One of the stranger aspects of publishing erotica in anthologies is how much the covers are a surprise. As the author of one in a collection of stories, you rarely see the cover before it is revealed, and you have no say in the cover at all. (Truth be told, unless you self publish or insist on it as a clause in your contract, you are unlikely to have much control over a cover even if you wrote the whole book.)
Because I write cross genre and have published my work in quite a few different presses, I’ve been in books with covers that are widely different in their choices and in imagined audiences.
Check out these two takes on kinky lesbian erotica. So different, with such different audiences in mind. The taglines say so much. The reader who wants “kinky girl-on-girl stories” is likely to be quite different from the one seeking “lesbian BDSM erotica,” wouldn’t you think? And the images evoke such different conceptualizations of desire.
Or these two covers for gay sci fi erotica, which evoke such different aspects of sci fi, despite the common element of a bare chest. Looking at taglines again, one talks about a gay universe, where the other one only evokes that it’s a gay collection by showing a bare chested man, instead focusing on the time travel theme.
These two BDSM erotica covers both include handcuffs and fishnets but they have a completely different feel to them as well. One signals straight straight straight (perhaps to counter the images that kinky San Francisco might evoke?) while the other centers the handcuffs.
These two gay kinky erotica covers feel like you’d get one in a porn shop and the other in a brick and mortar bookstore. In one, we are supposed to be hot for the man on the cover posing for us, while in the other, it is all about the man’s desire for the knife.
There are some covers that I’ve fallen hard for, from the sublime to ridiculous. (The tagline “No Matter What Time You’re In, It’s Always SexTime” makes me grin every time I see it.) There are covers I look at and think “No reader is going to expect my work is in there.” (I see you Bondage by the Bay, which contains two of my gay erotica stories and has a straight couple on the cover.) And there covers that feel like they are a damn near perfect match for my work (Men On the Edge contains my piece “Knives,” which couldn’t have a more appropriate cover).
Despite the differences I’ve outlined, these covers are representative of books I’m included in, as well as the larger erotica genre, in that the images overwhelmingly depict thin white people without apparent disabilities, who are not marked as trans. That does not represent my work, which frequently centers fat people, trans people, folks with a range of disabilities and illnesses, and increasingly, people of color. (This is particularly true for my later work, as I’ve gotten better at more clearly marking characters as those things. I’m still working on it, probably will be working on it all my writing life.)
One of the covers that I fell hardest for was Coming Together: In Vein. Perhaps it’s because I’m into blood sports.
This vampire anthology cover has an image that stuck with me. It contains my story, “Willing,” which is one of the most romantic stories I’ve ever written. A jaded vampire meets a willing boy, who offers more than he dreamed was possible. It contains a line that I love, that sums up the crux of the story for the vampire: “There is nothing more terrifying than hope.” It’s written from the point of view of the vampire, and so much of my own sadistic desire is wrapped into his, including, of course, the desire for blood. So it’s not surprising that I loved the blood soaked cover. How can you resist it?
Coming Together anthologies are fundraisers for charity. In Vein raises money for Doctors Without Borders, an organization that is working hard right now in Peru, despite terrible losses of their own staff.
I hope you will consider purchasing it this week. Lisabet Sarai has a number of excerpts posted on her site right now (including one from “Willing”, so you can get a taste of what this book contains.