Shelf Love

Evolution of Romance Novel Cover Design

Short Description

How do romance novel covers reflect our time, reading habits, and identity?

Sarah Rutherford, romance reader and Associate Professor of Design at Cleveland State University discusses the evolution of cover design, from the clinch covers of the past to the contemporary trends of illustrated covers, and how these changes reflect wider shifts in aesthetics, market trends, technology, and how book covers are used to signify our own personal brands.


contemporary romance, genre discussions, historical romance

Show Notes

Guest: Sarah Rutherford, a romance reader and Associate Professor of Design at Cleveland State University

@sarahatschool on Instagram


  1. The evolution of romance novel covers from the 1980s to the contemporary post-digital age.
  2. The significant role of design elements such as typography, color, and imagery in conveying the genre and themes of romance novels.
  3. The impact of digital publishing on cover designs, including the preference for stock photography and simplified imagery.
  4. How cover designs serve as a branding tool for books and how they contribute to personal branding for readers and collectors.
  5. Sarah shares anecdotes about identifying and collecting romance novels based on their covers, highlighting the emotional and aesthetic appeal of cover art.




Andrea Martucci: Hello and welcome to Shelf Love, a podcast about romance novels and how they reflect, explore, challenge, and shape, desire. I'm your host, Andrea Martucci, and on this episode, I'm joined by Sarah Rutherford, romance reader and associate professor of Design at Cleveland State University, and she's here to discuss romance novel cover design. Sarah, thanks for being here. Can you introduce yourself?

Sarah Rutherford: Sure. Hi. Thanks for having me. I'm Sarah. I've been a designer for about 20 years. And I've been a design educator oh, since about 2012 or so. So primarily what I do now is teach and write about teaching, but I have a, a great foundation in brand design and identity.

Andrea Martucci: And so how did you start reading Romance and, and how long ago was that?

Sarah Rutherford: Not very long ago. I started during the pandemic, like a lot of people, but I think more meaningfully. I started during my sabbatical. Um, So I, it was 2021 I think. And you know, I read a series recommended by a friend, I think it was The Dark Days Club, which is a Ya paranormal historical

Andrea Martucci: All the genres

Sarah Rutherford: romance elements.

Yeah. And just did a, you know, slow slide into being a complete reader and collector with a bookshelf now full of hundreds of books next to my romance books next to me. So the, the change was swift and complete.

Andrea Martucci: so before you got into reading romance yourself, what did you know of romance novels? What was your general impression of them?

Sarah Rutherford: Mm. I think I was probably a little bit of a snot because in addition to design, I studied English in college and so was, you know, pretty grounded in literature and literary fiction and that, and nonfiction was primarily everything that I read. I've always loved reading, but, you know, fell away from it.

And I think like putting those constraints in front of myself, like, "oh, I only read these kinds of books" takes some of the enjoyment out of it. So I think my perceptions of romance before were just, oh, it's not for me.

Andrea Martucci: Mm-Hmm.

Sarah Rutherford: You know, it's not serious or it's just not gonna be something that I'm interested in. Which. Is, you know, I've, I learned quite the lesson. I think it's an incredibly engaging form of writing. And to see what authors do, in genre fiction in general, where you have these very specific constraints around the expectation for the narrative and plot. There's so much creativity and flexibility in what authors are doing. I think that's why it's addictive because [00:03:00] every book is a new journey within a constraint.

Andrea Martucci: Mm-Hmm. And so once you really got into reading romance, how did you start buying romance? Where did you seek it out? It sounds like once you figured out you loved it, you wanted to read more and more, so you were out quite a bit looking for more romance.

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. I would say I pretty much started Kindle only with Libby, you know, renting or checking books out from the library. Sometimes checking physical books out from the library. I think I bought some contemporaries. You know, Allie Hazelwood was publishing right around the time I started to read, so I would, you know, snatch her books up so I could read them.

But I started following Bookstagram to get recommendations, but I started learning so much and seeing you know, like Step Back Saturday and the Cover Love Friday, and seeing all these beautiful editions of books, mostly mass market. I was just fascinated with.

I was a big thrifter anyway. I like to try to stay in the secondhand marketplace and, I just started looking for books. My husband and I, we would spend time at bookstores and weekends anyway.

I don't even think it started as a trickle, it just went to full fire hose because I could get, you know, a handful of books that maybe I'd seen somebody post about for $5.

And then you start thinking about like, the various editions trying to find the step back version of it. And I think then as my, like, designer senses honed in and I now see covers in a totally different light. Like I feel like I can appreciate what they are and what they're saying because I'm now tuned into the genre and what it's communicating.

Whereas before I might have just said. Oh, this is just not for me

Andrea Martucci: Mm-Hmm

Sarah Rutherford: Now I feel like I've learned the subtleties. So I do quite a bit of, I would say secondhand book shopping and then any contemporaries I'm usually getting from the library.

Andrea Martucci: Hmm. If you think back to the time before you started to understand the nuances of what the cover design was communicating, which is the gist of what we're gonna talk about today. I'm just curious, when you first started looking for romances, did you pick up a book and you're like, oh, the cover is really gorgeous. Or I think this book is about one thing.

And then you started reading it and you were surprised. Did you have any false starts in terms of not picking up what the cover was trying to tell you at first and like learning from that?

Sarah Rutherford: Oh I don't think so. Actually the, one of the first physical romance books I read was Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. Or I should say like pre 2000. It was the cover with the flowers and the lattice, but without the step back. And I remember thinking like, this has like such a grandma aesthetic.

And it was something that my husband had researched. 'cause he was like, oh, Sarah's reading these books. Like, let me see. He's a big reader too, and researched to find like some really great ones. And we both read it and loved it. And I remember thinking, oh, I've, I've just been [00:06:00] wrong. You know, I would've, I would've looked at this and dismissed it.

And so you were telling me earlier that when you go thrift shopping and you go into the book section that you noticed that even though the sections were really disorganized, right, I mean, it's a thrift store. They're just like throwing the books together, you started recognizing that there were patterns and that there were ways to recognize even from the spine what a book was about, or what genre it belonged to. What are some of the things you were noticing there?

I realized that I could pick out a romance book fairly quickly by the spine. And some thrift stores do have genre divisions, but even within that, I could find the books that I might be interested in or specifically interested in collecting. You know, I could tell which ones were older just by the typography on the spine.

And some of the hallmarks I've noticed in romance were specifically for historicals, mass market, historicals, pastel colors, you know, in the range of pinks and purples. Reds. My highland romance all together here on my shelf, and that's tend to be more saturated colors. So like the deep greens and deep reds, you know, colors you would see in a, in a plaid, let's say.

And even though the typography differs, so you get serif type, typically if there's gonna be like mechanical type on it, which would be typed from a computer that has the little feet on it. So that's serif type, you know, it's often very thin, decorative. Embellished in some way. Maybe there's swashes added, like I'm looking at a Johanna Lindsey, and the L has a big swash in that bottom stroke, or there's script and a lot of it is hand rendered usually with the older books.

And so the, just that I think visual texture which might be something really different than say, like a suspense book where you might picture like a James Patterson, which is usually condensed sans serif high contrast.

So there might be like white on black or bright red or neon orange, you know, something that's gonna show high impact. Whereas the romance books might be a little softer either in the tones or in the typography, noting fluidity, texture, movement.

Andrea Martucci: Your background and your professional experience focuses on thinking about brand and logo and identity. So as you're noticing these things about romance novels, how are you connecting that to your professional expertise and knowledge? What's popping out for you specifically?

Sarah Rutherford: Mm-Hmm. I had a revelation, with the ease of finding what I was looking for in sometimes, disorganized areas that covers are designed essentially as a [00:09:00] brand to speak to the audience. So in the same way you would scan a shelf, in a store like Target or Walmart, to find your brand of face wash or lotion or something. Where's the area? 'cause you're looking for specific hallmarks of what that mark, that logo looks like. I think we do the same thing in looking for romance books. We're just trained as consumers, and so using that same sense happens very naturally. And, you know, those elements that I was talking about become the elements of brand.

Within that, then there's subsets too. So you can pretty quickly if this is kind of your thing, you can tell a book published in the eighties from one published in the nineties, maybe even one from published in the aughts just by looking at the spine and not necessarily that it's more cracked and bent and read than other books, but I think just from the type and maybe if there's art on the spine as well.

So is it painted or is it digital composition photography? All those things are gonna speak to the era, the genre. You know, the clinch has its own brand, right? It communicates the passion, softness, whatever it is from the content of the book.

Andrea Martucci: Hmm. Yeah, as you were saying that, you know, I was thinking about how with historical romance, theoretically, let's say you have a book published in 1985 and a book published in 2024, and they're both regency era books, right.

Sarah Rutherford: Mm-Hmm.

Andrea Martucci: Even though they're both depicting the same historical period, like, it's not like a contemporary where you're like, well, sure the clothes are different between a contemporary in 1985 and one published in 2024. I'm thinking about John Ennis, where in the eighties and nineties, like there's a lot of blue eye shadow

Sarah Rutherford: I knew you were gonna say blue eyeshadow. I like, you know, that's the,

Andrea Martucci: yeah.

Or purple eyeshadow there were kind of nods to the current style moment or like fashion.

And so that's kind of like an obvious one, right?

That's like very 1980s makeup or whatever. But then there's other things that I think we start to associate with an era, you know, in those design elements, right? Or like the colors or the typography even, right?


Sarah Rutherford: So I was telling you before, you know, I have some books laid out before me. And you know, Johanna Lindsey is somebody that published you know, for many years, decades. And then, so there's like various editions even of her books.

And so some of the eighties editions have a specific look, it's lower contrast art. There is that consistent typography that's like between script and serif with the kind of pointy ends of the lines, you know, but everything is, it's fluid and it kind of bumps together. So you can probably picture what, like the cover of Heart of Thunder or a Warrior's Woman or something looks like [00:12:00] compared to the nineties Lindseys where she's got that very condensed kind of a combination between script and sans serif hand lettering with a big swash on the J. It becomes much more romantic. So the, I think the eighties type is a little bit more severe especially early eighties.

Especially something that's on the cusp of a decade. So something published in 83 might speak more to the aesthetic of the late seventies than it does the eighties, if you like. You know, you see, think about pictures from your family, and something that was from a previous decade and I, I've definitely looked at pictures and thinking like, oh wow, everybody looks so seventies even though this picture was taken when I was a little kid, or being stunned at pictures taken in college in the early aughts. You know, we all looked very nineties in the close.

So I think the same thing happens in design and typography on the cusp of decades.

So, you know, I think a hallmark of the eighties clinch. Aside from the art and like a lot of the movement that you see in the background, they're much louder and more active in terms of the art.

And then a nineties cover that maybe has a step back is more restrained. It's very type driven on the front, either a solid color background with maybe some kind of tone on tone illustration or embossed texture.

And then to me, the type of the eighties clinch covers. A hallmark of that is you almost can't read it.

You know, I feel like any book I'm picking up off the shelf, I'm like trying to find it in good reads and I can't, I can barely, you know, make out the type to be able to type in the title.

Andrea Martucci: That That is so true. And, sometimes just the typography or the hand lettering. And then also, like, this is what you're talking about too, where like the colors behind it, like there's not enough contrast or there's a very busy scene behind it, and you're like, what, what, what does this say?

Like midnight bayou or midnight belle, or?

Sarah Rutherford: and there's an outline on the text, you know, 'cause they were trying to make it stand out from this busy background I'm looking at. Andrea, I can't even read what it says. It's away from me. It's a Connie Mason. I have to pick it up and look at it.

Wild is My Heart and that's not what I've told you the title is from like a long distance.

But I mean, the typography, the hand lettering for this title Wild is My Heart is so beautiful. It has some of the same hallmarks of the Johanna Lindsey hand lettering for her titles and name where it's got the big scooped angled serifs, but then the arm of the w swoops around and has big swirls and, you know, there's a big swash that goes around and goes from the t and loops and comes back in and is the crossbar for the h.

Like it's, there's as much movement in the type as there is in the [00:15:00] clinch cover and the background around it. So, you know, it's just, I would describe a lot of that as lush as a very lush look in the, the eighties clinch covers.

Andrea Martucci: So you were talking about hand lettering, not only was it maybe more of the style of the time to have hand lettering, but I'm curious, like if you look at one author who had a hand letter ed name on the cover, if you look at that author's work over time, are you seeing that that hand lettered name is functioning almost like a logo where it's consistent but maybe also evolving over time and, meant to have that recognition, right.

Where Oh, I see that, and I don't have to sit there and read Johanna Lindsey or Mary Balogh. I know just at a quick glance like that is the brand, that the hand

lettering or

Sarah Rutherford: There's the Beverly Jenkins logo, you know, like I can, I can see it from a distance. Yeah. And so, like, some of this is, it's a product of the time, right? Like printing and design technology in the eighties and nineties was such that, to get that look the like script look, it had to be hand rendered because like digital desktop publishing fonts were not to the level that they are today where you could go in and just find a typeface, type it out, and it looks like something that's hand lettered

Andrea Martucci: Right. Or you didn't Illustrator and vectors and

Sarah Rutherford: yeah. Illustrator no, is, yeah, is mid, mid eighties, right? And then, and then it was still like very limited and like typeface that were available were very limited and they were more clean and easy to replicate. Like you didn't really start getting good script type faces, I would say into the late nineties, like on a computer.

So you know, somebody like Beverly Jenkins, let's say if I look at a book from 1998, that would most certainly be her type would be hand lettered. And so we get the arm of the V comes up in a very dramatic curve. Same with the y, you know, the K swoops down under the letter and then looking in at books of hers from 2005, 2017.

Maybe it's still hand lettered, but maybe not. You know, I'm looking at. Something Like Love compared to Breathless which is oh five to 17. I would not be surprised if the 2017 cover is a typeface, but whatever they've chosen, if it's a typeface, has the look of the Beverly Jenkins hand lettered Through the Storm.

And then if you're like, wanting to spot this, some of the ways to spot like a typeface from a computer versus hand lettering is the consistency of the shapes of the letters. So like, if there's repeated letters, do they look the same? So Breathless has two S's and they're identical. Whereas, Through the [00:18:00] Storm the s swoops down and the, the T's look slightly different. You know, there's several t's in it, so that can be a clue to see like, oh, if there's two O's and the little loop of the top of the O looks a little bit different on one than the other, you know, maybe it's hand lettered.

But the, the skill of the people doing hand lettering when it was a more necessary skill in the eighties and nineties, seventies, you know, past would almost look like a typeface because it was so perfect.

Andrea Martucci: Right. I'm trying to think of a good example of an author who did both contemporary and historical. Well, Judith McNaught, I suppose is one such author. Does Judith McNaught's name look the same on her historical and contemporary, or is she kind of differentiating based on sub genre?

Sarah Rutherford: To me, hers look the same, and hers covers often look the same. You know, as somebody coming into this as a new reader I'm trying to distinguish which one of these is a contemporary of the time and which was a historical. Somebody who gets different treatment between her contemporaries and historicals, it's really distinct, I would say is Lisa Kleypas.

So yeah, like if you can picture the cover of Sugar Daddy. It's like neon pink. And it has a what's called a modern type face. So like the difference in the thick, thin strokes is really pronounced, if you imagine the type on the top of the Vogue cover.

So, you know, you get the really thick parts of the letter and then the really thin. So it's got that look to it. Totally different than what her historical covers look like.

Andrea Martucci: I literally just pulled all my Judith McNaughts off the shelf. I'm like, now I'm curious.

So this is Almost Heaven. Which is a historical, it was published in 1990.

Sarah Rutherford: Mm-Hmm

Andrea Martucci: And you've got the, it does, it does look like hand lettered.

Uh, yeah, both. And embossed, the flowers. There's no clinch or stepback, but it's got these like embossed flowers on the front

Sarah Rutherford: Mm-Hmm.

Andrea Martucci: But Paradise, this is a contemporary and this was, 1991. So we've got two books of basically the same era.

And yeah, they look almost identical. They both got embossed flowers, almost the same look to the name and the titles. But then I guess fast forward and, and I have no idea what edition this is, but 2005 published Every Breath You Take, which I believe is more of like a I don't know, romantic suspense. You're getting I mean, it's a little romancey, but much more of that, you were talking earlier about like the thriller authors.

Sarah Rutherford: Yes. Oh, definitely. I Think there's a metallic. Yes. There we go. Exactly. Someone to Watch Over Me. So is that a James Patterson book? I can't tell you know, it's very

Andrea Martucci: Right. It looks like it could be. So it's interesting 'cause she does start to get a bit more differentiation. Like now I'm holding up a reissue of Once and Always, which is a historical.

I think this was [00:21:00] published fairly early in her career, but I think this is like a later edition. And now the difference between Someone to Watch Over Me and Once in Always is stark in terms of, in terms of her branding.

I wonder with that like, part of it seems to be maturing in terms of the romance genre and also I think publishing in general, where I feel like towards the late nineties, early two thousands, I feel like in mass market paperback publishers were really starting to sink into really understanding what the signs are and understanding the differentiation. Like, okay, yeah, we've got Judith McNaught and you know, Judith McNaught is a brand name in and of herself, but how do we differentiate her romantic suspense from her historical romance?

Sarah Rutherford: Mm-Hmm. Like the market segmentation is much more aware from a branding and marketing perspective on the part of the. publisher, whereas before it just might need to say Judith McNaught and I've scooped it up and put it into my grocery store cart. You know, I don't care what it is, I just know it's a Judith McNaught, so I like it.

Whereas later they might be trying to grab someone who might not typically read her books.

It drives me crazy, you know, these authors that maybe write across genres when something gets shelved in the wrong area. So like I think Shadow Dance is a Julie Garwood historical, but I often see it in the like suspense books because I think she wrote some in that genre too.

So I always will go reshelve it in stores, you know, of all the like, or somebody writes in paranormal and they write in historical and one is in the other.

Andrea Martucci: It's so funny you say that. So I have a big romance novel collection, and I have to kind of do shelving according to genre. That's fine most of the time. But then I have these author collections where I'm like, God dammit, like they span sub genres. Like Judith McNaught, I was like, well, I wanna keep all my Judith McNaughts together, but do I put it in my contemporary area or my historical area?

Sarah Rutherford: It doesn't look right if it's in the historical era, it's not gonna fit in with, you know, where it goes. Yeah, I'm looking at, you know, what I've pulled for today a lot of it is just like solely historical authors. I've got a big pile of these mid nineties metallic covers. Which seems like it was having a moment.

So there are several that just have like a full metallic foil on the front. And they're step backs. So I've got like a Pamela Morsi Marrying Stone, a Linda Ladd, Lilacs on Lace, Connie Mason Flame, Nora Hess, Winter Love, and they've, I think they're all embossed.

And Winter Love even has like a holographic thing In the snowflakes.

Andrea Martucci: Oh yeah. Like pearlized.

Sarah Rutherford: Oh yeah, the foil is like a dimensional foil, so it's not just like a straight metallic, but then the snowflake is [00:24:00] also embossed. And then here's Flame.

Andrea Martucci: Is there a cutout? it's like a faux cutout.

Sarah Rutherford: a faux cutout. Yeah. And so is the Nora Hess is a faux cutout. What was going on at that time in publishing? This would've been expensive. These would've been expensive to print to have all these specialty printing techniques on the front, plus, you know, step backs.

And here this one, this Linda Ladd has like, step back that continues onto the inside cover.

Andrea Martucci: So let's talk about the step back for a second because, and you had said you started checking out Shelf Love around the time we were talking a lot about John Ennis. And what was interesting at the John Ennis show is, especially from the eighties he would have a landscape painting and it was the front cover, the back cover and, like a negative space area in, in like the back cover area where you'd have like all that text and up in the corner you'd have a little smaller version of what's going on or like a scene from the book. And then you'd have the big clinch or whatever on the cover. But obviously you'd have to like, leave some room at the top and the bottom for like an author name or a title. Right.

And and, that was very much the style, especially of all of those like Zebra romances where you would have a very busy front and back cover and the zebras, some of them have kind of like embossed, but they do tend to have like, I think a, a little bit like of a flatter, busier look overall with like less contrast.

And then you started getting into like the nineties and the early two thousands and you get a lot more of the embossing. And then you also get a much greater distinction between okay, we're gonna have a cover and it's gonna be fairly plain, there's not a lot of imagery on it. Giving the author name or the title, much more real estate.

And then you'd have like a scene or you'd have like a, kinda like a fake cutout where you'd see a little bit of the couple and you'd kind of give the typography and like the content a bit more space and then you open up the step back.

You're still promised that step back, right.

You get the scene, but you kind of get like the uninterrupted scene in the step back.

And that shift feels like, I mean, that feels like both a technology shift, but then also it's like the genre maturing where they're like, oh, actually maybe it is kind of hard to read. If we put it all like this. What's another way we can do this?

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. And still signal. So like this Pamela Morsi Marrying Stone is something that, if I had seen this five years ago, I would've been like, that's just straight looks like my grandma's bathroom. You know, It's

Andrea Martucci: it is like a rose on like gold.

Sarah Rutherford: yeah. It's like the book version of a bowl of potpourri. Like that's what it is. And it's got, so it's embossed, it's got these kind of rose toned flowers. And this typeface. But the hand lettering on the front is super swashy you know, you've got all these loops and interactions in between the strokes.

And then the inside is, [00:27:00] I would say, a rather wholesome step back. So yeah, what is this signaling to the reader versus, you know, the Connie Mason where you get like the little hint? 'cause we were, you know, oh, is that a cutout? The little hint of him, like with his face just fully in her breasts.

Andrea Martucci: he is motorboating her,

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. Fully just, I mean, right in there, you know, Flame is from 97, Marrying Stone is from 94.

Andrea Martucci: Mm-Hmm.

Sarah Rutherford: And so here's another one with like a big flower on the front. This Linda Ladd, let's see, this is from 96. So I think everything I pulled here, these metallics were all mid nineties, so it's something that feels like special and lush. Yeah, Winter Love is 95. But maybe like the titillating part of it is hidden.

So, you know, was at that moment of wanting to readers wanting to distance themselves from the clinch, you know, to be not necessarily taken more seriously, but I don't know. How would you describe it?

Andrea Martucci: Maybe a bit less overt, right? Where the signals are still there and it's not completely hidden, right? Like usually the spine would have like a little cameo. A glimpse of the couple. And then maybe you're gonna get the full version and the step back, but you have to know the step back is there.

You have to understand that when you see that little revealed tab, oh, there's more, more, behind, right?

Sarah Rutherford: You know, those of us that collect books that we try to buy on eBay, we're looking to see now, is there a little shadow? Is the line, you know, is it a step back or is it a fake step back? Yeah. So those are really subtle elements that a dedicated reader would be tuned into.

That is your brand language that you would understand. All those things would speak to you

Andrea Martucci: And you were mentioning embossing, gold foil or any sort of additional technology that's involved there, that's expensive.

And these are mass produced books, right? I mean they're selling, you know, in the eighties and nineties for 2 99, 3 99, maybe 4 99, right?

Sarah Rutherford: Yep.

Andrea Martucci: And there's, there's some change in terms of, I don't know, like reader expectation or just general trends. Maybe a move towards hiding the overtness of the clinch a little bit, but still kind of keeping that lushness. And then it feels like the next move is, I don't know if it was purely cost cutting, but it certainly worked out as a cost cutting measure where now you're starting to see fewer step backs and less embossing and less of the gold leaf and maybe like in the early two thousands, historical romance definitely had that moment where they were starting to do like cartoon covers, even in the historicals. Or you'd get much more of like a, a landscape of a castle on a hill or like something like that where like Johanna Lindsey had a lot of those. A lot of [00:30:00] the historical romance authors, particularly ones with a really well established brand, started having really stripped back covers.

Like, you weren't getting a step back anymore. You were just getting, the author name, the title, and that style was still a signifier of some kind to us readers, but I guess it feels like it was going even deeper and deeper underground already.

Sarah Rutherford: There is a particular Susan Enoch book that has tricked me a few times. I've not bought it, so I don't know the title, that it's a historical. The cover fully looks like early aughts chick lit you know, I think there's like a stiletto or something on the, I mean, it's like the, it's that brush stroke kind of illustration style that's just a, here's like four lines and it makes the silhouette of a woman.

It looks fully contemporary, but it is a historical romance. I thought that is really interesting to me. That like misbranding?

Andrea Martucci: Well, yeah. So, okay, so I'm showing you Patricia Cabot, which is Megan Cabot, Educating Caroline, and it's, I don't know, what would you describe this type of cartoon?

Sarah Rutherford: So it's rendered with kind of like mostly flat shapes. It's highly stylized in the overall style. So her. dress kind of swoops to the side. His hair swoops to the side. It's not realistic. The characteristic of it is whimsy.

And it looks totally like something I would not be interested. It just looks not juicy to me. It looks a little bit silly. Which is so interesting. Verse. Yes. She's got a Kasey Michaels - someone to Love,

Andrea Martucci: Michaels was doing the same thing there. Right? And, and I will say though, there's a little bit of embossing on these figures and the text still. And then compare this with, here's another Kasey Michaels. This is a contemporary, this one fully looks like clip art.

Sarah Rutherford: Yes. And that's kind of the style of the Susan Enoch book I was talking about that has like the brush stroke illustration. And it, it looks less, you know, I think to a reader that's used to an oil painting or even, you know, once some of these illustrators moved into digital art still lush compositions.

But you know, in that you have to think of what's going on in that era. So what, what were some of the dates of, especially the last one that you said looked like clip art?

Andrea Martucci: Let's see. Can't take my eyes off of you by Kasey Michaels was 2000. This one's just a bouquet of flowers: Kiss the Bride by Patricia Cabot, this one is 2002. Someone to Love by Kasey Michaels is 2001. Patricia Cabot: Educating Caroline is 2001. So basically 2000, 2001. 2002. Like this was the rage.

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. So I think it's what I was talking about before with the stuff that's on the cusp of a decade change. You know, [00:33:00] what is just behind being in style in the early aughts? Well, it was the kind of like sleek lines of nineties fashion you think of like Carolyn Bessette Kennedy or like the heroin chic aesthetic.

So everything is much more sleek you know, like a slip dress with tiny straps as a reaction to overly fluffy sleeves and collars in the early nineties. So then I think you get those carrying over into design trends that maybe it's not the exact replica of it, but it's a suggestion of more simplicity, you know, that this is contemporary to the time, you know, it's something that you as the reader will be interested in rather than, you know, maybe something that would've felt a little bit more dated if it had a super thick, flowery script or, or hand lettering.

I'm curious about these. I have a couple of Dorothy Garlock books that have a similar vibe going on, you know, to the the book you just showed with the bouquet of flowers and that, like, here's a central botanical composition element. These have a lace background.

So this is this is a 93 of Forever Victoria reissue. And then Love and Cherish is, what does it say? 80. So these are much older, but it's kind of the same elements. So like a limited color palette, pastels, floral element. Same thing we saw with the Judith McNaught. So there's some stuff that doesn't go away as a signifier of the genre.

Andrea Martucci: Well, and then you start getting into the two thousands. John Ennis was talking about this. That's, I think the late nineties, early two thousands is when he transitioned from oil paintings to digital illustrations, right.

I don't know if they were still using reference photos and then they were basically just like making them a little bit more painterly. But I think definitely when you start getting into the two thousands, you get much more photography or stylized photography, right? I mean, this is, desktop publishing is more attainable. You're doing, I think, a lot more work in a graphic design department instead of in a studio, right?

Like, you don't need, maybe you have a photographer doing some stuff, but you don't have somebody sitting there painting and like, you know, pulling things together with a paintbrush physically, you know, it's, it's all digital.

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah.

And you know, I think like we're using the term desktop publishing because that's the term of the era, and that sounds so dated in 2024, but that's what it was. So you have to think about like going from a design style that's called paste up, where essentially like you're physically pasting things together and it would kind of almost get like photographed to create the composition. And you're doing this with X-Acto knives. I mean, I'm old enough that even when I worked [00:36:00] on the yearbook in junior high, we were still like putting stuff through a machine that put wax strips on the back of it and we would like physically paste out the layouts.

Andrea Martucci: I am in old enough where, like, I worked at a newspaper, it was, and it was like a town newspaper, and people had InDesign at the time, but it was a weekly paper and we were formatting something in like a word processing tool into the width of a column. You'd print it out, you'd wax the back of the paper, use an exacto knife, cut it out, and then like paste the columns in physically print out a photo in black and white and like paste it on the page with like, you know, the waxy background like you're talking about.

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. And so Photoshop, came out in the late eighties, but what a revolution for people working in the industry. So yeah, it's gonna be cheaper. So think about all the labor that's involved in clinch cover from the reference photographer to the illustrator artist, to the person doing the hand lettering, to then potentially there's another person doing the art on the front of the cover if it's a step back. So there might be some like Amanda Quick's books, you can picture all them. They're like tone on tone and the, I've got Scandal here and it's got like a fan under the text, and then there's a, a step back on the inside.

So all that labor, and then now you have software that will allow you to compose that whole scene with just photography. You know, Photoshop, by the late nineties had much more capabilities in order to like blend things together and create just more complex, like digitally complex, like file size complex, compositions. And I'm sure you know, this goes with publishers cutting budgets for that.

You know, they, well, we can, we can do it cheaper. Just like today, you know, some publishers are unfortunately going to AI for their covers because it involves less labor and therefore less money. And so you lose aspects of you know, there's a hand touch to the look of a lot of these books that makes them feel comforting.

So a typeface that has a, a humanistic look to it it's literally a reference to you know, handwriting. So if you say something is humanistic, so even the typeface that are used or the style of illustrated typography or hand lettering has a look that maintains a look of handwriting. Or hand rendering, even if it's very crisp and precise.

That combined with the lush art, I think signals something that is going to be an intimate experience. Whereas, and we keep going back to like suspense that feels more impersonal or a horror book, you know, it's gonna have like a typeface that looks like it's dripping blood or, you know, slashes of a [00:39:00] claw. And that looks more distant from the reader because you know, you're gonna have this experience that this isn't, this isn't something that could happen to you.

But romance, I think we want to say, like, this is something that could happen to me, this could be in my life. And so, you know, the design, the typography, the color and the textures that all of that evokes goes towards communicating that to the reader.

Andrea Martucci: Right. If we continue in the vein of how technology and formats are influencing what we're seeing on the covers. Obviously, the next thing as we start getting deeper into the two thousands, late aughts and early 2010s, teens, whatever, digital publishing is a thing, right? Self-publishing starts being a thing.

And if you think about a lot of the things we've been talking about, like the physical elements of a book, embossing, step backs what does the front cover versus the back cover look like. When you start getting into like, well, we're gonna sell this book in a bookstore, but then we also are gonna be selling this on an online retailer, where all you really see is a portrait front cover, right?

Like the step back doesn't matter if there is one, you're not gonna see it. The back cover doesn't matter. The text describing this book now is, you know, metadata or you know, it's copy that exists kind of outside of the context of the cover. That too is gonna start influencing what you see on the physical book, right? Because there's these other considerations.

And then also you're gonna have this big influx of people who are self-publishing who don't have nearly the budget of a traditional publisher.

So I'm curious not just in terms of like the necessity or the function of the different locations these books are being sold and promoted. Like how is the packaging being displayed in these different contexts?

But then also when you have a bunch of people entering self-publishing, how do the trends there and the necessities there start to influence traditional publishing?

Sarah Rutherford: So if you think about books that people are looking for, let's say on KU or just browsing through Amazon, now they're looking at them on a digital interface. And so the thumbnail, we're looking at a thumbnail now instead of, you know, a romance cover that's in front of us. So the language has to be much more direct and condensed so that I can see if I'm just browsing through, oh yes, there's my genre.

So I'm thinking about now the, the, the shift to the naked torso cover. Now usually with like a, a sans Serif type or something with brushstrokes. Now this is more recent, but if you can picture the cover Want Me by Neve Wilder it's got, you know, a tinted black and white image of a man. And it's purples and teals.

This is from 2019, so, you know, not quite in the, like the digital rush, but I think it has those same characteristics. [00:42:00] A condensed sans is "Want," and then "Me," it's kind of like a brush stroke lettering. And there's a kind of a haze around the lettering. I'm looking at this on my phone at thumbnail size, I can very clearly read the type. That language of a naked torso is communicating to me very directly that this is romance. This is gonna contain something that is titillating in some capacity. And so I think that's what I associate with a lot of, like, self-publishing, maybe more in contemporary than historical though you do see it.

Like the Monica McCarthy books, I don't know what the series is, but like, the Stryker, the Raider, I think we get some of those, a lot of times maybe in Highland Romance where it's just a a torso, you know, with like a kilt peeking out or like a weapon across the shoulder.

And so that might be some of that digital publishing. Moving into mainstream. But in the same way, I think that like sometimes album covers have gotten more simplified in some cases, so they translate better in a small thumbnail than they would in a CD or, you know, a 12 inch vinyl. The same thing might be happening with book covers that are primarily digitally driven.

Andrea Martucci: Right. Well, and I think that it's also speaking to the heavier reliance on stock photography and digital manipulation of the stock photography. And this is, I think especially evident when, when you start thinking about like alien romances on, you know, digital publishing today or you know, the last five years where you're like, okay, that is a stock photo of a guy, and they've kind of put like a layer over making the look of like blue skin or like green scaly skin. And then they've like put some horns in there. Like it's, it's very obviously digitally manipulated, right? Or like, oh, that guy was holding, I don't know, a broom. And now it looks like he's holding a sword.

When you have just like a shirtless guy, that is the easiest thing to use because you're just like, okay, it's gonna be sexy. Right? But you're not trying impart that much more about like what you're gonna find in this story.

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. I mean like picture in your mind's eye, a Mafia Romance cover versus Ice Planet Barbarians, right? I mean, I think Ruby Dixon has gotten more money since now that she's being put traditionally published. But you know, if you're self-publishing, you have less of a budget. Maybe, maybe somebody's making it for you, but maybe you're even making it, you know, and like, what tools do I have to use Photoshop, you know, and how does this come together?

And so you're going to rely on very heavily used imagery that you know, will speak to your reader. If I'm making a decision about whether to read something on KU it's super low impact, 'cause I'm already, I've already paid the money for it. I, I might have the same consideration as if I go into the store and decide, you know, what book I'm gonna spend $18 on that's just come out.

And so, yeah, but I'm looking at the Ice Planet Barbarians cover the original one with, you [00:45:00] know, the, the blue guy and Ice Planet Barbarians does have an effect to it on the text that, you know, we get some like glowing, the like lens flare, kind of like sparkly ice look that looks very similar to that Nora Hess cover I pulled out that had, you know, the holographic treatment on the front.

So there's still maybe some of the same signifiers that say like, this is gonna be special or exciting or whatnot.

Where she's like holding him to her, her chest and he's, you can see his long hair

Andrea Martucci: it's, yeah, like blue hair. There's like stars and like a galaxy behind her. Yeah. Yeah. Versus, the the reissues with traditional publishers where Yeah. It's illustrated and, I mean, it's a very cool look. It's, it's nice that it's super customized to specifically what the book is about. And it also feels very of the moment in terms of style, right? Like like high sheen on the cheekbone, which like,

if you wanna talk about blue eyeshadow in the eighties, guess what? The 2020s are all about that highlighted cheekbone and like contouring, right?

Sarah Rutherford: Everybody has living luminizer on their cheekbones, you know? Well this is also like the illustrated cover now because that's been the reissue of Ice Planet Barbarians, which has led to, I have seen multiple times,

usually in the secondhand market, but I have seen it in, you know, retail bookstores where Ice Planet barbarians is being put into YA

Andrea Martucci: mm-Hmm.

Sarah Rutherford: because it has the illustrated cover.

And so now there's the mis-selling, a current complaint for people that are unhappy with illustrated covers is that, you know, it looks safe or playful or fun or funny, and that content isn't in there at all. You know, it might be quite intense or there's a lot of graphic sex or whatnot but, you know, love them or hate 'em. Illustrated covers are signifying to the audience that it's a romance book. You know, that's, that is what you see. Now if I go by a store and I see a whole section of that style of cover from a distance. I'm gonna go to it 'cause I know that's the romance section.

Andrea Martucci: Yeah. I mean, and there's, if we think about eBooks, again, like there is a different consideration, the cover, not just the utility of looking at a little thumbnail on the screen and deciding that way. But if you're buying and reading an ebook, you're not thinking about putting it on your bookshelf, right? It's, there is no physical element. It's just like, does this tell me what I need to know? Cool. I'm gonna read it. A, nobody's gonna see me reading this. Nobody's gonna know what the cover is when I'm reading it. B, I am not going to physically put this in my space

Sarah Rutherford: Mm-Hmm.

Andrea Martucci: So, like, so what's interesting if you kinda like follow this trajectory, [00:48:00] is there's technology changes, printing technology, there's economic forces. There's like the new emerging formats, new technology, et cetera, with like digital publishing. And then you, you get to today where, I mean, a, I think there's like this big divergence between kind of the ebook market of a, a particularly like a lot of self-published work and then traditionally published where they're diverging quite a bit in my opinion in terms of readership.

But in that trad pub market, not that trad pub doesn't also sell digital editions, but I think the move in trad pub is much more towards having a really pretty bookshelf that's like very cohesive and like the move towards trade paperback instead of mass market paperback. It's much more like, I want this nice orderly pastel illustrated cover. Very neat and tidy, clean lines, et cetera.

Look that seems like desirable. And you were saying going into a bookstore, like you go into Barnes and Noble and you see the romance section, not a mass market paperback to be found, right?

It's all these big trade paperbacks again, like very clean look, lots of illustrated covers of varying degrees of quality, right?

Like some of them you're like, that's clip art. And some of them you're like, that is very well done and does a very good job of conveying what's going on there. But I feel like there is a breakdown though, in terms of genre like you were talking about, you know, adult romance versus YA, but then also you're getting very similar styles with Ruby Dixon's Ice Planet Barbarians and an ice hockey contemporary romance and a historical romance set in Regency England, like

Sarah Rutherford: Yes. Like there's a, a

Andrea Martucci: a flattening.

Sarah Rutherford: yes, there's a Suzanne Enoch book that came out recently that's got an illustrated cover. There are, you know, a couple people who've been in historical romance for a long time that are getting the trade paperback illustrated treatment returning to self-publishing. I think there's something I've seen that's challenging the genre a little bit and creating new things.

So the Felicity Niven's books so the Bed Me books

Andrea Martucci: yeah. I read those.

Sarah Rutherford: yeah. And the Convergence of Desire, that series, the Lovelocks of London. I believe she's self-published.

Andrea Martucci: I think so, too. yeah.

Sarah Rutherford: And so those books all have, they've got the reference to historical romance.

So somebody is, you know, wearing a dress of the era probably from stock photography. But then they're paired with condensed san serif type that looks much more contemporary. To me as a reader that signals, okay, this is the environment that I love, but maybe it's gonna have

Andrea Martucci: But it's a cool historical romance.

Sarah Rutherford: Or like overt feminist language, or there's gonna be talk of consent or, you know, like. Yeah, it's a cool, it's a cool historical, [00:51:00] same thing with the Alexandra Vasti's original Halifax covers. You know, that's, it's it's a reference to, so I think like the heads are cut out of these, you know, we're just seeing a torso, so we, we just get the reference to historical costume.

But with more you know, 2020s typographic treatment, something that would seem relevant to, to someone today.

Andrea Martucci: And I don't wanna say, I hate to say like, did Bridgerton start this? But you, definitely see that demonstrated in the reissues of the Bridgerton books, especially the ones that correlate to the Netflix seasons. Where yeah, you have them in the period costume, but they're not in what we might associate as like a traditional clinch. It's like, okay, we get it. They're in Regency. But then, yes, the typography is a sans serif, very modern.

I feel like a hallmark of this is, there's like a lot of, what do you call it? Like leading or like character spacing. What's the word I'm looking for here?

Sarah Rutherford: So if it's, if it's really spaced out, it's called tracking. So then it's tracked out. So, you know, negative tracking is gonna be super squished in, and positive tracking is gonna get those spaces in between the letter and it looks very open and airy. And, yes, this is a cool historical.

Andrea Martucci: I think typography always, it's like filling up the space, right? I'm looking at the picture you sent of all the books, and it's a lot of like eighties and nineties romances and the lines of text are encroaching on other lines of text, right?

Like, I'm looking at Tennessee Moon, the m in the moon is touching the bottom of e and NE. Tennessee, but the T is coming down and encroaching on the Moon space. It's much less discreet spaces.

And I think a hallmark of this, like, very new cool historical style is it's like, okay, we're gonna have the name and it's gonna span one line across the entire width of the cover.

Or the title. It's like very orderly, like we want this to look like a column of text, but like everything neatly in line. I don't feel like I have the language fully to explain this, but it seems like much more contained and controlled and like

Yeah, like less of that loosy romantic look of the older ones.

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. So stuff that is more condensed is gonna feel more, there's more visual tension to it. You know, you get that sense maybe the, the clinch is off the cover now. So you get the, the removal of the contact of the couple, but the type is encroaching on itself. And so it's much tighter. And so it's gonna feel, you get that feeling of tension on the cover in lettering that overlaps.

But in a contemporary. So I've got a book here called My Ladies Choosing, and it's like a choose your own adventure historical, I can't reach it, so I can't see what the publication date is, but it's fairly recent. And [00:54:00] it, it is hand lettered but it's very thin lettering.

Andrea Martucci: I pulled it up on my phone. Do you know what is really cool about this one is, it definitely conveys that choose your own adventure, right? Because you have the same characters kind of

in different scenes. Yeah.

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah. But you know, the type of, that is much airier. Let's see, so this is. 2018. And here is a Mary Balogh from 2009. This First Comes Marriage. So you might look at the two and like the thickness of the stroke is very similar, but you can see how much more open and airy the text from 2018 is versus the text from 2009.

Both hand lettered both give attributions to the hand lettering artists. So the Mary Balogh is Isra Johnson and then My Lady's Choosing it gives a credit to the illustrator. So it's either the designer Andy Reed or the Illustrator Kitty Curran. Oh no. And then we have a cover art by Alice Mullen, which I love all the attributions now that we're getting in trade paperback to see as a designer, you know, I'll go then like, look up somebody's portfolio or follow an illustrator's account on Instagram.

Andrea Martucci: Well in that's, and so again, like thinking of John Ennis, something very interesting in all of his paintings, I mean, Ennis. The year, copyright year is like right butted up against that couple. So even if you didn't recognize his visual style, his name is right there on the cover. And a lot of the artists that were doing paintings, like they would have their name in the artwork itself. So I think the more you start moving away from that, the more necessity there is to specify inside the book and give credit inside the book. And it's not commonplace by any means. I mean, I think you're right. There are so many times where I'm like, well dang, it'd be nice to know who did that cover. Right.

So it's interesting that especially given how important the cover is to visually signify things to us, how the artists or the graphic designers or however they would describe themselves creating this, it has not always been a given that they're credited in the same way that an author or editor is, you know?

Sarah Rutherford: And I mean the design of the book has a lot. I mean, certainly with an author who has name recognition, that's gonna be a big part of selling the book. But the cover itself is gonna do a lot of the selling too.

In terms of like moving into recently published books, I'm looking at a few of Jasmine Gil's books and she, hers all have illustrated covers, but they differentiate a lot. So Party of Two and The Wedding Date have been illustrated. They have hand rendered typography.

A more recent release Drunk on Love which I think is a little, a spicier book of hers too has [00:57:00] typography that I think could be a typeface. And then the illustration it's less stylized and more maybe just a silhouette from an actual photo.

So what is that signifying to the reader? You know, like that might be something that is more intense than something that looks cute

Andrea Martucci: mm-Hmm.

Sarah Rutherford: You know, if a book has a photo based cover I think there are places where a contemporary reader might consider that cheesy even.

Andrea Martucci: Mm-Hmm.

Sarah Rutherford: It's interesting like how the use of photography and illustration is evolving in the current publishing climate between, like you said, self-publishing, reading on Kindle, and then the kind of like collector market of

Andrea Martucci: us weirdos

Sarah Rutherford: owning books. Yeah. Well, you know, like I, I would like even like the Afterlight boxes and these beautiful special editions, you know, like, boy, I would love to do that, but I, you know, I can't justify that for myself on a subscription basis. Nor do I have room on my shelves really 'cause they're, they're filled and my one shelf is filled with mass market. but yeah, I mean, that's a keepsake,

Andrea Martucci: If you go way back farther back in publishing history, like people used to buy just the insides of books and then they would get them bound in the style of their library.

People would have like a very cohesive library where all of my leather bound books are in like green leather, embossed in this way. Right?

And then, and then you start getting into like, mass produced books. You start getting into like pulp and paperback and, and all of that, right? It's interesting to me that we seem to be cycling back to this period where the physical object is starting to be treasured, but not just in a way where me with my mishmosh collection, I'm like, look at my collection. I love all of them. They're all different and everything.

There seems to be this desire to go back to this like very orderly, cohesive look. People who want an entire series issued with the same cover style because they want that cohesive look. So they don't want the first book in the series in a mass market paperback and the second in trade with an illustrated cover.

And then the third one in trade with a very different cover style. The interest in these kind of like special edition small scale print run books that are coming out. But like where there is a cohesive look between the books, even if they're very different authors or styles

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah, either they're on my shelf in a consistent spine style or they're so beautiful I have them facing out on the cover. Because it is a showcase object and I think like, you know, who was getting books bound in the style of their library? Rich people, probably rich white people. And now you know, we move into the like, aesthetic era.

So, you know, some of this is pure personal pleasure, having things around you that make you [01:00:00] happy. And I think some of it is projecting image. You know, if I have a, a beautiful Shelf and I take pictures of that and I gain followers from that, or you know, I just enjoy sharing that part of myself or projecting, kind of creating what my self concept is as a reader, as a collector, as a person.

I can represent that now through not just my possessions that I use on a daily basis, but now my bookshelf too. So I'm signifying that I have intellect because I'm curating books, but then I am also signifying that I understand things that have aesthetic value, and I appreciate these things as well.

Andrea Martucci: Right. It's not just about what having that book says about the reader or the possessor of the object and. I mean, this has been a topic of conversation a lot now, right? Well, it's always been a conversation about like, oh, I'm embarrassed to be seen with these books.

Don't, I don't wanna be on a train reading a book with a shirtless guy or a obviously sexual couple, right? That has always kind of been there. But it does seem like there is a greater shift in the last five-ish years, maybe the last decade, of shifting the idea of these collections, these romance collections from the private to the public.

I don't actually think that the romance genre is suddenly more respectable, but I do think there is a shift to people being more open about their niche interests and finding those niche interests online and then displaying and wanting to show off and be like, this is me. This is what I'm interested in.

But there does seem to be that veneer of respectability politics to it, right? Or like class signaling where it's like, I love romance. I think romance is great, but guess what, it's not your grandma's romance. Right? Like, it's not like those granny covers like you're used to. a lot of people say this

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah, you and I have been talking about brand as it applies to books. Now we're moving into brand as branding our person. So in the same way, I might wear a shirt with a logo on it to signify something, you know, Nike or Under Armour or something to signify athleticism, wealth, you know, whatever it is.

Now I can signify those things. I mean, the, the sticker market is so popular. Bafflingly popular in romance. You know, so people are outfitting their Kindles, their laptops, their water bottles, and these are daily objects that they carry around with themselves that say, you know, smut slut or things like that.

Or even wearing merchandise. So like, you know, I got my sister for Christmas, looked like a collegiate sweatshirt, but it says Volaris which is the, the city for those in, in ACOTAR.

I just [01:03:00] funded a Indiegogo for a bookstore in St. Louis called Novel Neighbor that they're trying to open up a romance room called Open Door Romance, and it has a cute little icon and it says Open Door Romance. And I was like, well, I want that hat. I wanna wear the hat that, you know, has a subtle nod to being a romance reader.

So I think now we're branding our person as well.

I'm a professor, so I, I've been in the classroom for 12 plus years and I have more readers in my classes. It's not a lot, it's half a dozen maybe, but self-identified readers right now than I ever had, than I have ever had when I'm teaching. And a lot of them read romance. It might not be their exclusive genre. They're aware of BookTok and book Instagram. You know, they're coming up with projects that are book based in some capacity.

So this like. Identity and personal brand as a reader tied to identity and presentation on social media, I think is something that we're seeing now with the rise of Bookstagram and BookTok.

Andrea Martucci: mm-Hmm. Well, and I, and I'm always so curious about that too because I mean, you said self-identified, and this is what I think the media gets wrong about this is they say, there's more readers than ever. And I'm like, are there more readers than ever, or are there just more people who are self-identified and willing to be public about it and share it with the world, you know,

Sarah Rutherford: Yeah, well, I mean, you asked me at the beginning like, can I say your full name on here? You know, I was like, yeah, that's fine. Because you know, for some, especially, you know, in my profession you know, it might be perceived as unprofessional, which is ridiculous, but to be associated with the specific, like, not genre fiction in general, but the specific genre of romance.

Yes. And so I think you're absolutely right. There's, there's probably no more readers than there ever have been, but of the moment, it is a popular way to identify for both young generations and, you know, I'm in my forties. So yeah, I think it spans beyond just, oh, gen Z is being marketed to with illustrated cover. So I think it goes beyond that.

Andrea Martucci: Mm. Yeah. Right. Well, Sarah, Sarah Rutherford. Thank you. So thank you so much for being here today to talk about covers and I mean all the interesting details of what goes into these covers. Where can people find you online if they wanted to connect with you?

Sarah Rutherford: Yep. So I have an Instagram. I don't post anything about romance books on there, but people are welcome to find me on Instagram at Sarah at school. And it's just, my name is spelled with an H, so S-A-R-A-H-A-T school. And so you can reach out to me there and if you are so inclined to get information about design education, you can also follow me there.

Andrea Martucci: Well, thank you [01:06:00] so much for being here today, and I really appreciate all your thoughts that you've shared with everybody.

Sarah Rutherford: Thank you so much, Andrea.

Andrea Martucci: Hey, thanks for spending time with me today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate or review on your favorite podcast app or tell a friend. Check out for transcripts and other resources. If you want regular written updates from Shelf Love, you can increasingly find me over at Substack.

Read occasional updates and short essays about romance at Thank you to Shelf Love's $20 a month Patreon supporters: Gail, Copper Dog Books, and Frederick Smith. I have a great day. Bye!