An Open Letter To The 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl On My Book Cover

Open Letter To The 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl On My Book Cover

I know it isn’t technically your fault. You didn’t ask to be there.

One day you’re just a working model standing on a beach, a clifftop, a bridge, or under a lamppost; the next, you’re blazing across bookshelves and bookshop windows, the cover girl of a bestseller.

I know you were just thinking to earn a few quid, getting your photograph taken whilst preserving your anonymity (because your job is to never face the camera, and girl, are you GOOD at that). You didn’t ask to be the Faceless Representative Of All Femininity. And yet, here you are.

Or rather there you are, your twenty-year-old legs firmly planted on the soil of whichever dreamy landscape was photoshopped around you. There you are, your twenty-year-old arms lithe and long, clutching that old-fashioned handbag, quaintly addressed letter, or hand of a small child. There you are, facing away from me, your slim and trim twenty-year-old body angled fetchingly toward the background of sky, sea or plain.

There you are. But who the hell are you?

You are not the 52-year-old protagonist of the book I’m reading which deals with dementia; you are not the 38-year-old protagonist of the book which explores fertility and gender expectations.

You are not the 46-year-old narrator of a book about destructive obsession.

You are most certainly not the 67-year-old woman at the core of the story about two families at war over a whiskey empire.

Funnily enough, you are not even the 25-year-old woman entertaining me with wry tales of crushing disappointment.

So Who The Hell Are You Supposed To Be?

And yet, there you are, in all your youthful 20-year-old glory: you, The Faceless Representative Of All Femininity, who must carry the marketing message to us, the readers, a.k.a. Faceless Real Women Who Buy Books With The Express Purpose Of Reading Them.

I do not like you, 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl. For starters, you are nothing to do with the mahoosive array of protagonists in the books I read, none of whom are twenty years old and prone to clutching straw hats or granny bags.

I mean, just look at you. LOOK AT YOU.

Open Letter To The 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl On My Book Cover

You are the same woman with different hair. You are forever fixed in your youthful, faceless, and frequently headless beauty: forever white, slim, characterless, colourless, cultureless, charmless, and pointless.

Who chose you? Surely not your authors, because too many have spoken out by now about their disappointment when first confronted with your irrelevant girlish loveliness. And to whom exactly are you supposed to be speaking? Is it to me, the reader? Or indeed any other reader who is neither twenty, colourless, characterless, cultureless, charmless or pointless?

Time To Wake Up And Discover What Century It Is: Also, Fashion

You, 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl, are not speaking to me. You do not speak to me in the same way that models in magazines and catalogues do not speak to me. I do not want to see your twenty-year-old self on the front of the book I’m reading any more than I want to see clothes being sold to me by draping them upon emaciated children.

I want to see book covers with different women – not girls – on them, and I want to see clothes modelled by women my age or even older (only twenty times more beautiful and modelesque than I am, obviously – that, I will allow). I don’t even care what fecking size they are as long as I can relate to them better.

Think about it: why are fashion blogs so popular? Because they offered the first widely accessible images published by relatively normal people (at first) who showed real people how to wear real clothes, THAT’S WHY. The fashion world copped on to this a long time ago, bringing those bloggers into the fold in order to appeal to more consumers. But your publisher? Not so much.

Open Letter To The 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl On My Book Cover

What the hell is wrong with marketing people, that they can’t just use the best version of ourselves to sell stuff to us?

Why do they constantly think we will only respond favourably to nauseatingly saccharine, aspirational images which are also impossible? Do they honestly believe a 28-year-old woman won’t buy a book with a gorgeous 42-year-old model on the cover, whether we can see her face or not? FFS. Show me the focus group data. Show me the sales data. SHOW ME THE DATA WHICH PROVES THAT A WOMAN WILL NOT BUY A BOOK WITH AN OLDER WOMAN ON THE COVER.

Do they honestly think that women won’t buy books or clothes unless they are bombarded with images of women much younger and thinner than them? Of course they do. Because just like you, they are characterless, colourless, cultureless, charmless, and pointless.

I haven’t even broached the subject of what you’re doing to books which, if written by men, would be considered literary fiction, but because they’ve been written by women, are deemed to be women’s fiction, destined for ladies’ eyes only, and with about as much artistic and cultural merit as a rudely-shaped carrot, caught in a compromising position with two kiwi fruit.

I cannot relate to you, 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl. And because you are also irrelevant to the content you are promoting, you are annoying me, and need to be gone. (Not in the Gillian Flynn sense, I must add. In the good old-fashioned sense.)

And when you get gone, 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl, there is a place for you. That place is posing in photographs wearing clothes from Forever 21 or Zara or H&M or Topshop. It is NOT on the cover of this book I’m reading.

So you can feck right off.

Open Letter To The 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl On My Book Cover

A silhouette of what appears to be a REAL WOMAN. What a terrible role model

  115 comments for “An Open Letter To The 20-Year-Old Faceless Girl On My Book Cover

  1. May 16, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Fabulous post, Tara. I have to say, however, that the only book in your display I’ve actually read is The Stolen Child and that picture on the cover (I’ve just checked) although doing the stereotypical running away is actually a child and appropriate for the novel.
    But I do get your point. Published with a very small press, but has a lot more say in what goes on the cover of my novels. With the first, we managed to get, appropriately for the story, an image of a middle-aged woman, albeit more glamorous than I’d imagined my character – but the designer wasn’t able to find anything closer from the stock, and I’m very happy with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 9:39 am

      Looks like the publishers of The Stolen Child have managed to hit the jackpot, Annecdotist (love your name btw) – a stock photo child who, in a thumbnail image, looks like a 20-year old woman! Stupendous. Get them a trophy, stat. I’m glad your designer was able to even find a glamorous image of a middle-aged woman. Looks like some of the marketing echelon would have us believe the concept doesn’t exist.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. May 16, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Reblogged this on jlynchblogdotcom and commented:
    As ever, Tara Sparling talks a lot of sense. The answer to the problem: take control of your own covers. Which you can only do by taking control of your own publishing. When I wrote Sharon Wright: Butterfly, I fell in love with Sharon. As I’ve said elsewhere, that would be a stupid thing to do, because Sharon woos the way a female mantis might — knowing that, when she’s done with him, the male may have to die. Scratting through pics of all sorts of women, I came on one that precisely embodied all the cunning, deceiving amorality I had put into this character — and that’s the pic that appears on the front of the book. God knows what a regular publisher’s marketing people would have done with the book — but I’m quite sure they wouldn’t have captured the true essence of Sharon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 9:41 am

      There’s a lot to be said for creative control, John, I agree completely. It makes indie publishing hugely attractive (for those who know what they’re doing obviously!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. anderskermod
    May 16, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Superb collection of orrible book covers, Tara. I’m in awe of your hard work and dedication to duty in assembling it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. May 16, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Reblogged this on Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. May 16, 2017 at 8:46 am

    I often wonder if these models recognise themselves…

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 9:43 am

      Well, if I start getting stalked by improbably beautiful angry young women after this post, we might have some evidence…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Terry Tyler
    May 16, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Love it! I’ve been compiling in my head, for quite some time, a post about why chick lit is the devil’s own work and keeps women firmly grounded in the Cinderella complex. And it’s not just the men in the publishing industry who perpetuate this theme. When I get round to writing it (when I’ve finished writing about women not wearing any make-up and surviving global pandemics), I shall link to this one, if I may.

    This might interest you, though. Quite a while back (possibly before your time, I’m not sure how old you are!), M&S started a ‘real woman’ type thing with their marketing, showing size 16 women modelling their clothes. It totally bombed. I think the reason for this is that, subconsciously, we want something to aspire to. We want to believe that if we buy that dress, we will look like the girl in the picture. Not another version of ourselves, with all our lumps, bumps and bingo wings!!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 9:54 am

      Link away, Terry, and looking forward to seeing your post(s) – particularly the surviving global pandemics one I have to say!

      I know I’m drawing parallels here between book covers and fashion, but the fashion thing is still slightly different. What age were the M&S models, for instance? A 20-year-old model won’t resonate with me no matter what size she is. I never think I’m going to look like her, and I don’t aspire to be her – unlike Charlotte Rampling, or Helen Mirren, or that woman I saw crossing a square in Munich wearing an olive green trouser suit with a silver bob, who are so cool, I want to live in their sheds.

      Also, it seems to me that professional stylists often have no idea how to dress larger women, hence some terrible campaigns. Some of my favourite fashion bloggers are bigger than I am, and the reason I like them is because they’re bloody brilliant at dressing their own bodies, with oodles of flair. M&S are hardly a pinnacle of edgy fashion, and I’m sure if I saw a size 16 model in a pair of M&S trousers (which I wear, incidentally) it would bomb with me too.


      • Terry Tyler
        May 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm

        I hear you. The ‘real woman’ models were all ages, as M&S dress all ages. I know that M & S aren’t the cutting edge of fashion, but it bombed with their own customers. Is what I’m saying. I’m not talking stempunk retro babes here, I’m talking yer woman in the street! They replaced this campaign with the gloriously gorgeous Twiggy, the revolting Mylene Klass, and various others of various ages.

        I agree re the professional stylists dressing larger women. They seem to think they all want to look like the presenters on Loose Women.

        I do realise I have gone off topic, btw, though it’s all related. And yes – Faceless 20 Year Old often does not give an accurate picture of what’s inside the book. However, book cover artists do their marketing research, and I’m guessing they must appeal to a lot of people. As do all those books with swirly writing, called The Itsy Bitsy Cottage Down The Cupcake Lane, although they make me want to puke. To sum up – I agree with you, though I feel we are in the minority!

        The women with no make up in the global pandemic scenarios: books, not blog posts. Which is why I am not getting round to writing all the blog posts I want to write!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 16, 2017 at 3:26 pm

          I’ll have to have a look at the M&S campaign, if they haven’t deleted every shred of it, because I have difficulty in believing that it was an age problem, rather than a problem with a) the models they used (who weren’t Twiggy) or b) the way they were styled.

          As for the book cover artist, I’m inclined to agree with Liam who says below on this thread, it’s merely down to the cheap availability of certain stock photo images as opposed to anything else. It sounds depressing enough to be true.

          Don’t even get me started on the Cupcake Lane books. Grrrrrr!!!


  7. May 16, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Haha-hehe-ooh Just like all your blogs, I start out clutching my sides with laughter and end up clutching my knees and rocking back and forth! What have they done to popular fiction that just happens to be written by women? It’s this or gruesome, violent murders (which probably feature the same model but in silhouette), so you better pick which side you you’re on because there are no other choices. I pity all those cover designers – I can imagine how that discussion goes: ” I have a brilliant idea for-” ” Yeah, let me stop you right there Tex, we’re gonna go with the headless woman on this one, works every time, 60% of the time” Another brilliant post Tara, I’ll just grab my sun hat and granny bag and I’ll be off 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 10:15 am

      Is that YOU walking away into the sunset then, Evie? It’s just that I can never be sure when I can’t see your face… oh, well. I’ll just have to use my imagination, I suppose. Again. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. May 16, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Excellent as ever Tara. X

    Liked by 1 person

  9. May 16, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Reblogged this on Stevie Turner, Indie Author. and commented:
    Great post. I have 20 year old girls on a couple of covers because of the story inside. I also have middle aged ladies on a few covers too, but you’ve only got to look at TV and magazine adverts to realise middle agers get the short end of the deal. As for the elderly…

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Yes, we’d better not go there, Stevie. I’ve heard that when faced with elderly people, marketing teams go into a huddle and scream.

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 16, 2017 at 10:22 am

        One day they will be elderly too. Let’s see how they like it…

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 16, 2017 at 10:25 am

          By then it’s too late, though. They’re in the corner, getting beaten by 20-year-old marketing interns by then…

          Liked by 1 person

          • May 16, 2017 at 10:32 am

            I always laugh when I see those adverts for anti-wrinkle cream. They always show some twenty-something girl without a wrinkle in sight, instead of the 50 or 60 year old who actually needs it.

            Liked by 1 person

            • May 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

              Honestly, the more I think about it, the angrier I get!!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Terry Tyler
                May 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm

                Oh yes, those skin care adverts! I always want to say, right, now can we see a woman in her fifties who’s been using this for a while, so we can see if it actually works?

                But you come back again to that aspirational thing. The message is, if you use THIS PRODUCT, you will look like THIS PERSON. Bearing in mind that the majority of people respond to advertising in a subliminal way, and don’t analyse stuff, it obviously works, or they wouldn’t keep doing it. But yes, it gets on my nerves too.

                Re the older thing – I’ve read a lot about the most popular ages for characters in films and books. Apparently, it’s 32. Maybe people want to read about the younger lives they wish they’d had, I dunno. Editor Alison Williams (@AlisonW_Editor) wrote a great article about how older women are portrayed in books, ie, as either Joan Collins type glamour women who somehow find the energy to run multi million dollar businesses and take young lovers, or total ball breakers.

                Liked by 1 person

                • May 16, 2017 at 3:27 pm

                  I believe that beauty and fashion ads have to be aspirational – there’s no getting away from that. But not book covers. Book covers just have to be interesting and eye-catching, surely. And if the most popular age for characters is 32, what’s a 20-year-old doing there?


  10. Carol Lovekin
    May 16, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Tara Sparling, you are a breath of fresh air. Brilliant post which puts into words exactly what I have been thinking for a long time. I would throw the mother of all hissy fits if my publisher ever suggested a cover with a character & NO FACE!


    • May 16, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Thank you, Carol. I hope you don’t have to – sadly, most authors I’ve spoken to don’t even get to express their own opinion, let alone have a say in the presence or otherwise of Faceless Girl…


  11. Liberty On the Lighter Side - (LOLS)
    May 16, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Ja, that’s so true! I recently spent an entire book flipping back to the cover to try and relate the half woman on the front with the many women in the story – to no avail. And books by men seem to have just a grim looking object on the jacket (some I’ve read lately feature an AK47, a length of weed-choked chain, a bleak rocky outcrop). The most fantastic novel I read recently no picture at all (by Duff Cooper published in 1950) wouldn’t it be lovely if we could return to the fashion of plain woven backs so that you simply could not judge a book by it’s cover at all?

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 10:23 am

      I do love the abstract covers which men get, though. Those funky typefaces and wordy, quirky titles, superimposed over beautiful images. I’d rather have what they’re having, than revert to plain covers. What are the chances, though, eh? One too many X chromosomes in my body to get a say in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liberty On the Lighter Side - (LOLS)
        May 16, 2017 at 10:28 am

        William Boyd’s ‘Sweet Caress’ is an exception – half a woman’s face behind a camera on his cover – but then he does write from a female pov in this one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

          A female POV??? Well, that’s not literary fiction, and that’s for sure. What a fall from grace. 😛

          Liked by 1 person

          • Liberty On the Lighter Side - (LOLS)
            May 16, 2017 at 10:49 am

            Yeah, I must admit I found her slightly unconvincing (too masculine in her emotional/relational detachment – and a nymphomaniac to boot – maybe a male’s idealisation of a woman?)

            Liked by 1 person

  12. May 16, 2017 at 11:05 am

    The male preference, nay obsession, with youth and the relentlessness of that gaze has been deeply internalised. That is the data you are enquiring about. Though I sadly suspect the enquiry is rhetorical.

    I am lucky in that while my one and only novel features a (somewhat overweight) white twentysomething protagonist, the publishers and illustrator did not go down that road.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 11:50 am

      I suppose I just feel that the decision-makers in these cases are inherently wrong, Susan. These book covers do not sell more books. If they did, I’d just shut the hell up and cry. But I feel like they’re hurting their authors. And with all the other stuff currently going on in the industry, it’s not like authors can take any more hits. They’ve got nothing left to give.


      • May 16, 2017 at 11:56 am

        There is also the related phenomenon of whitewashing on covers that has received a great deal of attention and controversy. It always seems to “just happen” by accident, every single time…

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 16, 2017 at 12:19 pm

          I don’t understand how they’re allowed to put them out in the first place. Probably because the author always gets blamed, regardless.


  13. carolannwrites
    May 16, 2017 at 11:13 am

    “…with about as much artistic and cultural merit as a rudely-shaped carrot, caught in a compromising position with two kiwi fruit.” I could say there are no words, but there obviously are and you have all of them, Tara. Another cracker!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. May 16, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Brilliant post and cutting critique of the entire book marketing industry.


    In defence of the designer and marketers.

    Faceless girl is so prevalent because she is both cheap and common. I’m not casting aspersions on her morals I’m sure she’s a wonderful lady. But she is a product of the time, where original photography is struggling against the tide of stock photo sites offering free and very cheap shots.

    So when a brilliant book arrives with a very real and fleshed out protagonist. And the perfect cover would include a woman in her mid-forties standing in a forest steam, clutching a balloon with her mournful face caked in tear-stained makeup (please somebody write this book, it’s a winner!)

    That’s when the marketers and designers say “Yeah, great but the photo shoot will cost about three grand”. And that is the point when Faceless 20 year old girl makes her alluring first appearance. And the charms of her low-cost instant availability are just too hard to resist. You see her talent lies in her infinite generic-ness (not a word, don’t care), it’s not that we as designers like her but she’s always available and she works for below minimum wage.

    So let’s not malign the poor girl, after all she has a family of generic children and a shiny smily husband to support!

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 11:52 am

      I wish I could argue with this, Liam, but I can’t. Which is TERRIBLE. Nothing will overtake cost-cutting in importance to publishers, and nothing will hurt authors more than publishers’ cost-cutting. I’m really depressed now. Why did you have to speak so much truth on a Tuesday?

      Of course, the alternative would be to not use models at all, but abstract art and good graphic designers. We’re paying for them anyway to put the title and author’s name on the cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. May 16, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Great. Now that you’ve pointed this out I feel compelled to make my protagonist 20 years younger just to fit the book cover 😏
    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Always happy to be a thorn in the side, Jessica. You wouldn’t be the first to shoehorn your plot into a marketing trend. It’s all the rage right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. May 16, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    OK, at my age I can’t pass over mention of the belly-laugh I got from you calling a 20 year old a girl. But yes, you are spot-on with all this.

    And the word we’re looking for is either conservative or chickensh–t. It’s nothing new. I gave a presentation in Cape Town about investing in the African continent and was able to make use of a terrific collage a photographer had put together of 30-some-odd books with Africa as the setting. A giraffe, a banyan tree, or both. Every.Single. One.

    One of the symptoms of whatever disease it is Big Pub has is a deer-in-the-headlights fear of not sending the proper message. Said message only being this stone-tablet prescribed and microscopically-limited set of images that we, the readers, will “get”. Any experimentation with that is suicide, career suicide for the marketers, graphic artists and others. They simply won’t do it, and I’m not sure that even complaints as humorous and accurate as this will make a change. But a hopeless stand can still be the right one.

    For my genre, dragon, sword, or both. That’s all. The more flanges and razor-sharp add-ons the blade can have, making it impossible to actually grip and self-maiming to swing, the better. But at least they show the beastie’s face…

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      You’d be amazed with what I get away with, Will. Calling women ‘girls’ is just one thing. Not eating kale is another.

      As much as I hate stereotypes, I must admit I have an unhealthily symbiotic relationship with them. After all, what else would I write about if they didn’t exist?!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. May 16, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    The frightening thing is, as a mid fifties aged member of the Women’s Equality party, I hadn’t even noticed this trend- that’s how ingrained the whole beautiful anodyne faceless young anke bodied white woman media favouritism is. Thanks for an interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      Let’s think (and hope) there might be a political platform in this, Jessica! Different-shaped women for President!!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. tbrpiledotcom
    May 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    I am totally in agreement with your analysis of age and shape of the women on the covers of these books. Authors, even indie authors, are pressurised into following this route though. The “experts” tend to advise looking at covers of books that are selling and to follow the style of the genre – it takes a brave author to buck the trend. And then it becomes self-perpetuating.
    I actually like, though, that usually the faces aren’t visible. It pulls me out of the story if I am imagining the protagonist one way and am being told by the cover that she or he looks different to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      I agree with that too, Clare. I’ve been put off by faces before. Having said that, they were also 20-year-old faces, and I think we’ve established that I have a slight problem with them by now…

      Liked by 1 person

  19. May 16, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    It’s me. The magic of make up. But so glad you noticed although ‘in my twenties’ is a little too kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      Wow, Tric. Not even a drumroll before the big reveal. You’re grand for the book covers, but you’ll never make a reality TV star.

      I may never look at you (looking away from me) the same way again.


      • May 16, 2017 at 9:20 pm

        I’ll reverse everywhere when we meet! Funny they’ve not used my face yet, keeping it for the next big thing I’d say.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. May 16, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Traditional publishers are too blame, with their cookie cutter ideas of what sells books. Some self published authors are trying to break that and eventually, more will follow, but as long as readers keep buying books with these covers publishers will keep publishing them.

    Two sets of people are being exploited. The readers and the writers.

    Laurence O’Bryan

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      True, Laurence, but I’m not sure it’s fair to blame readers for buying books with these covers – it’s not like they’re being given the choice!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. May 16, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    photos like this make me instantly decide the book is not for me – which means I could well be missing out on something that is actually worth reading. the authors are the ones who suffer from this tired approach to imagery since it’s their sales that suffer

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      They put me off too. Seems to be the prevailing opinion on this one, from today’s comments, anyway – that only the authors are suffering… yet again 😦


      • May 16, 2017 at 9:08 pm

        Would be interesting to see you do a companion piece on how men are represented on covers

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 16, 2017 at 10:32 pm

          If indeed they are ‘represented’ in any stereotypical way at all. I think the fact that A Man Called Ove is such an eye-catching cover would suggest depressingly otherwise.


          • May 17, 2017 at 4:09 am

            Actually, men (or male bodies) are represented by the tediously ubiquitous headless torso with overdeveloped abs and pecs. When you see a whole bunch of these covers all at once, as in bookstore displays or web pages, these bods take on a weird semi-insectile look — the muscles hint at segmented critters. As much of a stereotype as those 20 year old females, but at least they are restricted to romance and erotica.

            Liked by 1 person

            • May 17, 2017 at 9:55 am

              Ah, romance is a different story entirely, I wouldn’t even bother looking at them, they’ve been the same for decades! It’s the general fiction stereotypes that do the damage…

              Liked by 1 person

          • May 17, 2017 at 5:57 pm

            Hm I seem to see an awful lot of bare chests and six packs

            Liked by 1 person

            • May 17, 2017 at 6:08 pm

              That’s all niche romance and erotica, though. The women on those covers are stereotyped just the same. It’s the more general fiction genres I’m poking a stick at…

              Liked by 1 person

  22. May 16, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    As a graphic designer myself, I think this ‘faceless 20 year old’ is simply a lazy cop-out from designers and publishers. She is a cheap, reasonably pleasing shape within an overused basic cover template.

    Time to get your cameras out, fellow authors! You can come up with better shots. Even if you don’t want to design your own cover, you can make it easy on the graphic designer by supplying photos that are relevant to your story.

    It IS a good idea not to see too much of the face though, as readers like to ‘design’ the protag themselves, while reading.

    Liked by 4 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Too right! We can all use filters and editing software with a swish of a smartphone screen these days. As long as the professionals do the typeface and setting – that’s a real bugbear of mine. You can spot an amateur 20 miles away, otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. May 16, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    100% agree! I HATE photographs of people on the cover (and only tolerate SOME cartoons), and this is part of the reason why. It’s not who I want to see! It’s not representative of the book! Bravo on the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      I will take your good wishes to heart, Ali, but only for a little while, as I imagine the 20-year-old Faceless Girls will be coming to get me soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. May 16, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Can you next jump in to comdemn those nausiating half naked men being pawed by bimbo women just below the beltline? I don’t care how good a story it is inside I would simply not buy the book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 16, 2017 at 7:04 pm

      I have yet to hear of one of those covers concealing a story I’d like to spend time with, Lucinda, so I fear researching this post might result in more pain than this masochist is willing to take…


  25. May 16, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Interesting, Tara. I actually didn’t realize this was a “thing” until I saw your display of covers. Maybe this explains why I don’t read books with faceless young women on them. They don’t speak to me at all. What is so exciting about the back of a head? This fad too shall pass (we can only hope).

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 16, 2017 at 7:05 pm

      It’s not their facelesness which offends me so much as their improbable youth, Diana. My own 20-year-old self doesn’t excite me, let alone anybody else’s.

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 16, 2017 at 7:13 pm

        I notice something similar on TV ads for anti-wrinkle cream. The cream does wonders for the 16 year old complexions. Makes me want to run out an buy it!

        Liked by 1 person

  26. May 16, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    I’m kind of an expert on book covers… Sort of anyway. 😉 The most important thing is that the covers reflect the book within. Which is presumably why the cookery book market continues to prosper come what may (Freudian moment there – I actually typed ‘fester’ instead of ‘prosper’ first off. Must be an ‘I hate my kitchen’ day…)! 😦
    Seriously though, and as you rightly point out – it’s not enough to make the central female figure faceless. She has to match up to what’s going on between the covers (or not) if it’s an unrequited love story… There’s aren’t many people whose bodies go into stasis once they strike 20. Come to that there aren’t that many 20-something females who even have model bodies of any description. There is no normal when it comes to people – so it should be with covers! *nods righteously* 🙂
    Which is why none of my books will ever have ‘faceless’ or ambiguous body feature figures on them. I’ve only got 2 books with featured faces and they’re both in the book and appropriate to their character. A sketch of a scarred 10 yr old Nigerian girl, and a nifty photo-manipulation of a quite famous statue of the Greek god Poseidon in stormy seascapes, as a metaphor for ‘challenging times’ and the tarot card of The Tower (there’s a lighthouse too).. 😛 I prefer landscapes in fact. Because they’re easy to cobble together and Photoshop can do an awful lot with casting a good moody ambience. Also typefaces, but that a whole other cliche-ridden subject! 😛

    Liked by 2 people

  27. May 16, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    This is exactly why I put a picture of my own nonmodely, 39-year-old self on my book cover. So far, not one person has commented that they’d have preferred I’d left off my head. That’s enough market research for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. May 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Indeed! 🙂 You tell ’em, Tara

    Liked by 1 person

  29. mistedwords
    May 17, 2017 at 3:07 am

    Love this post!
    I was browsing book covers last week and I noticed that the eternal-youth-woman seems to be fading from the latest releases. In fact, I noticed that *those* covers made me cringe and feel sorry for the books they adorned because OH my gosh have they been done to death, revived, and done to death again. My other pet hate: half a woman/face on the cover. That said, I made some fictional fiction covers this week and may have become that which I loathe. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Nya Rawlyns
    May 18, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    Oy yeah, this… so many times THIS!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. May 18, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Would I be right in thinking you have something of a bee in your bonnet about this, Tara? Personally, I used to be all in favour of looking at images of 20 year old girls – until I realised they were younger than my daughter and that kind of screwed with my mind. That aside, these books aren’t really aimed at 54 year old blokes anyway…
    Nevertheless, as I churn out more books over the coming years, I’ll make sure no cover incorporates such images. Then again, I do have thing about birds…

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 18, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      I may never look at ravens the same way again, Graeme. But I’d count that as a win, if I were you…!

      Liked by 1 person

  32. May 19, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I recognise that last picture. She has my chin.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. May 19, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    I can totally see why you were nominated for funniest blog at this years Blogger bash. Can’t believe it took me this long to find you. Why were you hiding from me? (yikes that sounded creepy. it was supposed to be witty, but clearly, I need to leave that to the professionals such as yourself)
    Anyway, really looking forward to following your blog. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 20, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      And cheery cheers to you too, Gabe! I advertised for a stalker a long time ago but sadly, nobody ever applied. It appears I am a master of hiding in plain sight. Delighted to make your acquaintance – thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 20, 2017 at 3:38 pm

        Absolutely. And I plan to keep popping back in, just to make sure the funny factor is still up to par.

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm

          Ah, no pressure, then. Excellent. I’ll endeavour to be my usual dour and joyless self.

          Liked by 1 person

  34. May 20, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Oh, missed a trick there. I should have put some Faceless 20 Things on my book covers and then one of them might have appeared in this blog and got a ton of free promotion. Can you warn me what your next blog will be about so that I can publish something quickly?

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Sue Bridgwater
    May 22, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Skorn and commented:
    Agree wholeheartedly, as so often, with Tara on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Carl Rackman
    May 31, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Reblogged this on Carl Rackman and commented:
    Excellent stuff on the banality of book covers. (By ‘banality’ I mean feckless disregard for reality and/or relevance to the content, creator or audience.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 31, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks for the re-blog, Carl. And you’re so right. Normally I love feckless disregard, but not in this case.

      Liked by 1 person

  37. June 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Wonderful post, Tara. I’ve been at war with several publishers over the faceless woman issue. I only won twice, and both of those were half-wins. Since my heroines are all over 40 years old, I was permitted to have covers with landscapes on them instead of that faceless Ms. Perfect 20 year old. I was happy but… can you believe it? Readers and reviewers protested!

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 1, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      So you’ve proven it, Jill – you just can’t win! I do wonder sometimes… what goes on in someone’s head that they would protest?! I love covers with landscapes on them. It tells me just enough. The only covers I could imagine protesting about are the ones which only have legs on them. I mean, come on. Legs. Why?!


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