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Elyse Friedman

March 17, 2011

Elyse Friedman is the author of Long Story Short, a Novella & Stories, the novels Waking Beauty and Then Again, and the poetry collection Know Your Monkey. Her work has been short-listed for the Trillium Book Award, The Toronto Book Award, the Relit Award and the National Magazine Award. Her short stories have appeared in The Journey Prize Anthology and Best Canadian Stories, and her tale, The Soother, won the Gold National Magazine Award for fiction. Her most recent short story, I Found Your VOX, was included in Darwin’s Bastards, Astounding Tales From Tomorrow, an anthology edited by Zsuzsi Gartner. She is currently working on a new novel and several screenplays.

“I had a strange experience with a couple of my book covers. My second novel, Morph (re-titled Waking Beauty at the request of the publisher) was erroneously marketed as a chick-lit book. The content was risqué and cynical, but the publisher chose to make the cover pink and princess-y in the hopes of selling more copies. I hated it. It offended me.

When I finished my third book of fiction, I had it in mind to choose a publisher that wouldn’t pull something like that. I sent out the book and received multiple offers. I didn’t go with the highest bid; I went with House of Anansi because they’re a prestige press, and they seemed to understand my deep concerns about potential covers. The book was called Long Story Short, a Novella & Stories. Most of the tales featured male protagonists. Almost all of the stories were dark and edgy. None of them had anything to do with domestic life or laundry, and yet when I received the first cover art from the designer, it featured an illustration of a clothesline. Inexplicable. I fought hard against that image and, luckily for me, Anansi responded and made a new cover for the book (one that I love).

I can’t help thinking, though, that the princess and the clothesline would never have materialized had the identical manuscripts been submitted by a male author.”

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3 Comments
  1. No, definitely not! It’s such a shame when publishers completely mis-sell the content of their books by their covers – it’s going to put off potential readers, or annoy those wanting traditional chick-lit.

    There’s something to be said for those very plain covers Faber do for their poets…

  2. Chris Roberts permalink

    Ms. Friedman, I really empathize with you. A clothesline? Really, really? Now if you had written the designer to express your distress, you would have been labeled “hysterical” or an overbearing female. I’m am so happy you got the cover you wanted, as in, reflective of the subject matter.

    Where have all the Anne Sexton’s gone? On the cover of her “Transformations,” Sexton looks out at us in a look of pure confidence. In “Love Poems” she is absolutely radiant in a sexy dress and her eyes betray the fact that she just ate the canary or designer, either way, it works.

    I would love to see more female authors on the covers of their books. And really the matter of beauty or not is a mute point; a erudite, intelligent author is always, always beautiful. Thanks for delving into the matter of book covers, which I only thought of fleetingly, you have awakened me Ms. Friedman. Bravo!

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