Too Much Skin? (Or . . . Book Covers Gone Wild!)

Old skirt from the ARC. This is NOT the cover of my book!

My cover continues to make people talk. This is fantastic. And a little annoying. Fantastic because it sure does catch the eye. Annoying because most of the time, people who are upset by it are talking about the WRONG cover! In a previous entry, “Judging My Book By Its Cover,” I explained that when the ARC came out, some people were offended by the girl’s skirt length, so the skirt was altered. I don’t mind. I mean, I like it both ways, but if the new one will make people more likely to recommend the book, then longer is better. The annoying thing is that the old image continues to be used in blogs that chatter endlessly about how they couldn’t possibly read my book because of the skirt. Apparently, too much leg in a photo = a crappy book. Um, okay. But to reiterate, they’re looking at the wrong cover. Sigh.

New longer skirt. Still cute. Less upsetting?

I consider my cover intriguing and sexy and terrific. And bit of “buyers beware.” This ain’t your grandmother’s Hamlet. Innocent? Not my Ophelia. Prude? Nope. Coy? You must be kidding. It’s a clear message to anyone looking for a stodgy re-telling of Hamlet to move on. It’s also clear to parents that the content is for older kids. I’m glad about this. As a parent and a teacher, I like to know what a book might be offering up.

FALLING FOR HAMLET was reviewed by the New York Times. (I’m so excited by this that I had to fit it in . . . but my name dropping, “yay me” moment really does have a point.) The article talked in large part about girls, romance, and sex. It commended my frank approach to the subject. But the funny thing is, there’s not a lot of sex in my book. The body count vs. scenes of intimacy is tipped way on the side of blood and gore. Even funnier is that an entire paragraph of the Times article focuses on a scene about sex that my editor and I discussed dropping. Well, I asked about cutting it multiple times. I wrote it, but writing about something so real and intimate made me uncomfortable. See, I, like much of America, am more at ease with murder and trauma than sex. And yet, a girl is much more likely to have to negotiate a physical relationship with her boyfriend than deal with a boyfriend who’s possibly insane and definitely a murderer. Not once, however, did I ask my editor if the body count was too high or offer to change the plot based on there being too much violence. Sad, but true.

Even my blog-mates got in on the short skirt fun/controversy for my launch!

So back to the cover. Today on the street, I bet there were at least a couple of girls who had skirts shorter than Ophelia’s originalcover skirt. In real life, people probably didn’t point or gasp or try to cover her up. Tween and teen girls watch pop stars on TV who are nearly naked shaking their moneymakers, and we accept it. Why is a book so very different? Why do we accept in real life that which we do not in print? And why is book violence fine but a healthy sexual relationship is not? I don’t know.

What I do know is my cover has people talking. And I love that. So grab my book for the cover. Stay for the story.


Filed under Controversy, Editing and Revising, Editor, Reviews

11 responses to “Too Much Skin? (Or . . . Book Covers Gone Wild!)

  1. I love your “buyer beware” point. Your cover says what it needs to about your book, and about your character. I have been surprised to have multiple people respond, when I tell them I have a novel coming out, with a statement like “I hope you get to tell them what the cover should be. I hate it when the book cover doesn’t match the story!” Obviously, the cover needs to sell the book, but it needs to sell it to the RIGHT PEOPLE, the ones that are actually going to enjoy the type of story in those pages. Fortunately, I think your cover does a great job of that, with either length skirt!


    • Michelle Ray

      Thanks. Book covers are so fascinating, and you do hope the cover matches and grabs the right people.
      And your Photoshop self looks good in either skirt, too.


  2. Wait, let me get my magnifying glass. Hmmm, you’re right, there is a barely perceptible difference in skirt length. Oh, thank goodness. The youth of America is safe.

    The hypocrisy is appalling. And I have to say, as a parent of a girl approaching her teen years, I would prefer for her to read about a relationship like Ophelia’s and Hamlet’s, with an honest depiction of love, conflicted loyalties, and, yes, sex, rather than an idealized romance that doesn’t reflect what she is going to face in her own life. As one of my young readers posted on my blog, she likes to identify with a character, even a flawed one, and use it to “jump start the adult in me.” What is Ophelia’s life if not something a girl can look to and “jump start” her own growth?

    (I hate to say this, but though the skirt may be bigger, Ophelia’s legs appear to be just as long in both pictures. But maybe that’s just me.)


  3. J. Anderson Coats

    My kid’s friend (male, age 13) spotted my copy of FALLING FOR HAMLET off the coffee table and asked if he could borrow it. So there’s some audience-broadening for you right there.


  4. Michelle Ray

    Bahaha. I’ll suggest that to my awesome team.


  5. Like Jeannie, your “buyer beware” point caught my attention. I know of one author who wrote a sweet, younger YA, but the cover was too “sexy” for some school librarians and didn’t match the younger tone of the story at all. You’re absolutely right that the HAMLET cover lets readers know what they’re in for–a fast, paced, page-turner of a story for older teens.

    Perhaps more librarians could dress like Jeannie and Mike…


  6. CR

    You are so lucky to have had Caitlin Flanagan review your novel! I’m looking forward to reading FALLING FOR HAMLET, regardless of the skirt length on the cover.


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