A leisurely stroll through the fiction section of your local bookstore will reveal a surprising number of book covers that are… ass.
Primarily female ass.
I’m going to be the very, very, very last person in the world to complain if people want to put any portion of the female anatomy on book covers. So blame my Inner Philosopher for asking “Why?”
The simple answer is that ‘sex sells.’ But for the sake of a blog post, I’m going to pretend there’s more to it than that.
It’s important to realize that the author doesn’t always have input on the cover of his/her own book. The cover is generally the domain of the publisher if the author is traditionally published (as opposed to self-published) . That includes the book title, cover copy, graphics, colors, layout, font, blurbs, etc. Covers of books are usually developed or contracted by the publisher.
But that doesn’t really explain this:
For the record, Kim Harrison did not start this trend, and she might not like it herself, but her publisher is clearly sold on it. Now, any one of these as a cover is fine. But as a repeated motif it’s questionable, and as a genre, I’d think someone somewhere would find it offensive. More than half of these covers don’t even show the woman’s head, and none of them show the face. What happened to women being pissed off at being objectified? If a male author had book covers like these, could we expect some outcry then?
No offense intended to Kim Harrison; quite the opposite. I think there is more substance to her books than these covers give credit for. Check online reviews of her work and you will find that her writing is well-liked and her covers are not. In fact, I would say her work is selling well *in spite of* her publisher’s cover choices.
Attack of the Clones
For every person with an original marketing idea, there’s 1×10^3 people who simply copy that idea, rendering it un-original. My guess is that once upon a time, a good book with the female behind on the cover made the bestseller list, and now publisher’s marketing departments are making the decision to knock off a piece.
Why would I think this? Browse through the fiction section yourself and look for the books with the heroine derriere on the cover. They won’t be hard to find. This bunch came together quickly:
Again, I have nothing whatsoever against the authors or their writing. In fact, that’s my point. How do the publishers’ cover choices relate to the contents? Are the covers an accurate image of the product, or simply objectifying women? Should marketing people should be strangled to death with their own intestines?
If I were the author, I’d be pissed that my book cover looked like this. No originality whatsoever. Drowned in a sea of “Look at my ass too!”.
Of course we all recognize the classic pose of looking back over the shoulder originated by Bigfoot. (See picture, right.) My friend James has named this pose The “Three-Quarter Twist” – not looking all the way behind you, but almost. Xtna pointed out that this pose allows the audience to see three aspects of the subject – the face, the curve of the chest, and the ass – all at once.
One could argue that showing the female backside on a book cover is a branding thing, like the Harlequin Romance ‘bodice rippers’ with the stereotypical picture of Fabio ravaging some harlot on the cover. Perhaps publishers think that consumers can put themselves in the place of the heroine on the cover. This would explain the disturbingly faceless/headless heroines. Maybe they think consumers see the cover pic of a heroine’s ass and think, “Oh, look! A modern day urban-fantasy featuring a female-dhampir protagonist, and told from first person point of view! I love these!”
What it tells me is that the author doesn’t have an original idea, and this book is just a knockoff of all the other books in the genre. Or worse, this book is trying to *look* like other books in a desperate attempt to sucker people into buying it. But keep in mind:
…the author doesn’t always have input on the cover of his/her own book… The cover is generally the domain of the publisher.
So the cover doesn’t have as much to do with the contents as you would think.
The Ass End
I should be thankful. Things could be worse. Much worse. They could be pictures of guys’ asses, or flabby bellies. Rob Zombie could probably think up far worse pictures of female anatomy to offend us.
The covers don’t lie. These books do in fact, contain female heroines, and the female heroines do in fact, have backsides. But what does this say about the publisher’s approach to the customer and the market as a whole? What does this say about the originality of the author/story?
What do you think?