Friday, April 22

Confessions of a Cover Model

Since April is my "peep show" month,
here is a peek at Scott Nova.
You can look, but don't touch :-)
This month, the Indiana RWA Chapter hosted cover model Scott Nova to join us for a presentation about all things cover model. My blog title is rather misleading, because Scott is far too much of a gentleman to dish any dirt. However, his presentation brought to light information that I was either too naïve to realize or too new to the industry to understand. It was also a poignant spotlight on some common themes that serve as either contrasts or parallels between the writing and the cover model industries.

So, I’m sharing what I learned, in case the information could benefit others. Note: For convenience, I’m using the male pronoun for cover models, although I know the industry includes both genders.
Taste is a fickle thing. Trends in books wax and wane. Similarly, what’s “hot” in covers also changes. Think Fabio. Think headless bare male chests. Think inanimate objects in a monotone color scheme which shall not be named. A cover model can’t just wiggle his nose and change his body type. When the muse becomes muscle-bound and heavily-tattooed, a more "David-esque" model with no tattoos cannot bulk and ink up overnight to accommodate. And Photoshop only does so much magic. Like many of us who choose to stay our course in spite of trends, a cover model must also ride those tides.

Cover models have “sell-by-dates.” Whereas many romance writers (at least the ones I know) came into their muse a little later in life, cover modeling is a younger-man’s business. Their career is limited by their looks. And, unless Nan quits her day-job and starts pumping out Baby Boomer romance novels to help support the careers of aging cover models, they need to have something else on the horizon. The smart ones understand this and look to broaden the scope of what they can offer.
Ain’t nobody gettin’ rich. Okay, many writers enjoy full-time careers and some even flourish. But most of us spend more than we recoup. Same goes for cover models; just because he plays a billionaire on a cover doesn’t mean he is one. However, where writers focus on selling bazillions of books for a nominal price (and when that doesn’t work, we simply write more), cover models have to carefully balance price with quantity. A cover model wants to be popular, but not “everywhere.” When you see him coming and going, suddenly no one wants to see him at all, and he can’t compensate by simply producing more. Perhaps there is just a glut of mediocre talent out there (and I’m talking both models and writers), but there is a lot of suffering for the sake of our art going on by everyone.

We ain’t doing this for charity. I have read lots of blogs and articles lamenting how hard we writers work for the few coins we receive. How we shouldn’t be expected to give away our art unless it’s a calculated marketing move. How people willingly drop a ten-spot for a Starbuck’s Mocha yet complain about a few bills for a book. These claw at us, and rightfully so, because we are ultimately in this to make money. Does my ego want to see my book on a bestseller’s list? Yes… because that means my book is selling! Well, all the same goes for cover models. When Scott Nova said some authors have asked him to work for free, I nearly exploded! I know we all have tight budgets, but for a writer to ask for freebies, when they would freak if someone had the audacity to ask for the same from them, blows my mind. Refer to Kristi’s earlier blog about a book taking a village… well, that village should get paid, and that includes our cover models!

Uhhh, equally cheesy, but certainly not as good!
It's not as easy as it looks. How many times has someone said to you, "I've always wanted to write a book"? I hope you encouraged them to pursue that dream... if only so they can realize just how freaking difficult it is to do! Even for those who do it well, writing a book is soooo much more than simply putting complete sentences together for 300 pages. Same goes for being a cover model. While some people think any guy with a bare chest and a selfie stick can do it, there is more to the craft than just semi-nudity and pouty lips. It is a skill--a gift--honed by experience and attention to detail.
Women can be real pigs. I admit, I joke about bringing my single bills to tuck whenever we have a fireman/EMT/officer/cover model presenter at our meetings (I never said I was classy). And I’ve seen enough Chippendale’s performances/Magic Mike movies to know just how rabid women can be around fit, shirtless, hip-gyrating men. It’s a license to lose our self-restraint and objectify men in the exact manner we would decry should it be reversed. Ladies, the model might be wrapped sensuously around a woman on a book cover, but that doesn’t mean he wants to do that to every woman who comes his way. I’m sure models expect to be treated as man-meat at signings and events, but let’s keep a little of our decorum and treat them as professionals, because that is exactly what they are. Fondle my book covers all you want, but hands-off the model himself, please J

Okay, those were my take-aways from Scott's fabulous presentation, and I'm now fascinated with the aspect of the publishing industry. Any thoughts or personal experiences you'd like to share? I'd love to hear!


  1. How interesting! Thanks for sharing, Ava. Cover models intrigue me ... I may have to track a few down to ask more questions...

  2. Scott is exceedingly nice and helpful. And awesome with supporting/promoting those writers who use him on their covers (or for voice-overs, etc.). Can't say enough nice things about him!

  3. I've been watching the video from the meeting. It is very interesting. So happy those videos are available to us. Thanks for that and your insight.

    1. Glad to hear you're enjoying the videos (in spite of my stellar audio-visual skills :-)

  4. Saw Scott a few times at RT but both of us were on the move and I didn't stop for a chat.

    1. LOTS of authors were posting pics with him on FB that week!

  5. A great post. Interesting! Since I prefer covers with things like trees and barns on them , I hardly even think about models. I hate to hear of anyone being asked to work for free, though--that just sucks.