deep. That’s nine stacks of roughly 13 books each, for a total of 117 books.

How do I get to them? Very carefully with a step stool. 😁

Jacqueline’s Shelf of Assorted Zebra and Dorchester Romances

Books Facing Outward

Want visitors to ooh and aah over your library? Place your books forward so you can show off your reading material! It makes for great conversation starters.

Plus, you get to enjoy looking at any gorgeous cover art that catches your eye, making for a very photogenic shelf.

assorted title books collection
Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.com


Books don’t have to be relegated to a home office or study. Put them in your living areas with home decorations, like plants and knick-knacks.

This makes for a cozy, casual look.

books on brown wooden shelf
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Random Stacking

When you have as many books as I do, anywhere is an excellent place to store your books.

As Kasia Delgado wrote in her article, if it gets too overwhelming or if you’re constantly rearranging your books, stop worrying about perfection. Just put them in random order and delight in the variety of your library.

There doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason to your organization. Stack some books vertically, with a few leaning against them. Add a little flair (in my case, I plastic plant as I have a brown thumb!), and voila! You’re all set.

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Random Books From Jacqueline’s Library

Now sit back, relax, grab a glass of wine or tea, and admire your books.

Then read one! In the end, that’s what they’re there for. Your enjoyment!