Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Those Racy Covers by Megan Crane

I wrote up my recent reading over at my blog, and talked about reading Bedded By Her Lord by Denise Lynn on a flight from New York to Los Angeles:

One of the things I admire about Harlequin is that they deliver exactly what they promise, and to make sure of this, they announce it on the cover, right there in the title. I don't need to tell you what this book is about-- you already know. It's genius marketing, really. But I kind of wished for a little less marketing genius while I was reading it on the plane, arousing the delight of the sketchy guy across the aisle and the contempt of the girl in my row who was reading Sartre. (Yes, really.) Oh well. At least I got used to defensively reading paperbacks with racy covers lo these many years ago, or I might have been really uncomfortable.

Racy covers were always a problem for me, starting with the bodice-ripper pirate romances that were my introduction to romance novels, thanks to the bargain bin at the local Woolworth's. And when I say they were a problem for me, what I mean is, they were clearly a problem for everyone who saw my pre-teen self clutching one of those covers to my nose, eagerly drinking them in. I received horrified lectures from shopkeepers, teachers, the parents of friends.

Does your mother know what you're reading? one store owner demanded, refusing to sell me a Shirlee Busbee novel when I was in the ninth grade.

Never one to be shy or retiring in the face of injustice, I promptly responded that while my mother might not know which book I was reading, she wouldn't care, as she did not censor my reading material. (Which was happily true, though the mean old troll still refused to sell me the book.)

As time went on, friends turned up their noses at my collection of romances and refused to read them, even when I told them these books were the best I'd ever read. The poetic, angry young men I wanted to date sneered at them. While I was in graduate school, an old friend introduced me by saying, she's studying for a PhD AND she reads romance novels!!, and then everyone in the room gawked at me.

Now that I'm an author, I know exactly how little input authors have into their covers, and I also know that the racier the cover, the more copies the book will sell. So I can only think that for every prim creature who gasped or sneered at one of the racy covers in my hand, three more hurried out and bought themselves a copy.

I know I'm not the only person who has had to contend with these sorts of responses. Short of clubbing the Sartre-reading snob over the head with my Harlequin Historical (and having read both, I think Denise Lynn was the better choice), what's your go-to response for the inevitable snobbery you encounter out there?


Gigi said...

I love those racy covers. I am more apt to buy a book with a racy title and cover.
I still have rubbermaid tubs filled with the bodice rippers I read during the 80's and 90's.

I don't care what people think of of my reading preferences.
Now around younger children and some of the more religious in the family I have a very cool quilted book cover I won from Janelle Denison years ago. It has red hot chili peppers all over it.
It comes in handy for these situations.

Usually those people that turn their nose up at a Harlequin or any other romance book have never read a good one yet.

Jane said...

I'm a fan of racy covers, but it's hard to read books with these covers on the train and bus. People will definitely stare and it makes me uncomfortable.

Maureen said...

I ignore those people. No one has ever said anything to my face and I don't really care what their thoughts are on my reading material.

Cryna said...

I have a friend that calls romance books porn - and no matter what you say she has her mind set. So as far as I am concerned she is missing out on a lot of really good stories. We just agree not to talk books.

As for a racy covers, if it is a little racy for where I am going to be reading it - I have a really nice book cover that takes care of the situation.

Dina said...

Since I have young gandkids, I'd just hide a racy cover book, otherwise, it doesn't bother me what people think about my book, unless they like it. :)

Pat Cochran said...

I'm with GiGi and Cryna in that if
I am going to be reading my romance
novel in public, I use my plain-
Jane book cover. Around my younger
grandchildren, I make sure that I
use a book cover to make sure I do
not have to answer any questions.
Although I feel that what I read is totally my own business ( and not
anyone else's) I accept that I could be possibly making someone less than comfortable. I can be

Pat Cochran

Estella said...

I always tell them if you've never read it, don't knock it!

Virginia said...

I really don't care what people think of what I read, its my chose. My mother in law alway makes remarks about what I read but I don't care. I tell her I like smutty romance novals.