Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A disturbing trend

OK, maybe it's not an actual trend since I've only noticed it in two places so far, but it is still disturbing.

Two books that I read recently featured a very large picture of the authoress on the back cover. I was reading The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner and every time I closed the book I was startled by a huge portrait that looked like this:

I'm not necessarily trying to make any comment on her appearance. I'm just saying that it was hard to lose myself in the story when every time I took a break from the book I was reminded that it was all made up by a human being, and she looked like THIS. It was just so distracting.

Then today, I finished reading The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory. Now, this book I was already feeling self-conscious about reading because the cover looks like this:

Ugh. Maybe there is an audience out there that is attracted by this cover style, but I am not a member of it. When I read Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl in Middlebury, I was glad that the library's copy was so worn and tattered that it no longer had a front cover (and had split in half). That way, I didn't feel so awkward about being seen reading it in public (and it was easier to carry around). I wasn't so lucky with this one.

The strange thing is the picture of the author they chose to grace the back cover with. I've seen tastefully sized photos of Ms. Gregory on the inside dust jacket flap of her other books before and she looks like this:

In other words, a legitimate, intelligent-looking authoress.

On the back of The Other Queen, however, she has transformed into this (I wish I could size the graphic larger just to alarm you the way it alarms me every time I close the book, but this is the best I could find online):

In other words, an aged cat-lady who is a part-time fortune teller. I did not feel confident reading a book written by the above-pictured lady. If any humongous photo had to be pasted on the back cover of the book, I wish it could have been the first one, but oh well.

Has anyone else noticed this disturbing trend? And are you ever embarrassed by the cover art of a book you're reading?


Camille said...

I have read one Nicholas Sparks novel and was very surprised to see a young, muscular man's photo on the back cover. It did change my perception of the book. And what is it really like being married to a guy who writes romance novels?

Elizabeth said...

I recently finished listening to Turner's third book, The King of Attolia. Since I was listening to the books, I never saw a picture of the author until I was looking online today to see if there was a fourth. I admit I was a little surprised by the photo myself. How funny that you posted something about this today.

Nancy said...

Oh, my goodness, yes! My friend let me sift through all her books before she moved back to the States and I picked up a copy of Vanity Fair.

When Andrew saw it on my nightstand he was like, "What are you reading?!"

It seriously looks like a sleazy romance novel. It's the "movie" cover or something, I guess and has Reese Witherspoon on the front smiling seductively and wearing a rather immodest gown and it's just...ugh...I try to not read it in any public place because it's just so hideous.

And it almost makes it seem like she wrote the book because her name is so small.

I had to open it up and show Andrew the actual cover page.

"See? 1800's. See? William Makepeace Thackeray. Totally legitimate."

Lisa Lou said...

not to say I judge a book by it's cover, but I do when it comes to "is there a chance I could be seen reading this in public?"

Lisa Lou said...

Also, sometimes I get confused when the name of the author is larger than the title of the book. Which one is which?

sarah said...

haha how funny! that does sound disturbing, Bridget. Cat ladies are okay though if they're not crazy, right? That's funny about Vanity Fair, I was thinking about that one too, except my copy I picked up at the library didnt have a picture, it looked like a really fancy Bible..so whenever I read it at work i think it made my coworkers uncomfortable.. they seemed like they were too afraid to ask what i was reading. :)

Mikael said...

I wish I had time to read.... everytime I dive into a book I am interupted mid-sentence (my first or second sentence, no less) and just give up... One day I will read a book again :)
And no... havent really been embaressed by the covers.... only the MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMAN ARE FROM VENUS title.. HAHA

Steven said...

When I read The Other Boleyn Girl, it had the movie cover, but I was in Germany, so it probably wasn't quite as bad. I find that I usually like the original book cover rather than the movie cover. Like Angels and Demons. I'm dreading the day the movie comes out, because I don't like Tom Hanks, or his hair.

Lu&Moo said...

I purposely don't read the author bios until AFTER I've read the book. What if it Taints the story--sort of like it did for you and the Queen of Attolia. Sort of how finding out that actors are total scuz off-stage can ruin a perfectly good movie. Ignorance is bliss I suppose.

Sarah Rose Evans said...

I remember when "Special Topics In Calamity Physics" got some huge advance there was a snarky uproar about how hot the author is-- and about how attractive authors get better deals, because people are attracted to the pic above the author bio. What do you think . . . is there a connection between author's appearance and a publishing company's interest in publicizing? And how did that fail so miserably here?

Britney said...

I read and loved Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, a book that actually did the author photo right, when so many covers are done SO wrong. In this case, they opted for an earlier, less distracting family photo for the back cover, and hid the author's current, more distracting photo inside the back cover.

If you haven't read that one, you'll have to check it out someday, and see what I mean.

Brittany Cornett said...

What did you think of The Other Boleyn Girl, I liked it. I know it had some parts that werent the best (it was a little graphic) but I found it really interesting to think about what it would be like to be a woman back then. I also read the Hunger Games, which doesnt have a picture of her, Suzanne Collins on the novel. So I went to her website wondering what she looked like and can see why she didnt put a picture of herself on the novel. But now that her book has taken off maybe she will get a makeover like JK Rowling did and look like a model next year.

Crys said...

What drives me crazy is when you are reading a book, you turn to the back cover and realize that the author wants to be the main character. It is as if they took themselves and then wrote them younger, thinner, and more attractive, but you can tell from the smile and the clothes that they think they are that person :)

American Muslima Writer said...

I find it weird when you read very old books by a well known author (lets take my fav Anne McCaffrey) and for years and years you read her works and then one modern afternoon you get tot eh abck and there is her picture for the first time and you study it like crazy wondering how THAT person managed to enthrall you for a good portion of your life. Sometimes I really love photos of the authors when I feel satisfied that yes, I see the book there in her eyes shinning within. But when it's a silly or too posed look I just raise a brow and close the book. Othertimes a book was so great and there is only one line about the author and I'm left wanting to know more.
As for putting it on the BACK! I really do NOT like this idea at all. It's like you're selling yourself not your book! I understand some authors want to have a recognisable face but what i want on the back is a proper lead-on summery for the book! It does bother me too when on the back I close it half way through the story and have to re-adjust my thinking that it's make beleive. It's like watching movies in the theater withthe lights on...!!! As for front covers (ahem that "Other Queen" book looks beautiful... i love Ren looks, makes me want to read it) the only ones I'm embarrased of now are trashy Romance ones (when I didn't used to be embarassed in Tucson) but here in the more conservative societies of Lebanon and UAE it is EMBARASSING!!! Even my husband loves to read a good Romance now and then but a few of those racy covers he could not take to work with him because his co-workers would laugh him out of the shop. He will only take neutral covers like Sandra Brown's covers. (her picture on the back cover disturbs me.... she looks like she's a cat just eaten the family bird... makes me wanna scream everytime i close the book "Stop staring at me! Of course I don't know what's coming next in the plot you minx! Do you have to rub it in!"
Yes I'm a veryu emotional reader.

You've just given me a fasinating topic to run with so I'll link to you ok :) Having to do with being a veiled author and weither to put a picture at all in the book.

Oh and for the one who mentioned titles vs author name...YES! It's awful when the author's name is all over the book and then at the very bottom in point 8 script is the book title!!! Or when there are many authors/co-writers and the names start big and dwindle down in size is pathetic until at the end of the reverse pyramid you have the title. ARG!


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