Thursday, June 21, 2012

Swinging Both Ways

Sexy covers sell books, right?
As I write this, I’m chuckling, thinking of the people who started reading this because of the sexual overtone in the headline. Not you, of course. You’re here for the literary value. But, you know… those people. They are here for the sleeze factor, right?
The truth is, we all, to some degree, love a good innuendo now and then. The double entendre, the classic, “I didn’t mean it that way” flub… it’s all in good fun, right?
Advertising agencies have pummeled our proclivities for such things into a writhing, pulpy mass. They hurl it at us in its various forms every day. That’s how stuff gets sold. Check out any literary blog where reviews of erotica are available, and you’ll see lots of it, (go ahead, I’ll wait).
See? Your eyeballs are awash in six-pack abs, drastically-curving butts and hands strategically placed to offer you just a taste of what you’ll find if you just Buy That Book!
It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s a treat for the eyes. But, what if that’s not your thing? What if your novel is about someone or something that contains no sexual situations at all? Can you write that book and still draw in the viewers? Will anyone care?
Of course they will. Just like all of the media forms before this one, quality matters. However, faced every day with a constant barrage of messages that are clear in their efforts to tell you that you’re not young/toned/sexy enough for life without a given product, it’s only natural to let those tactics slip into your own marketing efforts. It’s hard sometimes, (see what I did there?) to avoid using salacious or risqué imagery when trying to get more eyes on your book.
It’s worth the effort. If you write erotica or books with sexual overtones, great! More power to you. Social mores and uptight-ness could use a good kick in the arse. But for those that don’t, I say resist! Don’t put images of large-breasted women or Fabio-like muscle guys on your covers just to sell books! If it pertains to the story, go for it. But, if it doesn’t, just don’t.
“But, JD”, you moan. “Sex sells! I want to sell books! I’d put a naked fireman with a huge hose on the cover if Amazon would let me! You can’t stop me!” True enough, but wait! There’s more.
If your story is about Bob, the incredibly well-endowed fireman and all of the hijinks that ensue, then, by all means, show it swinging. But, if that design covers a book about Bob the accountant and his many cats… well, be prepared to have a lot of pissed off people flaming your book in the reviews. They may not even realize why they feel let down by your tome. You had better have written a really heart-warming treatment of Bob’s life in accounting to win them back.
“Yeah, but,” you snarl. “You’ve only written one book. You’re no expert!” Okay. “You don’t know shit from shinola about marketing!” Fair enough. “Why should I take your advice over my agent/best friend/marketing person’s advice?”
I don’t know. All I can say is that, like every other writer out there, I’m a reader first. I learned to read around the age of three, and continue to read every day. The list of things I would rather do instead of reading a good book is very short. And, I would rather read a great book with a plain cover than to be ridden hard and put up wet, (I just can’t help myself), by a cover image that has nothing to do with what I’m reading. A decade ago, I would forgive an author for that, assuming that the publisher put that fireman on the cover over the author’s objection. Now, it’s all on you.
As the iconic Stan Lee wrote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So, use those bare man- nipples sparingly.

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