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Can a Book Cover Go Too Far?


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Maybe I'm becoming a prude in my old age but sometimes I think the media has really taken things too far.


For example, take HBO's television series; it seems HBO is hell bent on shoving sex, especially gay sex, down our throats.  Otherwise compelling programing is hurt, in my opinion, by the gratuitous (and it is always gratuitous) sex. 


Look, porn is fine and there is a place for it, but not during a every single episode of every single series.  OZ really took the cake -- I actually couldn't even really watch the program for fear of having to witness that big Nigerian dude anally raping someone.


The True Blood series fell apart for a number of reasons but if I have to watch the vamper skank Sookie Stackhouse get naked again I'm going to puke.  But from The Wire, to Game of Thrones to my favorite series Six Feet Under, the freaks at HBO bombard you with sex -- full frontal male nudity, Male on male, woman on woman, even dwarf sex -- sheesh!


Now to book covers.  I saw this book cover at the Harlem Book Fair a couple of weeks ago.  I spoke briefly with the author and even shot a quick video of her.  The young lady, Nadege  who wrote the book was very sweet.  I did not talk to her about her cover, so I feel a little bad about singling this cover out -- cause there are many others I could have chosen.  But then again when you put a book out into the world you also extend and invitation to folks to talk about it.


That said, I thought this book crossed the line a bit.  I have no problem with the book cover, but should it be prominently displayed, out in the open, a few yards from the Children's Pavilion at an outdoor street fair?  


Perhaps this is art and I'm a prude.  The faux penis in the woman's month subtly suggesting what one may find between the covers of the book.


I dunno.  What do you all think?   




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I agree with everything you say. Sex in the media is so over the top and frequent that its shock value is dulled.  Leaving things to the imagination and suggestive teasing is a thing of the past. 


 As for the book cover you display - I find it more bizarre than lascivious.  I wasn't really sure what was going on in this pose of a sleeping woman with an odd looking object in her mouth.  If invoking curiosity was its goal, for me it succeeded.

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"Leaving things to the imagination" a likely respond from someone under 30 might be, "What does that mean?"


Cynique, you apparently reacted in the way the author intended.  Perhaps you are more reflective of the target demographic. 


For me the cover did not illicit interest in the book's content. I just started thinking about how book covers (magazine covers too) are becoming much more graphic.


Here are a couple of other book covers from recent advertisers.  I LOVE advertisers.  My intent is not to berate their products.  I'm merely discussing them in the context of broader industry trends.  Indeed, the fact they are advertisers is the reason I'm, and now you, are aware of the books.  That said;


When this book cover ad was placed on AALBC.com (this advertisement was sold by an affiliate).  I was concerned people would view the AALBC.com negatively. 


I've actually had two potential advertisers tell me that they did not want their book covers on the homepage (one of my inexpensive advertising options) because of the book covers already present.  I hate that attitude because if they advertised they could impact what was on the site.  But the real problem I have is that both of these people whose books were too precious to be on the homepage have no problem taking advantage of all the free promotion I provide them. 


At any rate, this cover, in my opinion, is too revealing for a book cover. I could image a physical bookstore refusing to display it out in the open.  But in today's world to get noticed authors constantly up the ante.  Besides there are so few stores left the idea of reducing the prospect for prominent placement is no longer a factor.





The cover below is rather interesting, humorous even.  Perhaps that is the goal?  I have no idea.  Clearly each of us will see something different in a book cover.  This is natural.  But the cover and title, ideally, should yield the same impression for the majority of the target audience.  I can only speculate who the target reader is and what they should take way from the this cover. 


It also made me think about HBO again.  Netflix as you know has began producing their own original TV series.  They also make the entire series available in one shot.  Given the Netflix is only $8 a month I think this is a terrific deal (but I'm way off the subject).


Netflix seems to be following HBO down the road of leaving too little to the imaginations.  On one of the series that I started to watch, "Orange is the New Black", there was as scene in which the main character, a woman, goes to the bathroom.  I said to myself if they show this woman using the toilet and wiping herself I'm bailing.  She did and I decided to read a book.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Believe it or not, I don't have a problem with the cover.

If I were to walk into a bookstore and saw books with full nudity on the cover, as long as it's in the proper section of the store for erotica I wouldn't have a problem with it as I don't ascribe to most typical Western concepts of sexual morality.

As long as it's a FEMALE (of appropriate age ofcourse) with a phallic symbol in her mouth as oppose to a male, it's cool.

I think the two apples image is not only very erotic but quite creative!

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As far as book covers go, wow, things have really exploded over the last few years. For a while now, I haven't really thought that hard about the changing trend in book covers as I have always suspected that trends were meant to be followed if there was a dollar to be made in it. However, it has come up more often now, meaning the topic about cover art. I imagine that a lot of people think some have gone too far.

As Brother Troy personally knows, I had a terrible mishap with a book cover. It was my first, but it was a disaster. It was not graphic. It was just bad. Since then, I have been more open to what goes on the cover of my books, and I still get it wrong most times. Yet, I have attempted to steer clear of visually sexual or violent book cover although now, I am a little more open to the notion that sex sells, especially in certain genres.

Even on my latest book cover, I was opposed to the use of the word "bitch' on the cover, but relented after discussion with others who thought it was cute. How cute is it to offend someone's sensibilities? Anyway, I was told to man up. Can you believe that?

Here I am, someone who has spent 35 years in some of the toughest prisons in the country and being told to man up. Anyway, yes, some of it has gone too far, but this is a business, And the business of business is business.

Business can do strange things to one's scruples. For instance, about 10 years ago, I said, and I said it right here on AALBC, that I would never write a certain type of books, that I would only write literary gems of substance and power. Sadly, the business end of writing quickly changed the moral of that story. Now, I write in an effort to survive, so I write what I promised not to write. Sometimes.

In any event, I am determined to get back to my original intent which is to produce work that will sustain our illustrious literary heritage. I guess I said all that to say that sometimes, the cover art as well as the writing may not accurately reflect the author's private passion. It could just be the power of money doing it's thing.

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Alidawriter, your last two paragraphs essentially sums up the state of Black popular literature. from the self published author to the large houses.


But this should be no surprise.  Little in our culture does much to serve Black people.  Make your money man.



Pioneer.  Your statements, "I don't ascribe to most typical Western concepts of sexual morality." and "As long as it's a FEMALE (of appropriate age of course) with a phallic symbol in her mouth as oppose to a male, it's cool."  Seem contradictory because the latter statement is the epitome of Western sexual morality.


Yeah, the apples are quite creative :-)




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