There’s a Bimbo on the Cover, Verse 2: The Bimbo Wears Black Leather

Bimbo, verse Two:

There’s black leather on the bimbo in my book.There’s black leather on the bimbo in my book,

While I’m sure she’s lot’s of fun,

My heroine’s a nun

Who wears black leather on the cover of my book.

I must admit that I don’t recall who wrote the current verse two of Bimbo, but it has to do with wardrobe malfunctions. You know: You’ve said your characters are in Regency England and they look as if they just stepped off an omnibus at Piccadilly . . . in 1960.

Our first wardrobe malfunction comes to us form the cover of Brenda Clough’s Crystal Crown. The females in her story, she tells me, were wont to wear floor-length gowns with long sleeves. She was therefore perplexed by what the groveling woman on the cover was (not) wearing.

Brenda described the outfit, charitably, as wet kleenex. My teenaged daughter took one look at the cover and was perplexed by the young lady’s  … er … dimensions. Specifically, her derriere.

“What is that?” she asked. “Is she being attacked by a giant tick?” Upon closer inspection, she realized her mistake and was suitably embarrassed.

Well, I can’t top that. But I did have somewhat of a fashion malfunction in the second book of the Meri series—Taminy. Note, if you will, that the maidens are modeling vivid velvet outfits that go elegantly with their apparently blow-dried hair. The facts are these: the girl lying dazed upon the ground was riding the horse you see in the background being held in the hands of the blond beefcake (who actually is in the book). The woman who is administering the healing magic was out foraging in the fields and woods for medicinals. Both are described as wearing homespun shirts, breeches and jerkins.

Judith Tarr is no stranger to this phenomenon. I will let Judy tell her own sad tale of wardrobe disaster.

I had written a young-adult horse fantasy starring a medieval Turkish girl who dressed as a boy and rode, undetected, to war. Medieval Turkish horse archers were thoroughly and modestly dressed. It was not hard for my protagonist to conceal her gender.

So, of course, I got A Bimbo On The Cover Of My Book. Not only that, a Red-Headed Bimbo in a see-through harem costume.

With a detachable arm. And a honking huge scimitar. On an equally “well” proportioned horse the size of Godzilla (but devoid of any boy parts to balance her rather prominent girl parts).

When I questioned the choice, the editor informed me, “We wanted to expand the audience of your book.”

Right. Horny male teens would go anywhere near a book written by a girl, about a girl, with a horse in it.

I may be outvoted, but so far the winner of the award for Wardrobe Malfunction is the Dutch cover of Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake (Droomslang in Dutch). Vonda assures me that she has no problem with full frontal nudity. She does, however, have a problem with full frontal nudity that is nowhere in the book.

Is it silly to be concerned with such things? Well, I can tell you that Taminy, which is the middle book in a series—sold far fewer copies than the first and third books (which, considering that you really have to read Book Two to understand Book Three, is unfortunate) I had at least one fan who said they thought the book was a romance rather than a straight-up fantasy novel. So, yes, boys and girls, a cover can affect book sales.

Next time: Verse Three—Dragons



There’s a Bimbo on the Cover, Verse 2: The Bimbo Wears Black Leather — 12 Comments

  1. My idea with the CRYSTAL CROWN cover is that she in fact cannot stand up. Hypertrophied butt development — the weight of her derriere pulled her over.

  2. In the original cover of the second book of the Paks trilogy, they chose to use a scene where the heroine is a captive–and in the book was wearing a black looked-like-wool-felt-like-scratchy-plastic sort of shift thing, knee length. In the picture she’s wearing a pastel blue “Fredericks of Hollywood” nightshirt. And yes, sales of that volume were substantially lower than sales of I or III, both of which showed her looking healthy, clothed, and active–and far below the sales of the omnibus, which had a really great cover.

    Then there’s the original Remnant Population cover, on which my elderly protagonist merely looks crazy and the aliens (carefully described) look like barn owls. I said ratites, guys. Emus, maybe, or somewhat more reptilian than that. NOT barn owls. (Reader after reader has said “What were those barn owls doing on the cover?”)

    OTOH, I escaped the worst (though somewhere I have the sketch)…I wrote a scene in which a young adventuress comes to in a space pod, starkers (she was drunk, they put her in it to sleep it off while her clothes were being cleaned, then someone accidentally hit the “pods-away” button. Well, they were ALL drunk at the time.) As a joke, Baen sent me the “proposed cover” which had, of course, the nekkid young lady in zero G. The actual cover was much tamer.

    • I declared the DROOMSLANG cover the winner of the “Bad Cover Competition” a while back. (I’m not biased or anything.)

      Search for “Bad cover competition” (include the quotes) and you’ll get the posts, with images.

      Not only did DROOMSLANG not sell well… I don’t believe I ever sold another book in the Netherlands. The story of the cover is in

      The only cover that I ever saw that I thought challenged the Dutch edition of Dreamsnake was the Dutch edition of Left Hand of Darkness. There’s an image of it in this post: — includes Ursula’s opinion of it.

      You gotta wonder, who the heck looks at this stuff and says, “Yes! That’s the perfect cover!”?


  3. When I worked trafficking covers for Tor we did a reprint of an Elizabeth Peters book. We wanted a very specific thing on the cover: a medieval dress (which Peters describes very clearly). I believe the dress was supposed to be in a display case, perhaps with someone looking at it. So I pulled out the description and sent it to the artist.

    Got back a sketch of a woman in Court Jester medieval drag, complete with conical hat.

    Sent a note, with my own poor sketch of what was wanted.

    Got back a sketch of dummy wearing Court Jester medieval drag, minus conical hat.

    Copied sketch, made alterations to sketch to demonstrate what would have to happen to make it suitable for image requested.

    After the third or fourth iteration we got a sketch that was not too outrageously wrong, and went with it. Sometimes artists have a Bimbo of the Mind that trumps any number of explanations…

  4. Maya, I remember you adding this verse to “Bimbo” in response to a similar discussion on another list. You insisted I include this verse in “Hounding The Moon” along with all of the normal ones. Good thing I hadn’t submitted final revisions yet. <-: Would have been around 2005

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  6. The worst Wardrobe Malfunction I’ve seen is the copy of Picnic on Paradise which I found in a second-hand bookshop, which you can see at:

    The bizarre outfit on the cover is certainly nowhere to be found on the book (which involves a hike through arctic climates), but I also haven’t managed to figure out which character this is supposed to be. She doesn’t match the description of anyone in the book or fit in any way with the tone, plot, or setting — it seems like there’s just a gratuitous, half-naked woman on the cover.

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