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The Story Behind the Most Haunting Book Cover on the Shelves

6 October 2017


From Electric Lit:

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection Her Body and Other Parties has been shortlisted for the National Book Award, and readers everywhere are talking about her intricate stories. Machado’s collection is dark, disturbing, sensual and sexy. Her work refuses to fit neatly into a category, and includes elements of psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. In these eight stories, fables and classic fairy tales mix with a meditations on Law and Order: SVU, Girl Scouts lost in the woods, and a liposuction procedure.

The cover for Her Body and Other Parties picks up and intensifies the ambiance of the book. Kimberly Glyder, who has created numerous covers for Graywolf, Scribner, Little Brown, and more, captures Machado’s unique voice with a striking and sinuous image.

. . . .

Liz von Klemperer: What, if any, were your expectations for the cover?

Carmen Maria Machado: I had a Tumblr that I put together of visual inspiration, so when the time came I sent it to Kimberly. I also filled out a questionnaire my publisher gave me that included key words, images, and things I absolutely didn’t want on the cover. I suggested the colors black, white, grey and green because of the green ribbon in the first story, “The Husband Stitch.” In terms of themes, I just wrote “women” and “queer women,” and then I suggested the image be mid-century to modern, but the book isn’t really time period–dependent.

LVK: What were the things you absolutely didn’t want on your cover?

CMM: I said “no dudes!” for obvious reasons. Nothing pink or girly either. I just don’t think it would be appropriate for the tone of the book. I also wanted to avoid women with Spanish fans, or salsa dancers. Nothing like that. I’ve noticed this happens a lot with women of color, and it just wasn’t what the book was about.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Covers

21 Comments to “The Story Behind the Most Haunting Book Cover on the Shelves”

  1. Sometimes a hint of sex sells better than a slap in the face of sex. The hint allows the reader to imagine more (or less) than what the writer hinted, better fitting their mindset. 😉

  2. Eh? It’s a swoosh and some gray squigglies.

    Other than being randomly generic, so what?

  3. I *think* it’s supposed to be a red corset.

    Not a book I’d even consider, based on that cover.

  4. It’s a neck. Not super readable, tho. It took me a few looks to see it.

  5. In these eight stories, fables and classic fairy tales mix with a meditations on Law and Order: SVU, Girl Scouts lost in the woods, and a liposuction procedure.


  6. A, possibly, great collection of stories, let down by an indecipherable cover. There’s nothing ‘haunting’ about this mess.

  7. Yeah, I thought it was some kind of dress at first, then I looked more and saw it’s a neck, like one of those medical cross-sections showing the musculature.

    I … don’t really get it. But then, I’m 100% not the target audience for this book, so I guess it doesn’t really matter what I think of the cover. One might even say that turning *off* the type of reader who wouldn’t appreciate the book is almost as important as attracting the type of reader who would appreciate it.

  8. Well, when she writes an article somewhere about how her dreams were shattered by lack of sales, we will know why. Short stories — apparently “literary” ones at that — and a nonsensical cover. The blurb probably sucks, too.

    But, hey! She has an agent and a contract. She’s been… What’s that phrase they use? Um. Oh, yeah. Nurtured. She’s been nurtured by the people who know all about selling books.


  9. it looks like a piece of striated meat overlaid with wet net of facscia one sees when dressing out a deer after letting the entrails spill,

    This and the worm behind it might be one of the most offal-like covers I’ve ever seen.

    Short stories, listed for a prize. Ok. And?

  10. And Amazon doesn’t complain about a cover showing a skinned human head and neck?

  11. I’m not impressed. For me, it’s one of the ugliest cover that I have seen. But since this is about short literary stories, as long as literary-loving types are loving it, the cover is doing its job.

  12. I guess I’m in the minority. I like the cover. I find it rather haunting. There’s something about the anatomical part that switches between suggesting underclothing and a dissection or torture. The way the green ribbon is painted makes it look like it’s floating in a hypnotic way–it might be about to bind or about to leave altogether, hovering that way.

    It suggests sex and murder, internal things, traps and freedom. I like it.

  13. The cover doesn’t seem very scarey to me. Plus, I’m not sure what the book is about looking at the cover. Nonfiction? Fiction? If fiction, what’s the genre?

    IMHO, this cover is a big fail.

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