To clinch or not to clinch?  It’s a subject that comes up all the time with authors. Generally, those opposed feel that clinches are dated and too easily mocked.  Those in favor like to be able to visualize the characters they’re reading about  and see the clinch as an easy way to find romance on the shelves, as Publishers Weekly explains in an article in its latest issue.

While no one has done a recent poll of readers to solicit their vote on clinch or no clinch, the question has elicited some lively discussions on romance blogs. Sarah Wendell, cofounder of Smart Bitches is not shy about weighing in with her readers’ opinion. “Many readers,” she says, “hate it. Hate it. At best, the clinch can be a visual exercise in Technicolor hilarity, or at worst a complete and total embarrassment for the reader. But clinch covers will probably never go away: they sell.”

And she’s absolutely right about that selling part. 

A while back I had a few new authors who were vehemently opposed to a clinch on their cover.  So I wanted to see if we had any numbers that supported a stand one way or the other.  I looked at all our new or relatively new authors writing historicals from 2006-2007 and found:

*Clinch covers averaged a draw of about 5300 more copies than nonclinches.

*Clinch covers averaged a sell-through of 11 percentage points higher than nonclinches.

Granted, this would hardly meet the standards of a rigorous scientific survey.  The sample pool was only 15 titles, two-thirds of which were nonclinch (a house, landscape, object, single woman or single man).  Not too shocklingly, the one nonclinch to buck the trend was the one with a guy.

However, it was enough to convince me that when appropriate and done tastefully, clinch covers are the way to go–at least for authors who can’t yet count on name recognition to sell books.

Obviously this is a topic a lot of people strongly about, though.  Your thoughts?