Covers And Reading In Public

Recently I read a several pages long thread about romance covers. It had the basics – too much sex, not enough sex, too silly, very hot, not hot – and the ever present “I’m Embarassed to Buy This Book Or Be Seen Reading It In Public” because of the cover.

Also, IMO, because women are taught to be ashamed of their preferences if their preferences tend toward something that is mainly “for women”

Now, the deal is, for me anyway – I think there are a great many wonderful covers. A lot of sexy, hot covers. My personal taste tends toward sensual but not overtly sexual and I’m not fond of the overly sexualized “hot button” covers (by that I mean certain types of portrayals of women that annoy the hell out of me and push my buttons).

Now that I’m on this side of the yard, I know firsthand that getting a cover is way more complicated than I’d ever imagined back before I started writing. Firstly, I know the author is not the one who (in most cases) designs the cover. Some publishers ask for your input, some don’t. I know I can get a cover with everything I asked for and totally hate it. I also know I can get a cover I’d never imagined for that book and it blows me away.

Certainly, anyone can see a cover and cringe, feel like even though they love romance or what have you, that the cover is just too explicit to take out in public. I get that and there are times when I choose a different book to read while waiting for something because I’m trying to respect the nature of the event (at the pediatrician’s office for instance)

I also know that no clerk at a bookstore will ever make me feel guilty or stupid for reading romance because he or she makes judgments about me based on a cover or a genre. I know what I read is my business and no one is going to make me doubt my intelligence – especially when they work for a bookstore and romance is such a huge portion of the market!

Whether I read romance or science fiction or self help or a cook book, it’s my business. I’m an intelligent, able woman so what does some dude behind the counter at a bookstore, or sitting across from me on the bus or in the same restaurant know about me?

I know I’m smart and I know my readers are smart too. I hate that women are made to feel guilty or silly for liking to read romance and I hate to be patronized by authors who tell women it’s “okay” to read romance even if it is silly and shallow – that’s called a backhanded compliment and women are the masters of such things so we know em when we see em.

I suppose I’m just annoyed that anyone would feel justified in sneering down their noses when a customer brings a romance novel to the counter at XYZ bookstore.

17 comments to “Covers And Reading In Public”

  1. heather
    May 12th, 2009 at 5:12 am · Link

    This is why I love e-books now. They’ll never truly take the place of paper for me, but I never have to explain a cover or deal with judgemental glances when I’m out in public.

  2. Chris
    May 12th, 2009 at 5:15 am · Link

    I agree with Heather – with ebooks, no one can tell what you’re reading.

    That I said, there are a couple books that I’ve been tempted to buy as ebooks because I want to read them right away, but I’m going to wait until I can buy them as physical paper books… because they have such great abs on the front. *ahem*

  3. Booklover1335
    May 12th, 2009 at 5:38 am · Link

    I have to admit that is one of the reasons why I bought an ereader, but it is also one of the downsides of the ereader too, in that you don’t get to really appreciate the great, but sometimes racy covers.
    I still prefer to have them in hand in print to the ebook. The covers are almost always more beautiful in person, than they appear online (embossing, glossy, foil…) I love book covers, and will sometimes decide on whether I purchase a book by an author I have never read before.
    If I feel like I would be too embarressed purchasing it in person, then I buy it online (Amazon or ebook), but it will NEVER stop me from buying it.

  4. Christine
    May 12th, 2009 at 6:42 am · Link

    There is definitely a plus to the ereader for that reason. But it’s hard to believe that people don’t have anything better to do than to gossip about other people are reading. I know I could care less. Unless I am looking for a suggestion.

  5. Nancy
    May 12th, 2009 at 8:04 am · Link

    I used to be nervous about buying certain romances with certain covers because of what people might think but now on this side of the fence I feel different.

    I can’t really explain why it’s different but I feel kinda proud now when I buy a romance or erotic book at the bookstore because it feels like I’m supporting friends I know online or even if I don’t know them, just the fact that we’re in the same genre gives me that proud little thrill and I can take the book to the counter with an inward squee.

  6. azteclady
    May 12th, 2009 at 8:44 am · Link

    See, the key thing for me here is the respect bit.

    Just as I don’t give a fig what strangers (clerks at bookstores definitely included) think of my reading choices, there are times when going around with a mostly naked person in the cover of the book I’m reading is disrespectful to the people around me.

    For example, if I’m reading an erotic romance and my mother is staying with me, since the covers make *her* uncomfortable, I try to make sure I’m not flapping the book in her face every other page. Not shame, respect.

  7. Mad
    May 12th, 2009 at 10:08 am · Link

    I agree with AL, it’s all about respect.

  8. Larena Wirum
    May 12th, 2009 at 1:07 pm · Link

    First off I when I am buying a book I really don’t care what the cashier thinks. It is my money and basically it is helping pay their salaries. As for being out in public I really don’t let the covers bother me but if it is hot and the place I am going it probably wouldn’t be real good to announce what I am reading (though if asked I will answer :mrgreen:) I have book covers I can use so really not a problem there. 😛

    Now that said :mrgreen: I was reading the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown one time and I had a woman come up to me and ask if I was enjoying reading the book and I said yes I was and the next thing she said was “You know that is fiction” well yeah I know that but really whether it was or not it is kind of my business how I want to take what I am reading. Really didn’t appreciate the commentary. but to each their own. :mrgreen:

  9. Nancy
    May 12th, 2009 at 1:25 pm · Link

    Ha! Larena, I would have told that woman “Really? I found it in the religious history section with a big billboard over it saying ‘This Is Fact!’ ” 😆

  10. Larena Wirum
    May 12th, 2009 at 3:12 pm · Link

    Now that would have been a great comeback. that would have been fun. :mrgreen:

  11. Michelle
    May 12th, 2009 at 3:45 pm · Link

    Great Topic!
    I don’t know specifically why the change in me but I am damn glad I got over it. I was so tempted before to buy a “hot covered” book because I was curious and dying to read it. I cannot believe I would allow myself to be bothered about what others would think of me? If I buy a book from a store, I will probably never see the clerk again and really… who cares? Why would I worry about what some teenage clerk from Chapters would think about me after I left their store? Since when do I care what a stranger thinks of my reading choices? So foolish of me and it’s not like I’m a prude or anything. So I am happy that it’s over because I would have certainly of lost out on some amazing reading.

    I do order a lot from Amazon only because it is just so convenient. I come home from work and I feel a present is waiting for me. As for reading in public, I was at the doctor’s office with my kids so I just picked up a magazine to hold in front of my cover. I just did it out of respect for the other parents around me.

  12. Lynda
    May 12th, 2009 at 8:36 pm · Link

    I take more mainstream books out in public and read my erotica at home. Don’t give a hoot about the clerk at the bookstore.

  13. Fedora
    May 12th, 2009 at 9:56 pm · Link

    What Lynda and Azteclady said 🙂 Good topic, Lauren!

  14. Frana
    May 13th, 2009 at 1:23 am · Link

    Great topic! This subject always bothers me because I often go to the library and borrow books. Many old ladies sit there and pretend to read magazines. I have to pass by them on my way to the librarian and I can hear them commenting my choices (they can see the covers even it they can’t read the titles :wink:) They don’t even try to hide their negative opinions. I don’t care what they think but they do get on my nerves 🙄 But I don’t think this is a reason to change the covers. As everybody above said; I’m an adult educated person and it’s my business what I read. So I don’t think that the way the book covers look is the sign if the book is any good.

  15. Lynda
    May 13th, 2009 at 8:09 pm · Link

    Frana – I wish I had your library! Mine has next to no romances of any kind including erotica. And the few pb romances that they do have, aren’t cataloged just in the spinner. No chance of finding a specific book.

  16. Tina S.
    May 14th, 2009 at 8:47 am · Link

    It will never change. Doesn’t matter that Romance is the top seller and that the women who are buying it are intelligent, educated or have good jobs. Never mind that Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Men’s adventure novels have sex in them. I mean come on, I read LKH’s books and every book seems to have more sex and it gets more extreme each book. She is not technically Romance. I have some of the SFs that Elizabeth Lowell wrote as Ann Maxwell (with her husband) and some of them are hot. How are these any better than romances?

    I have long since gotten over worrying about people see the covers (have been reading them for over twenty years, long before I graduated High School). I have a Kindle because I find it easier then carrying multiple books with me in case I change my mind about what I want to read. I have long since run out of room for them since I hate, hate getting ride of any (although I have) and frankly I am tired of all the whining and complaining from everyone who has ever had to load and unload them when we move. I read where ever I go and I only censor what I am reading (even when it is on Kindle)when I am waiting to pick my children up from Preschool at the church where it is located (no sense pushing my luck).

    People need to mind their own business.

  17. Anika
    May 29th, 2009 at 6:56 am · Link

    What a sexy blog, love the theme, what are you using?