Critiquing the Princess Covers

I got a question over the weekend from someone who had been reading my blog, and was checking out the cover art for Stepsister Scheme.  She wanted to know how I reconciled my rather strong feminist views with the often sexualized poses used in these covers.  (This is my paraphrase of the question, for purposes of running with it in this post.)

There are so many ways to answer that question.  The simplest is to fall back on “I’m just the author, and I have no control over the covers.”  Only that’s a really weak response, and not entirely accurate in my case.  I do have some input … not a lot, but some.

With Stepsister, I asked for Talia’s pose to be changed, and for her skin tone to be darkened.  In Snow Queen … actually, I had exactly the same requests for that one.  With Mermaid, Snow was originally the one in the rigging, with Talia reclined on the rail.  I asked to have that swapped around.  Red Hood was a little different, due to deadlines and having to get a backup artist.  In that case, my input was limited to changing the palate of their outfits to get rid of all the pink.

Snow Queen is officially my favorite cover, in no small part because we’re getting away from the posed look of the characters.  This is another thing I discussed with my editor.  Those odd corsets aside, I like the emotion and the dynamic feel of this cover.  (A part of me wants to write more princess books just to see what future covers might look like.)

Another thing I consider is that the sexualized pose isn’t necessarily inappropriate for Snow White.  Snow is openly flirtatious and sexual, and while I never envisioned her with the lipstick & nail polish look she got in Stepsister, I can also see her striking those poses, either deliberately or in play.

I should point out that it’s possible I’m rationalizing some things.  These are my books, and I’m damn proud of them.  I don’t hold to the idea that my books are my babies, but there are paralells … like the way people don’t like to see or acknowledge flaws in our children.

I have mixed feelings about Danielle.  I look at Mermaid and think yes, I she’s the kind of person who could enjoy just relaxing on the rail (if not for being seasick all the time, but that would be a nasty cover).  At the same time–  Well, one of my suggestions for Snow Queen was to show her summoning some of her animal buddies.  To show her acting, if that makes sense?  (Editor liked the idea, but the image was already pretty full.)

There’s a lot I like about the covers.  Danielle’s outfit for Stepsister, and Snow’s for Mermaid.  A lot of the detail work, like the crossguard of Danielle’s sword, the belt and pouches Snow wears in Mermaid, Talia’s weaponry in Snow Queen.  Likewise, there are things I’d change if I could.  Danielle doesn’t need to be so skinny, especially since book two is after she’s recently given birth.  Talia would not be showing cleavage.  (Snow, absolutely.  Talia, no.)

No cover is going to be perfect, and usually when I talk about my cover art, I try to focus on the positive.  A lot of people have loved these covers, but I’ve also heard feedback from people who disliked the way the protags were posed, and that’s valid too.

How do I reconcile it all?  I guess by asking for what changes I can get, focusing on the positive when it’s done, and hoping each cover will be good enough to convince most potential readers to pick up the books and give them a shot.

Thoughts and discussion are welcome, as always.