Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Rear View

I dreamed last night that I was posting on this topic today, so I might as well go with it.

Have you started to feel shunned when you go to a bookstore? I'm not talking about the staff, but rather the book covers. It seems the current trend is covers with people's backs turned to you. Cover trends are nothing new -- there were the cartoony romantic comedy covers in the late 90s, the chick lit covers with shoe-clad feet or martini glasses, etc. -- but they tend to stay within genres. Now, though, the back view covers seem to be really crossing the genre lines.

Because my books have been showing up on the urban fantasy bestseller list at Amazon (all four were there this morning!), I've found myself looking at those covers, and the back view is really popular there. A large percentage of the urban fantasy covers involve a woman with her back turned, often wearing leather, or sometimes wearing nothing but tattoos. In some cases, her face is turned slightly to the front, but it's still obscured by shadows or hair.

But then if you look at the more "literary" women's fiction covers, we have even more backs, only this time the women tend to be wearing retro sundresses, or maybe coats as they walk away from the viewer. Sometimes it's just the backs of their heads.

Oddly enough, these all seem to be women's backs we're seeing. The exception in urban fantasy is that sometimes the Harry Dresden figure on Jim Butcher's books has his back turned, but the way they put Harry on the covers is always a little shadowy. B& has my latest book classified as paranormal romance, and looking at that bestseller list (I'm on the top 100!), it seems like, again, if the figure on the cover is female, we see her back, but the men we usually get a pretty good look at.

I suppose it could have something to do with the idea that readers want to picture the characters for themselves, so showing the characters with their backs turned gives a glimpse without putting a definite face on them. Or it could be designed to appeal to men and women in different ways -- women reading urban fantasy might want to picture themselves as the heroine, so they don't want to see a face, while men are drawn to the body rather than the face, anyway. I don't know why all the book club bait books use women's backs.

And I suppose it's possible I'm being overly paranoid about feeling shunned when I go to a bookstore and all those backs are turned to me. You could look at it as the characters looking inward into the content of the books and encouraging readers to follow them inside.

Now I need to decipher some cryptic notes I left for myself when I had a stroke of thought for the book I'm revising. I scribbled something random on a piece of paper, and I think it has something to do with the book, but I'm not only a little unsure what it means, I'm not entirely sure what it says. The really sad thing is that I was sitting at my desk when I wrote it. It's not something I scribbled in the middle of the night to remind myself of something I dreamed (since I dreamed about blogging about book covers with people's backs and not about the book).

Hmmm, is that word "feud" or "fend"? That could totally change the meaning of a scene.

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