What is Sexy… or Not

I have to say this, even though many of my best author friends write in this genre. Erotica authors are hurting themselves with their cover art.

Yes, that is a bold statement, but all of their cover art is pretty much the same. There are a few exceptions, but far too many erotica authors go for the partial or full nudity in their covers. It’s not working for me and many other people.

In other words, put some clothes on, people. Sexy is in how a person reacts, not how few clothes they’re wearing, if any. Sexy is a state of mind.

How can I say this without insulting those friends I still have left at this point.

I write mostly for young adult readers. That means I have to get their parents to like me first, which won’t happen if I’m always helping you promote your books and their covers feature naked people.

Before you fire back with “It’s my cover and that’s the way I want it.” Great. It’s your cover. I get that. But I also get what it takes to promote my books, and I can’t help you even though you’re doing the same for me, if I’m going to turn off the parents of my fans. It won’t work.

So, let’s examine what it means to have a cover on your book that portrays sexy without undressing the models.

My father once told me the sexiest woman he’d ever seen was Katherine Hepburn in African Queen. If you’ve seen that movie, you’re probably scratching your head. For those who haven’t had the experience, let me explain.

Ms. Hepburn wore clothing from the nineteenth century in African Queen. That means she was covered from head to toe, and down to her fingertips. There wasn’t much skin visible at all. What made her sexy was the way she moved, her expressions, and the way she spoke. Men fell in love with this character because of her adherence to the role. Sparks flew between Ms. Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, and they literally captivated an audience through their magnificent talent.

That’s sexy. That’s showing the viewer what the producer wanted them to experience. And there wasn’t any well-orchestrated sex scenes. Just the talent of two actors drawing the audience into their work.

Now, translate that into an erotica book cover. Instead of partial or full nudity, seek out cover art where the characters are fully clothed, but the looks being exchanged scream sensuality. Stay away from the mundane and overdone. Give your reader a fresh look at how well you trust them to understand what lies behind the cover art.


April Erwin said…
THANK YOU! This is a big deal for me too, since I write Christian fiction and sweet level romance. I know my readers will doubt my works content if I'm promoting something that so obviously flaunts a reading level they don't enjoy. On the flip side, knowing what images we have to choose from in cover art, I know that the trend is to have those nearly nude images, so finding cover art that suits the sexier story and still leaves a lot to the imagination is probably a little more difficult. I still think it can be done though, and the less market created for the nearly nude pics by not choosing to use them, the less they will eventually shoot. Besides, has no one noticed that the supposedly sexiest book out there (50 shades of gray, and I'm not one that says that, it's not my style.) only has a tie on the cover? Talk about leaving it all to the imagination!
DOUBLE THANK YOU! I write sweet level and have built my reputation as such. In the last two years I have worked over 60 appearances. I explain sweet as no sex. I joke around, telling them there's 30 shades of nuthin' in my books. Not one reader said "Darn, give me naked."

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