Erotica Cover Watch

Why only women on the covers of erotic books?

Archive for the ‘we totally fucking rock!’ Category

Erotica Cover Watch: The End

with 23 comments

Men! We have men on sexy books! Doesn’t it make your heart sing? Got a Minute is a brand new cover on a hugely popular title by Alison Tyler (pub Cleis Press) while Abby Lee‘s memoir, Girl With a One Track Mind, Exposed, is the follow up to her 2006 bestseller, Girl With a One Track Mind. If you want ‘before and after’ shots, here’s how it used to be:

My, haven’t we grown? Followers of this blog will know, in the past, we’ve been highly critical of Cleis Press, progressive indie publishers, champions of marginalised sexualities and producers of top quality, seriously hot fiction who, paradoxically, have been responsible for creating some of the industry’s most sexist book covers. Our issues with Cleis have been compounded by the refusal of two of their top-name editors, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Violet Blue, to accept we have a valid a point when we say:

SEXY BOOK COVERS ONLY FEATURE SEXY WOMEN & NEVER SEXY MEN! THIS IMBALANCE IS SEXIST!

I view that statement as fact. I wrote it in big shouty letters to help the hard of thinking. Seriously, I fail to see how anyone can even consider arguing against our fundamental point. And anyone who claims Oh but, women like to identify, the book trade will never change, hot men are for teh gays etc is basically saying ‘sexism is OK’. Listen up: sexism is not OK. It must be challenged. We don’t know if the new cover of Got A Minute has anything to do with our campaign, nor if we were influential in Cleis’s choice of cover for Kristina Wright‘s forthcoming anthology, Fairy Tale Lust (right). But we do know we totally fucking love these designs, especially Got a Minute for its high male:female flesh ratio and its knee-quivering hotness!

Kristina, incidentally, was there at Erotica Cover Watch’s inception, prompting us to take action when she asked, ‘But, seriously, when are they going to put a hunky dude on the cover?‘ We really hope sales of these two Cleis books are sky-high and that Cleis will continue to broaden their remit as to what constitutes a suitable cover image for an erotic book. Because, along with many other female readers, we’ve seriously had it with T and A.

Zoe Margolis, aka Abby Lee, has been a staunch supporter of Erotica Cover Watch since the early days, commenting on our posts with intelligence, passion, wit and barefaced lechery; sending traffic our way with tweets and links; and being the unwitting inspiration behind LOLtits. We’re pretty damn sure Zoe’s publishers (Pan Macmillan) aren’t readers of ECW but it’s safe to say, the cover of Girl With a One Track Mind, Exposed, which officially hits the UK shops tomorrow (March 5th), wasn’t the first design Zoe was presented with. Or the second or the third …

Not all authors and editors get a say in the covers assigned to their books. But some do. And some people fight for what they believe in … and the upshot for Zoe is, a guy’s denim-clad butt appears in hundreds of bookshops and on 294 poster sites on the London Underground where, ordinarily, since this a sexy memoir, a woman’s eroticised body would have been the default representation (irrespective of the author’s gender).

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicShare photos on twitter with Twitpic

And as Zoe has pointed out to us, you really need to check out the woman’s toes on that cover: yup, this is definitely about female pleasure for a change – toe-curling pleasure! And so, hurrah, the message spreads: the erotic does not have to be signified solely by the female form; authentic female desire is not rooted in the gratification of men; a woman with sexual appetite is not, as contemporary culture would have us believe, doomed to express this via pole dancing and burlesque. Women lust. Women want. Women like to look at men. Please shift the gaze from us.

The point is: change is possible! Small things lead to big things, and we can all play a part in creating a better world. Or at least, as far as our campaign goes, in creating better bookshelves – bookshelves crammed with deliciously sexy books whose covers acknowledge female desire.

This is the last Erotica Cover Watch post. After 18 wonderful months, we’re closing the blog in a spirit of hope and belief and with enormous pride at what we – and you – have achieved. Our reach and success has gone way beyond what we thought possible. Here’s some of our best bits:

1. Xcite Books, the UK’s leading publisher of erotic fiction, have started to feature guys on their covers, thanks to us and you.

2. Filament magazine, backed by us and you, ran a highly successful ‘erection campaign‘, enabling them to afford a printer who wasn’t too scared to print a pic of hard cock. Filament are going from strength to strength and have recently secured an international distribution deal, covering all major English-speaking countries (except the UK because this country is weird). Issue 4 is out now!

3. We’ve written articles for The Guardian pertaining to women’s erotica, female sexuality and porn (see Comment is Free in sidebar). On one memorable occasion, our article was illustrated by a guy’s torso up top on the front page of The Guardian website. Woo-hoo!

4. We’ve been heard by many of the major players in the business: editors, authors, publishers. Some have ignored us; some have engaged with the debate but refused to budge; some have listened and changed their way of thinking; some are changing their way of marketing. In nearly all cases, even when there’s been significant disagreement between us and others in the industry, we have continued to work together as professionals and, in some cases, as friends. Nearly all …

5. Um, I (Kristina) have been blacklisted by Violet Blue and won’t be appearing in her anthologies again, a sure sign we touched a nerve.

6. We’ve illustrated our posts and demonstrated our point with images of book covers: on het books, at least 125 covers featured solo women, 14 featured couples (including sex guides so I’m being generous) and 17 featured solo men (5 of those were from Xcite and a result of our campaign and most of the others are from erotic romance, so again, I’m being generous.) If anyone wants to check my counting, feel free!

7. We’ve had 72 Man Candy Mondays and your all time favourites, according to hit rates, line up like an increasingly randy strip show:

3 2 1

8. Twice, we’ve been called  ‘dykes’. This still hurts my brain. How, when there is so much cock about the place?

9. Mathilde fearlessly tackled Fleshbot head-on, criticising them for using ‘Straight’ and ‘Gay’ filters where straight = hot babes and gay = hot dudes.

10. We’ve received 890 comments and have only had to block 4 for being abusive. Thank you, all of you. The quality of debate and the level of support we’ve received has truly been outstanding, not to mention inspiring! We’re thrilled.

*

We’re closing Erotica Cover Watch because we think we’ve made our point. Much as we’d love to go on making this point in the hope of reaching an even wider audience, we both have other projects we want to work on. We hope, with this campaign, we’ve raised awareness and set something in motion within the erotica publishing industry. Please help us to carry this forward. Please keep the energy of Erotica Cover Watch alive. Keep the links and Man Candies coming, complain about sexism, celebrate sexy men and support publishers who are trying to break the mould.

Once again, huge thanks for your immense support and enthusiasm. We couldn’t have done this without you!

Kristina and Mathilde x

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Written by Kristina Lloyd

March 4, 2010 at 9:14 am

Erotica Cover Watch: Temptations, ed. Miranda Forbes

with 8 comments

Erotica Cover Watch: Temptations, ed. Miranda Forbes, pub. Xcite Books

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Dear All,

Having a lovely wank holiday. These men are The weather is seriously fucking hot. Been doing lots of sightseeing. Violet Blue Someone said our argument hotel was very 1970s but we think maybe her sunshades are too strong because as you can see, it’s excitingly fresh and modern around here. We’re loving all the cock …
temptations1
tails. Luckily for us, they are called names like ‘Three’, ‘Two’ and ‘One’ so we don’t have to struggle with the usual stuff like ‘Screaming Multiple Outrage’ and ‘God Bollocks It’s Another Naked Babe on a Book for Women’!

Our biggest problem is deciding which one we like best! We’ve done lots of taste tests and I think ‘Three’ is my favourite. It reminds me of the many Cowboy Cocktails I’ve sampled. Last night when I asked Mat for her favourite, she couldn’t actually speak! I think she’d had a bit too much!!!

Hope you are all well and aren’t missing us too much!

Lots of love,

Kristina and Mat xxx

***

The Temptations series will be launched in November in the UK, each book costing only £2.99. Xcite say ‘The cover designs break with tradition but reflect a recent Xcite customers poll which revealed that 43% wanted to see a male on the cover, 30% a female and 27% a couple. The Temptations series deliver four mixed-theme erotic stories primarily aimed at female readers which feature a semi-naked man on each cover.’

And why did Xcite initially question the predominance of female models on erotica covers? Because they read our blog and they listened, giving Erotica Cover Watch its first glorious victory earlier in the year! It’s wonderful to see Xcite are continuing to feature hot guys on their covers. I truly love these images! And wonderful, too, to have a publisher who takes note and responds so positively instead of, ah, you know … not.

Written by Kristina Lloyd

September 17, 2009 at 6:48 am

Erotica Cover Watch: Best of Best Women’s Erotica, ed. Violet Blue

with 32 comments

BBWE

Erotica Cover Watch: Best of Best Women’s Erotica 2, ed. Violet Blue, pub. Cleis Press

Watched by Kristina Lloyd

Erotica Cover Watch is officially en vacances but clearly I’m a workaholic heading for a heart attack because there we were, Mat and I, sipping pina coladas by the pool, when I was struck by an overwhelming urge to call the office and yell, ‘What is it with all the women’s arses? Seriously, what the fucking fuck is wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right? I left a memo saying: HETEROSEXUAL WOMEN FIND MEN ATTRACTIVE. And what do you give those bitches to look at? More women’s butts! You’re FIRED!’

Best Women’s Erotica is, to quote the publishers ‘a legendary and groundbreaking yearly series, and is the best-selling women’s erotica collection, period. Every year BWE raises the bar for explicit erotica written by and for women.’

OK, now remember that part, ‘by and FOR women.’

Here’s more from the call for submissions: ‘The desired orientation within the main sexual element of the stories is primarily heterosexual.’

You got that? It’s het. So here we have an anthology aimed at women; its stories are primarily heterosexual, meaning its main target audience must be primarily het women too. In case you missed the memo: straight women fancy men. Seriously, they do! So what are you going to put on the cover of this book? An elephant, yes, that’s right! Or … or a car. What about a large pile of phone directories? Excellent! You’re hired. The important thing is, if you want to market erotica to women, choose an image which completely bypasses their desire; try to forget the fact they even have desire. Here’s two we made earlier:
BWE2010BWE2010_2

These images are both for BWE 2010. The first image was a result of a regular marketing meeting; on the agenda: ‘another book of het erotica from Cleis. Cover suggestions?’ And everyone shrugged and said, ‘Woman’s arse, the usual.’ A few weeks later, management thought a BWE cover ought to be a bit different so they put a naked women in some trendy shoes on a chair and told her to look at the camera. This is a clever trick to fool people into thinking this represents an empowered woman expressing her sexuality. Cos she’s not just being looked at, she is looking right back. Cool! Equality! Also, add some hip consumer desirables to the pic of the chick and people can’t help thinking it’s a little bit more feminist cos, look, she has agency! She’s been shopping!

Cleis Press have been featured on ECW several times. We’ve written to Cleis’s editors. No reply. Nothing much has changed – although, hang on, the recently released The Mile High Club does include a guy so may be somebody is paying attention. It’s a little too early to tell.

I have a story in the forthcoming BWE 2010 which was then selected from the last five+ years of the series to be included in Best of Best. This was the first time I’d ever subbed a story to Violet Blue so I was thrilled with the double hit. And not so thrilled when I saw the covers. If you’re an author you may know how horrible it feels when work you’re proud of gets packaged in a cover which insults your writing.

Here’s two more of the latest images from Cleis Press, Best Lesbian Erotica and Best Gay Erotica.
BLE2010BGE2010

Doesn’t that break your heart? Or make you hopping mad? Or both? Those are two gorgeous covers accurately representing the content and the sexualities of the books’ target readers. They feature couples expressing desire, affection, sexiness, lust, love. Kissing! There is some very beautiful kissing going on!

I want kissing too! Why, oh why, can’t BWE incorporate images of men to feature heterosexual couples on their covers? Just picture that image on Best Gay Erotica with a woman below the guy with the extraordinarily lovely arm. Sexy, no? But instead, Cleis Press are selling us yet another book in which a lone woman is objectified on the cover. Does that look like female heterosexual desire to you? No, me neither. Small wonder that last year’s Best Women’s Erotica is usually riding high in Amazon’s Gay and Lesbian charts. It is confusing.

It’s particularly baffling when these covers are coming from a progressive, liberal publishing house which prides itself on championing marginalised groups. It looks as if straight female sexuality is just a tad too radical for Cleis whose het erotica covers are peddling the same old sexist shit, perpetuating the notion that straight female desire is insignificant; that straight women are happy to identify with images of women and to be the ones who are looked at, never the ones who are looking and actively desiring.

ECWstatsAug09_xCleis Press describe the BWE series as ‘groundbreaking’. The content may well be but the claim is starting to look increasingly dubious and dated when the ideology underpinning Cleis’s marketing to women comes straight from mainstream culture’s sexism.

Since we started this campaign, the growth in support has been astronomical. We’ve caused a leading UK erotica publisher to rethink its covers; have had articles published in one of the UK’s top newspapers; and have been one of the driving forces behind Filament magazine’s successful bid to print erections for the female consumer. (We also have an exciting top sekrit project in the erotica publishing pipeline – sshh!). Meanwhile, across the pond, Cleis Press are simply looking the other way, acting as if we are not here, as if our voices – ours and yours – don’t count.

But we are here and our voices matter. And we are staying and we are fighting for change.

Pass the pina colada, Mat. Same book, same time next year?

Written by Kristina Lloyd

September 3, 2009 at 8:12 am

Erotica Cover Watch 1 : Naysayers 0

with 24 comments

We’re back! It’s beautiful! And we’re boasting! Find out why by scrolling down this man:

S&S2hi-res_x

Remember when we started Erotica Cover Watch? We wanted to highlight how unfair it was that sexy books always featured sexy women on the covers and *never* sexy men. It was a crazy time on the blog with people zooming in from far and wide to join the debate. We got a lot of enthusiastic support (thank you!) and a lot of flak (yeah, sod off!). One of the frequent criticisms we heard was that you couldn’t put a guy on a cover because the world would end. OK, I’m paraphrasing a tad. What some of our critics said was that our efforts were pointless since publishers’ attitudes were never going to change. Were a publisher ‘to go radically against the grain,’ we were told, ‘they would just be committing commercial suicide’.

Back in September, we didn’t know if anyone with influence would take any notice of what we were saying. Of course, we hoped they would. I wrote: If one publishing co, having heard what we are saying, opts to put a bloke on the cover instead of a woman […] and they actually give consideration to women as consumers, I’d consider that a victory.

And so we have it! Our amazing victory! Yippee!

When we first stumbled across Sex and Satisfaction 2 on one of our regular patrols, we were so happy we did a little dance (the BICEPS boogie). But it wasn’t until we got in touch with Xcite’s editor, Miranda Forbes, that we realised the decision to put a guy on the cover was a result of our campaigning! Yes, lil ol’ us! We did it! And you lot – the people who’ve supported us by commenting, lurking, emailing, drooling, spreading the word or joining our Man Candy Mondays – you are all part of our success and you too must do the BICEPS boogie!

After we’d caught our breath, we put a few questions to Miranda about Xcite and the sexy, wet man in a low-slung towel and this is what she said:

Practically all erotica covers feature a sexy woman. What inspired you to put a hot guy on the cover of Sex and Satisfaction 2?

Well, I must confess that it’s a direct result of reading the Erotica Cover Watch blog! We do tend to go for female covers but you made us think again and hence the sexy hunk this time.

We’re thrilled! Thank you. What’s the response been like so far?

So far we have only got the reaction of the trade buyers but orders are good so it is looking promising.

On ECW, we’ve heard people argue publishers can’t put hot guys on erotica covers because people will assume the book’s aimed at gay men. Has this been a concern of yours?

Yes, I did get that feedback from one of the buyers who felt it looked like a book aimed at gay men. We will have to see what our readers feel. I do understand that many women prefer a man on the cover. We are quite unusual because we accept male writers writing using male names – since most of our readers enjoy heterosexual stories it seemed a shame to exclude men from writing them!

We’ve also been told booksellers would refuse to stock such books on the grounds the reading public don’t like men on their smut. Have any of your usual stockists turned the book down?

No, all our usual outlets have placed orders for this title so it will be available in the UK from Waterstones, Borders, WH Smith, LoveHoney, Ann Summers and Amazon UK (also Amazon US).

The first Sex and Satisfaction is Xcite’s bestselling title to date. Are you optimistic about the success of Sex and Satisfaction 2? Do you feel you’re taking a financial risk in putting a guy on a potential top-selling title?

Yes, Sex and Satisfaction is our bestselling title to date which goes to show our readers want sex AND satisfaction! It was a risk but we felt it was a good book to try the new cover format as we expected it to do well and it would get good exposure.

Can readers look forward to more Xcite books with sexy guys on the cover?

I really hope so. We will monitor the reaction and will use more men if we get a good response. We are also using couples more and Ultimate Curves features a lovely curvy girl since all the stories celebrate sexy larger ladies.

How did you choose the image? Did someone have to trawl through hundreds of photos of semi-naked men? If so, can we have their job please?

Sorry, not giving up that perk of my job – I also get to read sexy stories every day, it’s tough but someone has to do it! The hardest part is thinking up new titles so suggestions are welcome. Please email them to miranda@xcitebooks.com – there’ll be a free goodie box for any we use.

* * *

Sex and Satisfaction 2 has just been released and we’ve got a fabulous 25% discount for readers of Erotica Cover Watch. The anthology features stories from top smutters including Donna George Storey, Scarlet mag regular, Carmel Lockyer (aka Kay Sexton), Sommer Marsden, Dakota Rebel and soon-to-be Xcite novelist, Jeremy Edwards, whose story, Moistened by Mercer, can be downloaded for free right here!

If you support our campaign and would like to see more hot guys on erotica book covers we urge you to put your money where the muscle is and buy this book! To claim your 25% discount via Xcite’s store, simply add the code ECW25 to your order and £7.99 magically becomes £5.99! It’s easy-peasy. I know because I just tried it – and now (despatch within two hours!) I’m looking forward to owning my very first erotic fiction anthology with a guy on the cover. Jeesh, feels like we’re making history here!

* * *

Boy FUN _x

Since we did this interview with Miranda, Xcite have released their second erotica cover featuring a super-sexy guy. Boy Fun is, as you may have guessed, m/m, so straight guys aren’t really part of its target audience, meaning this cover doesn’t challenge erotica’s sexist norms in quite the way Sex and Satisfaction 2 does. However, it is totally fucking hot so we think you need to see it! Plus, it’s great that an erotica imprint whose books are aimed primarily at women are embracing m/m. Erotic romance cottoned on to m/m’s hotness a long time ago. Hurrah, erotica is catching up!

Boy Fun is set for release in March 2010 and Xcite are still open to submissions of guy-on-guy action. Check out their guidelines here along with Xcite’s other current calls for subs.

And remember, Xcite are looking for title suggestions so drop them a line if you want to be in with a chance of winning a goodie box.

If you want Sex and Satisfaction 2 to be the first of many books featuring hot guys on the cover, please let the publishers know by buying yourself a copy. The code ECW25 will get you 25% off the cover price at Xcite. Then read it on the train, on the bus, on the tube; tell all your friends; link to this blog, and help us spread the word: women find men sexy! More please!

Kristina x

Written by Kristina Lloyd

July 2, 2009 at 7:11 am