How Naked Should Your Book Cover Hero Be?

by Diana Belchase


I’m a bit more conservative than most authors.  Gorgeous guys on book covers are not my personal style.  Still, this gorgeous cover for Gwen Hernandez’s Blind Fury, the first in her Men of Steele series, really has me thinking.  Do I really need to be that shy about my heroes best physical assets?

I was once asked to contribute a photo of a hot hunky guy that was half-dressed for a blog article.  We needed to reveal why this “character” was a hero.  This is what I posted:


“What may you ask is my husband’s feet doing in the midst of all these jaw-droppingly gorgeous guys.  Well, the call to action was a half-dressed man, wasn’t it?  My DH is my hero for so many reasons, but last year when my feet ached so badly I literally couldn’t walk another step in my heels, he took off his shoes in the metro (subway for you non-D.C. folks) and gave them to me!  For me, that kind of self-sacrifice is the most romantic thing in the world. I’ll love him forever for his kind gesture … and so much more.”

As I get nearer to publication, it’s becoming obvious that I may need to make a decision about whether a half-naked guy or gal will appear on one of my book covers someday, or if I will go the enigmatic, nothing but words on the cover against a murky background route.  Still, I’d like people on the cover, I think, and it seems as if those fall into four general categories (yes there may be others, but please humor me):

First, Hunky half-dressed guy like on Gwen Hernandez’s Blind Fury up top.  Here are some more examples:



Highland Seer by Willa Blair, Robin Covington’s Secret Santa Baby , and Unclaimed by Candice Gilmer all feature half (or perhaps more) naked men.  Just like in Blind Fury, I’d have to be really blind not to see the eye-popping value of this kind of cover.

Then there are the fully or mostly dressed men on the covers.  This is more my style but I wonder if I’d be shooting myself in the foot with a cover that , let’s say, didn’t go all the way?

Books like Candice Gilmer’s fabulous Under His Nose,  or Lena Diaz’s wonderful Tennessee Takedown , or Sharon Wray’s page turning debut novel, Every Deep Desire, convey a lot of punch for covers where the amount of male flesh is pretty minimal.

Next we have the “relationship covers.  These can get hot and steamy.


Carlene Love Flores’ book Sin’s Haven, Rachel Grant’s Withholding Evidence, and Manda Collin’s Why Earls Fall in Love really can give a girl hot flashes!


And though Sally MacKenzie’s book boasts no photo at all, just the words Naked and Duke (along with fabulous writing, of course), turned Sally MacKensie into a best selling author!

Finally there are the covers that are all about the girls — the female protagonists.  I really love these examples, too:

Confession by Carey Baldwin is so eye catching, as is Laurel Wanrow’s book, The Witch of the Meadows,  and don’t you wonder what is going on in Lena Diaz’s Undercover Twin?

So let me know what you think.  What kinds of covers do you like best? If you’re a writer would you prefer hot and steam, naked, or intriguing? As a reader, do you ever feel intimidated by some of these covers when reading in public or buying at the grocery store?  Let me know, I’d really like to know what you think.

14 thoughts on “How Naked Should Your Book Cover Hero Be?

  1. I think I’m rather shy about reading books with hunks on the covers so it’s all about the ladies for me!

  2. The hotter the guys the better! Heck half the time I buy it more for the cover than the read.

  3. I tend to like covers that have words on them without people. Those kinds of books seem more action packed and have better plots. The ones with the guys usually look action laden but don’t deliver as much of a thrill.

    1. Yes, most thrillers only have words on them. My book is a thriller called The Spy in the Mirror — but it does have a touch of romance in it, too. But I’m with you, action and plot are the name of the game. Thanks for visiting!

  4. I don’t even look at the covers. It’s all about page one for me. If the first line is a stinker it doesn’t matter what the cover is like.

  5. Your husband is the most romantic guy in the world. You’re a lucky gal. And that’s about all the nakedness I like — bare feet! LOL. Hysterical.

  6. This is such an interesting question, Diana. Readers have so many preferences and it’s hard to figure out how to “place” a book. Too bad readers can’t have a choice of covers so they can pick the one they prefer when they buy the book! Maybe one day. 🙂

  7. Fascinating discussion.

    As an AUTHOR, I shy away from the half-naked-muscle-god school. Unlike my competition (I write gay fiction), I don’t write much hot’n heavy—I tend to close the chapter just as soon as somebody starts reaching for a zipper. I argue with my publisher, putting a lot of skin on the cover would be misleading, and so far (two books in) they have respected my no-abs-please request.
    However, it’s obvious that gorgeous guys sell books.

    As a READER, I know that I sometimes open a book description based solely on the model. Which is dumb, but there it is. Hormones are what they are.

    The biggest problem with the half-naked approach is that the books all start to look alike. How can your book, with a shirtless guy looking surly, stand out from all the other shirtless guys looking surly?
    I think my books are extraordinary; I want them to look extraordinary.

    The cover examples you picked are very telling. The one that really stands out to me is The Naked Duke, which has nobody on the cover, but which already suggests both the milieu (something courtly) and the genre (comedy). If our titular duke happens to be drop-dead gorj, that’s for us to supply.
    And it doesn’t look like everybody else.
    That said, there’s that guy on Every Deep Desire. Just wow.

    1. I’m right with you, Chase. How wonderful that your publisher respects your wishes. As far as Sharon Wray’s Every Deep Desire — her hero gets even hunkier as you read the book. Lol. So glad you stopped by. Hope to see you back here soon.

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