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'10 Authors Insider Tips

Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Have More Good Sex
I Can Do Better ...
Trying to Get the Feeling
Plotting and Planning
Character Profiles
Discovery Draft
Be Bad to Be Good
E-Book Revolution
Naked for Halloween
Sex With Pilgrims

by Louisa Burton
The Music of Words
The Balancing Act
Your Fictional World
Backstory & Foreshadowing

The Fine Art of Submission
by Shanna Germain
Nailing the Query Letter
Banish the Boring Bio
Becoming a Market Master
Become a Market Master, 2
Backstory & Foreshadowing
Enticing An Editor, Part 1
Enticing An Editor, Part 2
Contracts, Money & More

Serious about Smut
by Vincent Diamond
No More Horsing Around
Short Stuff
Selling Short Stories
Editors' Pet Peeves
Settings: Beyond Time & Place
Beating Up Your Scenes
Selling Your Books in Person
Staying in the Saddle

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
Broken Rainbows
Talk the Talk
10 Commandments for Writing
Plotting to Avoid
Cover Story

'10 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
St Valentine's Day
Renaming Body Parts
Sex, Cigarettes & Erotic Fiction

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
C. Sanchez-Garcia
Kathleen Bradean
Lucy Felthouse
Neve Black
PS Haven
Tracey Shellito
Tresart L. Sioux

Cracking Foxy
with Robert Buckley
Plenty of Miles Left
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Fly the Unfriendly Skies
Coffee Time
Castrated Words
Virtual vs. Actual Romance
The View from Gallows Hill

Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
The Fashion Industry
The Same Old Same Old
Writing Porn
About the Closet
... About Spirituality
Making Sense of Religion
Worked Up About Monogamy
What's Next
All Worked Up About Nature
Still All Worked Up...

Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Holiday Ghosts
Love and Romance
An "Interracial" Epic
Trying to Make It Go Away
Sexual Etiquette
Sex and Children
People Against Bad Things
Virtual Acceptance
His Cold Eyes, His Granite Jaw
A Flash of Northern Light

The Write Stuff

by Ashley Lister

Cover Story


The Write Stuff by Ashley ListerI was recently discussing book covers with a friend of mine.  He argued that the saying, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover,’ was inherently wrong.  He’d recently picked up a book called, ‘The Buxom Blonde Does Anal,’ and he said that the cover was a fairly accurate depiction of the content.

His comment made me smile because, as a writer, I seldom get to have much in the way of creative input when it comes to covers.  I know this is not true for all writers.  Some writers are heavily involved in the consultancy phase with their editors/publishers when it comes to cover art. 

But I rarely get any input in the cover. 

And, given my ideas of what would sell a book, I think this is probably for the best.  I’m not a very visual person.  I don’t do pictures very well.

I have worked with editors who’ve solicited my opinion as to what I think would work well as a cover.  But, when I make my suggestions, they quietly roll their eyes, give me some crayons, and tell me to draw the nice picture I’m trying to describe.

Because I’m a little bit simple, I usually agree.

Which is why I’ve probably had more cover disasters than most writers.Death by Fiction

(This doesn’t apply to my latest release: Death By Fiction.  The cover artist has done a superb job of depicting the content and the mood of the story with some incredibly stylish graphics.  I really do like this one).

But my first published title was a cover disaster.  It showed a woman in an attic, dressed like a dominatrix, but standing as though she was trying to do a pooh. 

A difficult pooh. 

The editor assured me that he and his team had worked hard on the cover.  He even mentioned extensive depilatory work with the aid of Photoshop.  Which was a comment I never fully understood.

If my book had been about a lady standing up to do a pooh in the attic (a difficult pooh) then the cover would have been perfect.  Instead, it remains one of my least favourite of all times.

Then there was the editor who dumped a picture of a bottom on the cover of my novel.  Admittedly, it was an attractive bottom with pert buttocks and all the other pleasingly aesthetic requirements that merit the description ‘an attractive bottom.’  But it was still a bottom.  What sort of message does that send to the reader?  Is this the publisher’s way of saying, “The s**t’s inside!

“Backsides sell more copies,” he assured me.

I still find this difficult to believe.  And I wonder how they’re collecting this statistical data.  Do they go up to readers and ask them why they bought the book?  Do the readers turn around and say, “Well, it had an arse on the cover and that’s what I look for in a good book…” 

If this is the case, why am I bothering to create a story?  Why don’t I just put a set of instructions on each page saying, “Go and look at the cover.  It’s got an arse on it.  You’ll like that.”

Erotic covers are supposed to imply that the content is erotic.  This seems straightforward to me.  But a lot of erotic covers have to walk a balancing act between suggestive and tawdry.  Flash too much flesh and you’ve crossed the line between erotic and porn – especially if the flesh includes the fun stuff: nipples, vaj-jay-jays or winkies.  But if you simply replace that with a picture of a decorous young woman peeling a banana, the subtlety of the image is likely to go whistling over the heads of many readers.

“Why would I want to read a book about a woman who eats bananas?  I want a book about buttocks.  That’s what I look for in a good book.”

And my point is: we all know that we shouldn’t judge books by their covers.  We repeat the trite phrase as an analogy for relationships and as a caution against being judgemental in so many non-literate circumstances.  However, we often forget that behind every disastrous cover story, there’s a writer cringing at the ignoble wrapping that’s soiling the hard work and industry of their novel.  So, if you truly believe that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, take a moment to look at some of those titles that you consider to be a turn off and read the blurb on the book, or check out the reviews to find out if they’re worth considering.

And, if it’s still awful – then you can blame the writer.

Ashley Lister
October 2010

If you have comments or questions about this column, please send them to Ashley Lister

Find more of Ashley's Write Stuff in ERWA 2010 Archive.

"The Write Stuff" © 2010 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, Swingers: True Confessions from Today's Modern Swinging Scene (Virgin Books), a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
Email:  Ashley Lister

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'10 Book Reviews


Apocalypse Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Bare Souls
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica 2010
Review by Jean Roberta

can’t help the way that i feel
Review by Ashley Lister

Coming Together...C. Sanchez-Garcia
Review by Ashley Lister

Coming Together...M Christian
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Coming Together...Remittance Girl
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Erotic Brits
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Fairy Tale Lust
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Like a God's Kiss
Review by Kristina Wright

Like a Sacred Desire
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Like a Veil
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Making the Hook-Up
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Kristina Wright

Peep Show
Review by Kristina Wright

Please, Ma'am
Review by Ashley Lister

Spark My Moment
Review by Ashley Lister

Three In One Blow
Review by Shanna Germain

Review by Ashley Lister

Erotic Novels

Backstage Passes
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Review by Ashley Lister

Fire in the Blood
Review by Jean Roberta

Freak Parade
Review by Jean Roberta

I Came Up Stairs
Review by Jean Roberta

Marianne! A Journey...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Marketplace
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Memorial Garden
Review by Lisabet Sarai

On Demand
Review by Ashley Lister

Once Bitten
Review by Shanna Germain

Rock My Socks Off
Review by Ashley Lister

The Tower and the Tears
Review by Lynne Connolly

Sensual Romance

Coin Operated
Review by Lynne Connolly

Review by Lynne Connolly

I Spy a Wicked Sin
Review by Harriet Klausner

Libertine's Kiss
Review by Lynne Connolly

The Master & the Muses
Review by Lynne Connolly

Review by Lynne Connolly

Review by Lynne Connolly

Review by Lynne Connolly

Tangled Web (MM Romance)
Review by Vincent Diamond

Tucker's Sin
Review by Lynne Connolly

Review by Harriet Klausner

Gay Erotica

Best Gay Erotica '10
Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance 2010
Review by Vincent Diamond

Biker Boys
Review by Jay Lygon

Necessary Madness
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Personal Demons
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Royal Treatment
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Silver Foxes
Review by Vincent Diamond

Review by Jay Lygon

Special Forces
Review by Vincent Diamond

A Sticky End
Review by Jean Roberta

Wired Hard 4
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Roamnce 2010
Review by Jean Roberta

Fast Girls
Review by Ashley Lister

Girl Crush
Review by Jean Roberta

Sometimes She Lets Me
Review by Jean Roberta


Best Sex Writing 2010
Review by Ashley Lister

A Brief History of Nakedness
Review by Rob Hardy

Condom Nation
Review by Rob Hardy

Dictionary of Semenyms
Review by Donna G Storey

Doctor of Love
Review by Rob Hardy

Florida’s Purge of Gay & Lesbian...
Review by Rob Hardy

John Holmes
Review by Rob Hardy

How Sex Works
Review by Rob Hardy

The Orgasm Answer Guide
Review by Rob Hardy

Screening Sex
Review by Rob Hardy

Sex at Dawn
Review by Rob Hardy

Whip Smart
Review by Rob Hardy