There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book: Verse One

To celebrate having an honest-to-God bimbo on the cover of a book—one who was specifically designed to be there, I’m rerunning the Bimbo series from 2011, which takes a humorous and sometimes terrifying look at the things that end up on the covers of our books. Bimbo on the Cover is a collection of my short fiction published in hardback as a GoH special by WindyCon. The cover is by my dear friend Beckett Gladney—and yes, the other characters pictured are actually in the book.


Once upon a time a writer named Michael Flynn penned the first several verses of a poem that paid homage to (or whined about, depending on how you look at it) the covers with which writers are blessed  (must endure, are tortured) by their publishers. A series of events led to me adding significantly to Michael’s poem and set it (as he suggested) to the tune of She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain.

The first verse goes like this:
There’s a bimbo on the cover of the book.?There’s a bimbo on the cover of the book.
She is blonde and she is sexy;
She is nowhere in the text.
She is a bimbo on the cover of the book.

I got an object lesson in covers when I was a newbie writer at my first Nebula Award weekend. I had gone up to the SFWA suite (that’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and bumped into Lois McMaster Bujold there. In the course of our conversation, I asked “Do you get any control over your book covers? I was wondering because I saw one of your Miles Vorkosigan books in the store and there was a … er … rather scantily clad woman and a huge piece of beef cake on the cover that I don’t recall having existed in the text of the story.” (Which had been serialized in Analog magazine).

Lois sighed and shared the story with me. “That was a Keith Laumer cover originally,” she told me. “But he didn’t want it. So they painted Miles into the command chair and put some clothes on the woman.”

I blanched. “They PUT clothes on her? She’s wearing practically nothing … translucent nothing … with pasties and a g-string.”

“All she was wearing before,” said Lois, “was a suggestive grin.”

“On the bridge of a space ship?”

She shrugged. “Apparently. And I have to talk to my publisher about this as well.” This turned out to be a cover flat for the next Miles book in which—yes, another Bimbo was in flagrant view. This time, as I recall, hanging around Miles’ neck.

When I sold my first novel shortly after this to the same publisher, I was terrified of what the cover might look like. Would I inherit another writer’s bimbos?

I lucked out. The publisher read my novel carefully and picked his favorite scene, which is what he asked the illustrator—Darrell Sweet—to paint. As it happened, it was also one of my favorite scenes in the book. Now the misty figure in the background is a bit too human-looking, but everyone on the cover is fully clothed and looks approximately as I pictured them.

Some of my confreres here at the Café have not been so lucky.

Case in point, Kathi Kimbriel’s, Kindred Rites. “The floating brunette in plains Indian costume,” Kathi told me, “has nothing whatsoever to do with my alternative world circa 1810 Michigan territory dark fantasy about a tall blond Norwegian/Irish 13 year old.”

Kathi, I found your tall blond Norwegian/Irish girl! She’s on the cover of my fourth novel, The Spirit Gate. See? Note the Regency style dress, which is at least in the right time period, if not appropriate to the wilds Michigan. This means that someone else has my diminutive, white-haired Mongolian witch, Kassia, on the cover of their book.

If you find her, please sing out.

Next time: Verse 2 of “There’s a Bimbo On the Cover” — Wardrobe MalfunctionsNext time: Verse 2 of “There’s a Bimbo On the Cover”


The Meri by Maya Kaathryn BohnhoffThe Meri is now a trade paperback  from Book View Cafe with a new cover designed by the author. Available at BVC, Amazon, and other online sources.



There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of My Book: Verse One — 13 Comments

  1. I believe your Mongolian witch was body-snatched to be on the cover of my Remnant Population as Ofelia. Ofelia was, however, white-haired, so maybe not.

  2. Actually, the Regency dress works in the third book I’m currently writing! If her hair was longer and paler, we’d be in business.

    But now, who is missing an Anglo-Native American in plains dress?

  3. When my first novel, JAYDIUM, was in production and I hadn’t yet seen the cover painting, I had a moment of horror when I realized that there is a scene in which my heroine is (a) naked; (b) being approached by a giant silver slug. I thought, “Oh, no, they’ll put that on the cover and none of my women friends will ever speak to me again!” Instead, I got an extremely phallic space ship (in a scene that happens 3500 years before the story begins). Ah, well…

  4. Now that I’m attempting to put together covers for my ebooks, I can almost, somewhat understand the struggles the art departments went through in the bad old days. The art department seldom read the books. They had editors telling them what they wanted. And artists who liked looking at pretty bodies and translated all our wishes to naked creatures. And then all parties involved hastily played with photoshop to make the two images come together. I wish I’d kept a copy of the original painting I had of a strip poker game where the cards floated ghost-like against a white nightgown, held in white gloves. I GAVE them opportunity for bare naked ladies and they gave me ghosts. But that image got photo shopped–badly.

  5. Deborah, the space ship is in verse four, I believe. Send me the cover!

    Elizabeth, I believe you’ve found my Kassia! She was supposed to be white-haired also. She had—ahem—hair the color of moonlight on ripe wheat. Could you send a jpg of that cover? I could do a whole blog on the peculiarity of characters that end up on the wrong covers.

    Pat, I know I got lucky on my first novel. Not only did Jim Baen read the book, he had the artist read the chapter the scene was in. He phoned me at work the day after I got the cover flats asking if I liked them. “I picked that scene myself,” he said proudly. I was able to honestly tell him I would have picked the same one.

  6. So which is worse? Wholely fabricated covers or ones that are “close”? The most recent covers that stand out in my mind are those on Partrica Brigg’s “Mercy Thompson” novels, which are “not bad” aside from clothing choice and (especially) number of tattoos…

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  8. Some covers are way …way, off the mark, I agree. But I must protest at Jessica Rabbit being used in such a fashion. She is and was not, a bimbo, she was just drawn that way!

  9. With a few of Katharine Kerr’s Deverry books I have had to get to the end and then figure out who on earth was supposed to be on the cover.

  10. Ah, memory, so malleable… 🙂

    I don’t remember the SFWA suite (although I expect the sigh is accurate), but the case was that the 1986 The Warrior’s Apprentice paperback cover was painted (I was told) for some Keith Laumer novel, but not used for reasons no one said. The couple were dressed exactly as one sees them; the command chair was empty. So the only addition was Miles, in clothes. (Perhaps sadly.) We got to referring to the skimpy magenta dress as “Elena’s combat nightie”.

    I like your version too, though…

    The takeaway lesson for me though, was that my career survived, as it has survived many boggling covers since. So, writers, don’t panic when the art department ambushes you. Someday, there will be reprints…

    Ta, Lois.