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My question is basically the title. I'm writing a new sci fi/space opera series where the main theme is action/adventure in space with a romance subplot. The romance subplot adds tension and spiciness to the novel I guess you could say, but it decidedly isn't the main point. It's more about action and adventure in space, sort of a "quest" plot line.

I'm kind of torn on whether to include both the male and female character on the cover because I don't want to signal that the story is sci-fi romance, but rather sci-fi that happens to have romance in it.

My main question would be, if you see a male and a female on a cover in a sci-fi context, does that signal to you that romance is the main point of the plot? Should I just ask to have only the male MC on the cover just to avoid that confusion? As a reader personally, I don't automatically assume that having a man and woman on the cover means the novel is about romance, I might assume they are on the same team or something, but I can see how a lot of readers might get confused, potentially.
 

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I went and looked at sci fi /space fleet  and the only cover in top 100 with a m/f was a romance. But as a non reader of that genre it would signal to me that the focus is the romance.

 

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I think it would depend on the style of the image and the posing. Especially with original art, it shouldn't be too hard to show both MCs without it looking like a romance. (If you're using stock art, it would likely be much harder.) Look at the book "The Dragons of Dorcastle" by Jack Campbell to see the kind of thing I mean.
 

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I sincerely hope that faces on the cover doesn't mean the characters shown are all romantically involved, because if so one of mine could be taken for a rather awkward menage.
 

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It would incline me to believe the book was a romance or contained a strong romantic relationship.
 

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I haven't avoided having a male and female on my cover with my thriller, Deadly Journey (in my signature) Click on it to get a better view.

The title, tag lines on the cover, blurb, and anyone sampling, together with meta data keywords for searches has avoided any confusion mentioned in reviews from annoyed romance readers .

Mine is a dark crime thriller with lots of violence, but there is a male female romance  subplot, so the cover is apt

 

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I definitely wouldn't mistake Declan's "Deadly Journey" for a romance novel...

I agree with Shawna. It really depends on the posing of the male and female characters, the style of the cover, etc. I would test the cover with potential readers to make sure it's not giving off the wrong vibe or causing confusion.
 

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I would think that if you had the characters holding weapons, or in some sort of military style uniform, dressed as space soldiers or whatnot, it could pass for sci-fi more than a romance. A lot of modern sci-fi has female action characters who aren't necessarily in romantic situations. It would all be in the presentation.

PS, I'm not a space opera, sci-fi, etc. reader, but I have read it in the past, seen enough of the covers... so my opinion is from this perspective.
 

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I have read several series where there is a pair doing the adventuring etc, with sometimes more but most often less romance, not even a bit of flirting. Unless they are touching / hugging, that should not be a problem. Also the cover is never the only thing about a book before buying / reading it - so as long as the blurb makes it clear that it is not a romance aka stressing the other aspects that should be fine.

However. You say scifi - I think you need to think more about your reader demographics. When you do the testing, pay special attention to your male audience if they find it too romantic, they might get confused.
 

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It depends on whether the couples' focus is on each other (bodies or faces turned inward) or if their attention is turned outward, as if preparing for some approaching threat. There are also some models whose appearance and expressions automatically suggest romance, regardless of pose, even if there's only one of them pictured on the cover. Which, I guess, means it's tough to say without seeing the cover.
 
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