Monday, 25 February 2008

How to Sell Literary Fiction (in the 1970s)

In the 1970s, some paperback publishing houses more normally interested in horror, crime and romance fiction found themselves with the rights to literary fiction as well. How to sell it, they must have asked themselves. With naked chicks, they seem to have answered.

One of the more egregious publishers in this regard was Panther Books. Here they are taking similar approaches to the dissimilar authors Alberto Moravia and Kingsley Amis.


barnaby hall said...

Jesus- I'm on a roll here.
70's - absolutely T and A. My first ever jacket- First Love Last Rites- McKuen, Picador, UK. Dutifully I read the book. Didn't LOVE it but thought that there was some great imagery. Suggested a photo of a beautiful young sexually exhausted couple asleep on a kitchen table surrounded by rotting food, rats and all.The idea was laughed out of the office so I simply shot a grainy reclining nude. Same thing went for another of his books- I forget the name . Again potentially great imagery. As well as a lovely young babe there was a midget masseur involved (can one say that?!). I envisaged a gorgeous woman back contrasting with the slightly oddness of the little one's arm and fingers kneeding her flesh. All very close up and elegant. "Nah, Barn, said the AD - can't have a fucking midget on the cover of a fucking book"- so ,once again, a reclining nude. Less grainy though !
I won't go into the painful details of the Cement Garden. All I can say is that wet cement burns naked flesh.
Ian McKuen (spellcheck?), after his success was assured, complained about all the jackets I was involved with. But was rather snotty and refused to talk about it when called for HIS suggestions
I think these covers are- or WERE- in the V and A Museum collection of 70's bits and pieces.

JRSM said...

These stories are fantastic! I wish they'd gone with that nude and midget masseur cover, and with the shagged-out couple with rats, etc. Much better than the covers they got--and the covers they have now. I'm going to have to direct people to this comment, it's too good to miss.

barnaby hall said...

stories stories. Amongst other things to do with the past, I'm now trying to make decent prints from terrible scans of original indecent 70's English softcore. I worked for quite a while with those well known and sophisticated publications - Fiesta, Knave and Penthouse UK. My nom de plume was Jobbo. A filthy sounding name. All surprisingly innocent most of the time. However I now have a somewhat silly collection of bawdy pseudo erotic photo illustrations which are basically an unusual "scrapbook"/ record of friends, girlfriends, family even. The out-takes make me smile and I believe give a certain amount of naughty nostalgic pleasure to those once sweet innocent young things who are now well into in their 50's. Something to impress, or should I say, surprise, the kids?
On the subject of midgets - I took my kids to see a midget bullfight last year. Tiny toreadors facing up to small but feisty bulls. Not very PC but quite something. The kids were bored. I at least got some good photographs. There is also a notorious midget hooker here - where? - on the wild west coast of Southern Portugal. She stations herself on a roundabout which feeds into the main road to Lisbon. The first impression of her is what appears to be a HUGE handbag.
Time to go.

JRSM said...

This stuff is insane. What have your kids seen in their lives that a midget bullfight is passe?

barnaby said...

they are kids raised in New York City - what else can I say !
Blasee to the max.
I'm trying to find some late 70's Edna O' Brian jackets. Love her writing. Wanted to find a way to get HER to be the cover nude. No success but used a voluptuous photographer friend instead - Jane Spearing (a.k.a. Ruby Fox)

And you? Where does this unhealthy interest in book covers come from?

JRSM said...

I've got some of those Edna O'Briens! For a while there all her books seemed to have voluptuous nudes on them--the Penguin paperbacks too. Surprised you had trouble persuading her--I remember in somebody or other's autobiography them describing the times when they were a kid, and O'Brien was a house guest, the way she used to stroll nude about the house.

This unhealthy interest is just a combination of a love for books and a love for photography and design, mixed with my own background as a VERY lowly writer, illustrator, etc.

barnaby hall said...

as you suggest, I'm sure she would have at least considered modelling nude for her own book jacket. However my contact with her, via a "friend of a friend" was too slow off the mark and there was a deadline to meet. Shame. A beautiful woman and a great writer.

A LOWLY illustator/writer? Ouch !
Modest too! Your blog is great - very much enjoyed by BH and I imagine others. Mazal Tov.
Talking of blogs I'm struggling with the technical aspects of creating a blog on Wordpress.
I want it to be about here. The unbearably beautiful nowhere land of South West Portugal. It's surprising how much illiteracy and tough no nonsense "peasant life" still exists in contemporary Europa. The banks and post offices have ink pads for fingerprint signatures. I would like to tell stories( + pics of course) ,of the unlikely mish mash of people, and animals, who live here. Generations of subsistence farmers contrasted with isolated pockets of foreigners (mainly English, German and Dutch) who either came here looking for a dream, which of course didn't happen or people who simply want to get away from it all and hopefully have the necessary self discipline to stay in touch - to work even !- and not dissolve into drunken depression and tedious light weight lunacy. Tricky I have to admit.
The other day my girlfriend and me dined on the scraps of the writer , Monica Ali's leg of lamb.The butcher gave them to us for the dog but they were far to meaty and plentiful to waste on a senile Dachshund
Having written a very thinly disguised and pessimistic saga about life in the Alentejo- Alentejo Blue - she's not the most popular babe in the village. I haven't read it. Probably never will. But who cares. She's rather an attractive woman . Well worth following into a butcher's shop.

JRSM said...

Any help I can give you about the blog I'd be more than happy to. Sounds like a great idea, too--nice to know that there are still parts of the western world that work like that.

I misread that at first as you had been eating Monica Ali's leg, which was a bit startling. She seems to annoy people wherever she writes about--the people in Brick Lane still don't seem to have calmed down.

barnaby hall said...

Regarding the leg - I misread my own comment several times. One reads what one wants to read I guess . I also think I could have written it more concisely !
Regarding the blog - my impression is that Wordpress takes a little learning. I can't seem to figure out how one does more than post a picture with a short caption. I will keep at it. And perhaps there will be a blinding flash of understanding - one day