Saturday, September 24, 2016

Judging a Book by its Cover: Rainbow Awards' best...and some others that aren't

The book cover for my new short story collection, Forty Wild Crushes, is among the many, many candidates for the Rainbow Awards annual competition. Please vote for mine, which features an original painting by Kenney Mencher, a Palo Alto-based artist.

The contest is run by the prolific blogger, book reviewer and author Eliza Rolle. Her books include the encyclopedic yet totally readable Days of Love, which chronicles the lives of hundreds of LGBT couples though history.

Along with reviewing many books, (including a few of mine), Rolle also runs the annual multi-category Rainbow Awards, which generates a lot of attention for the many LGBT-themed books published each year.


Also in the running in the Rainbow Awards book cover contest is Not Just Another Pretty Face, the new anthology of fiction, poems and essays, with accompanying photos by Tom Schmidt, all about gogo guys, dancers and other artists. I have a nicely reviewed short essay in it as well. 

Booklife says: "Contributors include 2015 Sue Kaufman Prize winner Michael Carroll, 2013 Lambda Mid-Career author Trebor Healey, and Lammy winners Jeff Mann, David Pratt, and Jim Provenzano."

As reviewed in the Bay Area Reporter, Jim Piechota notes:  "Jim Provenzano's short work speaks volumes from the older and wiser perspective of an aging partier toward the dancers at a 'gay Burner Faerie warehouse' party. The narrator laments his own past as a go-go boy, having 'been up there, thirty years and twenty pounds ago, shaking my ass for tips, because it was fun, and back then I, too, was perfect.'" 

Well, we're all perfect in our own ways. So, give them a vote, too, please.

Certainly a lot of other nominees' selections span the range of book covers, all LGBT in Eliza's contest, and mostly romance novels. There's a certain template, a style, that I chose not to use for my last two novels, which, while categorized as Romance novels, didn't exactly fit the mold of many others.


That mold being, two probably shirtless guys, one in the background (usually the one with long hair), a pastoral Photoshopped background and a script font. 

An exception to that standard template is Blueberry Boys, a Lambda Literary finalist. Set primarily at a rural blueberry farm, the cover makes sense, and doesn't force the viewer to fully see the character's faces.

But genius book cover designer Chip Kidd notes that literalism in book covers is not good. If your book is titled, say, The Apple of My Eye, you don't use graphics with an apple and an eye.

Blueberry Boys is a really good story. It's just that the cover falls into that literal imagery trap: Blueberries. Boys. But that's fine for this genre, as I've learned. I've also learned that putting metaphorically "artistic" plants and leaves, instead of two shirtless guys on my own books, may result in fewer sales. Oh, well.

And while I'm certainly not going to critique other nominees (although I think I just did), there are a few funny blogs, as I've shared before, that take the reins of comic retorts to the seemingly unending array of bad straight and gay romance book covers.


Bad Romance (book covers)
Awkward Romance Novels takes on some book covers that satisfy the cliché template, but go a bit overboard, or short of left field.

For example, Reckless Desire gets b-slapped with, "I guess the fact that she's falling off the fucking horse might be seen as being a little reckless."

Other covers include the many kilt-clad immensely-pec'ed muscle dudes, because it seems women like their fantasy men to have easy access, except that they're at the gym five hours a day.

The tome Sugar Honey Iced Tea by the floridly named Dolce Sprodaré, is neither a cocktail book nor, probably, a prudish romance, since its male cover model is porn actor Frank "The Tank"  DeFeo. Don't ask why I know that.

For some reason, it's not on Amazon, but another softcore porn covered book by Dolce is. Check out the 'Almost Porn' book cover collection on Pinterest.

WTF Bad Romance Covers mines the lower depths of book cover absurdity, including the obligatory mention ofChuck Tingle (more on him later). Some are bland, some are dumb, and some are just...odd.

I mean, take this one. The guy is gifting his girlfriend a box of ferns. While I'm sure we'll later find out the significance of the box of ferns (why not an engagement ring? Are they floraphiles?), the treatment is awkward, to say the least.

Other blogs that cover the poorest in publishing include Uncle Walter,  The Boston Phoenix, which offers up 20 Astoundingly Bad romance book covers, cheesy covers via The FW, Bored Panda's Worst of All Time in any category, Book Binge's bad cover collection,  and, thanks to the gold rush of self-publishing ebook-only tales, Kindle Cover Disasters, including Spaghetti Monster Tossed My Salad. Prepare to fall into a deep hole of hilarity.

 
Spine Out
A book cover can tell you everything or nothing about its contents.

Fortunately, I was happy to see a few of my books at the San Francisco Public Library a few weeks ago, while meeting with friend who was poring over music scores.

I was intrigued to see a laminated hardback edition of my third novel, Cyclizen, on the shelves in the main floor. Sometimes libraries special order a hardback edition because it lasts longer. But I'd never seen one. 

Of course, as I've written before, the hunky cover model is actually an accurate depiction of the character, so I didn't feel like selling out to intrigue potential readers. You can read all sorts of blog posts about that book cycling and other topics, from 2007 to 2012, in my Cyclizen blog.

Anyway, searching for readable books at the library was fun. It was also nice to see that all copies of my fourth novel, Every Time I Think of You, were all "in use."

My first novel, PINS, is out of stock at SFPL, because people kept stealing them. Note to self: re-donate. 

But while at the library, I browsed based solely on first impressions, and didn't yet choose too many books. I instead sought out authors by name, and if I hadn't read it, I chose those, too. And they all had good book covers. No shirtless dudes in kilts. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I've read one, or three.


Camp Covers
But of course no lighthearted critique of book covers would be complete without including at least one of the exhaustingly prolific Chuck Tingle's work. 

His cranked out timely parodies include scifi awards, dinosaurs and other improbably objects anthropomorphized into horny tops. The guy rules this genre, his own, in a way. The covers are as absurd as the stories.

So, it's a good thing!


1 comment:

  1. I'm looking up those links - thanks for the fun blog!

    ReplyDelete