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Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Ultimate Romance Question: Shirt or No Shirt

Shirt or no shirt?

Seems to be the ultimate question among my romance author friends.

On the cover, do people like shirtless men, or models with shirts?

When one considers statistics, shirtless men covers sell more. Check out this report here that shows some interesting numbers when it considers covers and sales numbers.

Certainly, in romance, covers with men sell more than couples, women, or scenery (per the previous report's statement).

But the question always returns about shirtless men or not on the cover. I believe when writing erotica, the bare-chested man sells more. But what about sweet romances, paranormal, or inspirational? I believe that most of it depends on the genre, because the cover is supposed to convey the overall theme of the novel to the reader, first and foremost.

But even in non-erotic genres, why are the sales so much higher on books with bare chested men on the cover?

Perhaps the age-old mantra is still in full effect: sex sells.
I certainly understand the appeal. And some of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen have the shirtless, ripped male model on the cover. One of my dear author friends has her entire brand around the washboard-abs hotties on the front. They sell like hot-cakes! (Pun intended).
For me, it's not an automatic turn off with a bare chested man on the cover. But it's not an automatic one-click buy, either. My romantic suspense novel, Prince of Solana, has one smokin' hot man on the front, but he's completely clothed. *swoon*

What are your thoughts? Do you like bare-chested men on covers? Why or why not?

Susan Sheehey writes romantic suspense and contemporary romance. She's a strong advocate for autism awareness and acceptance, and includes the element of water in all of her novels. She lives in Texas with her husband and two boys. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, BookBub, and join her monthly newsletter on her website for updated information and prizes!


  1. Shirt or no-shirt is definitely a question to consider as some hate them and verbally tell the world about it. Others post photos of such guys regularly on Facebook. I'm not a huge fan of the overdone abs on so many of the covers, but it's part of the modeling game, I guess. I don't think a bare chest works so well on sweet romances as it does imply something-- especially if she's in the photo with him ;). Lately, on BookBub, when I see a photo of a guy with no shirt, I am prone to not look at the description because I assume it'll be like the other three books there also. Shirtless is also seen a lot on the paperbacks on the racks at WalMart; so they must sell to somebody. I'd be more intrigued by the guy on your cover as then I'd wonder who is he and what put that expression on his face.

  2. I agree with you, Susan. Lately all my books have been sweet, so a bare-chested man would be inappropriate. The cover has to represent the book's content. I love your cover on PRINCE OF SOLANA, although that's not why I bought the book. As incentive to buy, I use the genre, the author, and blurb. I think for non-writers the criteria might vary more.

  3. Lately, I've been tired of men on the cover of books in all forms of dress or undress. I'm also tired of two lovers staring at each other or just about to kiss. The market seems flooded with these. But I do prefer a dressed male so that I can fantasize what's beneath. Let's face it. It's romance. The hero isn't likely to be a less-than-good-looking, 5-foot, skinny male with a whinny voice, so why not let the reader create her own mental picture? However, I do like your very handsome hunk! :-)

  4. I like the cover to match the genre. I read urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I want to look at the cover and know the book is what I want to read. Most UF / paranormal covers have a woman on the front (with a weapon of some type in her hand, in many cases). I don't mind looking at a shirtless man, but I won't typically pick up the book--it's been overdone.

  5. I think authors aren't representative of the buying public. We see hundreds--maybe thousands--of book covers. The reading public doesn't. They see what's on the racks or the webpage. They're the ones who like the bare-chested male model, and it's pretty much been that way as long as I can remember.

    An art editor at a major publisher once said that the reason the male cover art is popular is that the reader, usually female, doesn't want to see the heroine because the heroine doesn't turn her on. The female reader wants to see a sexy man on the cover because that's what turns her on.

    Personally, I'm cool with a male on the cover. I want covers to accurately depict the characters or a scene in the book.


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