Eloisa James knows a thing or two about romance. As the author of over 30 novels, she’s clearly an expert and authority in the genre. This made her the perfect person to explain the history and importance of stepbacks—second covers unique to the romance genre. Here, James wonders if we should step back from the stepback as ebooks begin to reign, and exclusively shares the stepback of her newest novel, My American Duchess.
In the age of ebooks, are stepbacks dated?
Do you even know what a stepback is? Stepbacks are the second covers on mass market paperbacks—generally, they offer a lush, sensual image of the hero and heroine with a hint about the plot. In older stepbacks, the heroine often clings to the semi-dressed hero, as in Brenda Joyce’s The Conquerer. Never mind the size of Rolfe de Warenne’s sword; Fabio has clearly vanquished the heroine’s heart.
But are covers like these as out of date as the heroine’s posture? After all, stepbacks only appear in printed books. Electronic readers display the cover of a book, but the stepback is left behind.
Should we just let the stepback gently pass into publishing history?
I don’t think so! Romances are not read not just for the romance; readers choose to escape to a specific place or time, whether it’s a cozy small town or a Regency ballroom. The stepback puts the hero and heroine in that world, giving the reader’s imagination a reference point.
I’m very proud to present (for the very first time!), the stepback of my next novel, My American Duchess, which will be published on January 26, 2016.
Isn’t it gorgeous? We see the swoop of Merry’s gown, the jewels in her hair, elegant flowers, exquisite furniture. This painting invites the reader into her world, one that doesn’t include fractious teenagers or piles of laundry. I was very happy to spend time there—and I hope you will be, too!
What do you think? Are stepbacks dinosaurs, or should we fight to get them into every romance, no matter its format? And while we’re at it, what’s your absolute favorite stepback? Post a link in the comments!
Eloisa James is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author and professor of English literature, who lives with her family in New York but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest-to-goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence.