It's a marketing strategy, pure and simple. Like or not, we judge a book by its cover. So – if you're selling romantic fiction to women, it makes sense to put a handsome couple on that book cover.
Hang on – ninety percent of the people reading romantic fiction are women: so forget the couple, just put the man on. Make sure he's got muscles. Ah, and now lose that shirt...
When I started writing my first novel, about this time last year, I didn't know all this. I didn't know that there was a whole industry behind book covers or that male fitness models (the handsome, muscled young men without shirts), eagerly sought out authors, anxious to appear on the cover of their next book.
In discovering all this I have, somewhat to my bemusement and the consternation of my husband and daughters, become friendly with a number of these young men. It has been a chore: I freely admit it. I mean, we're talking shoulders like boulders, pectorals like slabs of concrete, abs that ripple like sand after the tide has retreated, inch by inch; reluctant to leave as from the bed of a lover...
... Ah, please, none of you need to worry about the state of either my morals or my marriage.
You see, these beautiful people are just ordinary people too. These beautiful people suffer from low self-esteem (often the reason they start working out in the first place), with their love-lives, with the sheer exhaustion of keeping up the gruelling routine it takes to keep their bodies in that photo-shoot readiness.
It takes four hours of gym time every day, come rain or shine, storm or snow. It takes a diet composed almost entirely of lean meat, fish, and green vegetables – oh and additional protein shakes. It takes travel, usually at their own expense, to the photographers who can get their image out to the people who can use that image. The people who pay peanuts to use that image. For some of them it takes keeping this side of their life a dark secret from the people they work with. For some, they juggle all this with a demanding professional job too.
So I've ended up with nothing but admiration for their dedication, respect for their determination, and near awe for the talents of the photographers who make the most of their beauty.
I've not yet dared ask one of them just why they bother. But I will, one day.
I'm really interested to know what he'll say.
A Moodscope member.