Active Voice: Judging A (Hot Pink) Book By Its Cover
by P. Kristen Enos
(Originally posted Jan 23, ’10. All rights reserved. Do not post or excerpt without permission.)
When I first seriously considered self-publishing a lesbian erotica novella, I had a pretty good idea of what I want to accomplish: a classy, intelligent series that could be enjoyed with a certain amount of emotional zing to it. Everything was aligned from making time in my personal schedule to taking up a long standing offer from a gifted artist to do a custom cover for the book.
Well, as the time came closer to submitting the book parts for design and printing, my artist wasn’t able to do my cover after all. Though momentarily disappointing, I just considered it another obstacle to overcome.
Since what little drawing skill I had was almost thirty years out of practice, I decided to take advantage of the cover design services my printer offered. However, they needed some direction from me on what I wanted. Now that I would have to rely on the creative skills of people that I had not worked with before, I realized I had to take a step back and revisit my ideas of what I wanted the book to look like.
At the least, I wanted a repeatable design since this would be a series of three books (at the minimum). I also decided to go for pocket size since the book was going to be small in terms of page count to add to the “discreetness” factor. Instead of trying to arrange artwork with another artist, I decided to forego that option, leaving as much to the reader’s imagination as possible. Having the one word title of “Deseo” (Spanish for “desire”) should be enough if presented right.
All that was left to decide what colors, if any, I would use on the covers.
That’s when I decided to turned to inspiration from my current creative muses: Japanese entertainment idols Rika Ishikawa and Hitomi (Yossy) Yoshizawa. They started their decade-long careers as singers in Japan’s number one all female group Morning Musume. While in that group, they had “official” colors, Rika’s was pink and Yossy’s was purple.
I thought those two colors would be appropriate for a lesbo ero novella. So my final instruction to the cover designer was to use those two colors with the options of white and/or black.
I was thrilled when I got the cover design proposal, especially with how the colors started with one and blended into the other.
So I gave the full approval for the printing to move forward.
One of the first people to buy a copy was a female friend, Lucy, who was heterosexually married.
Well, Lucy tried to read this book at home in the living room, since she also decided the small, discreet look of the book would not cause any unwanted attention.
What she didn’t count on was that the design of the book became a prize for her seven year old daughter, Elyse. So when Lucy put it down, Elyse confiscated it, and told her mom she wanted it.
And her reasons were very rational: it was tiny, a nice pink color that was appealing for girls her age, and it had a big, simple title with cursive script that she was starting to learn.
Lucy tried in vain to persuade her daughter that the book was not something a little girl would be interested in.
Lucy’s husband and another adult friend came into the room to find out what was going on. The adult friend looked at the book and because he could read Spanish, he stated, “’Deseo’ is the Spanish word for ‘desire’.”
Realizing that she needed to curb this conversation as quickly as possible, Lucy whispered to her husband what kind of book this was.
His immediate response was to tell Elyse, “Give that book to Mommy. We’ll get you another one just like it.”
And that seemed to work because the girl relinquished it to its rightful owner.
(Plus, Lucy made arrangements to read it with her husband later.)
When she told me this story, I had to admit I was embarrassed that I had accidentally designed a lesbian porno book that was perfectly enticing to innocent seven year old girls. And when Lucy asked me to sign her copy, I wrote an apology for that, partially in jest of course.
This was last summer.
I recently talked to Lucy and found out that she finally finished the book and told me she loved it. I genuinely thanked her and told her that I would start posting teaser installments of the next book online in preparation for publishing it.
She responded with enthusiasm and then told me, “Don’t make it hot pink!”
I didn’t have the heart to point out to her that the style AND color scheme were the signature of the series.
Maybe she’ll just buy the e-book copy next time.
And no, I don’t know what book they got as a substitute for Elyse. At the least, I know it’ll be pink.