Here at GDP, we publish erotica and literary pornography a little differently. Not only do we take on projects that other publishers typically won’t, ones that address “taboo” topics, like incest, questionable consent, age play, and so forth, but we package them in non-typical ways. Take, for example, the cover for Huddle. Or First. Or Boy Stories. Or As the Bishop Said to the Actress.
All of these books contain scorching hot erotica, and yes, I’m biased, but bear with me. It could be argued that their covers don’t accurately represent their content. Couldn’t it?
Horatio Is Sexy and Fun, but Not in a Six-Pack Way
Take a look at the Top 6 titles (at the time of writing) on the gay erotica bestsellers list on Amazon:
And on the gay romance list:
Featuring presumably cis male bodies, predominantly white and normatively handsome faces, and fit-as-fuck bodies, is it fair for me to say that these covers are “usual” to the genres of erotica and romance? Could we also argue that they’re what’s expected, the ultimate recipe for capturing the attentions of people browsing the gay erotica/romance charts in search of quick, arousing fix?
So, since GDP doesn’t publish erotica or package it in a way that’s “usual,” are we helping our extraordinarily talented, hard-working authors, or are we hurting them?
And what does this mean for the success of Horatio Slice: Guitar Slayer of the Universe?
If I let it, this line of thinking can keep me up at night. Oh, it’s hard to defend “aesthetic” sometimes, but Lana does it best when she reminds me of our brand: fiercely independent, rebellious erotica. If our books—both their covers and their content—fit neatly into the “usual” slot, how rebellious or independent would they be? Would we even be happy publishing “usual” erotica?
Less Talk, More Rock
Back to Horatio. You saw my first attempt to capture everything that Oleander Plume’s studly superhero is on this first cover design. For reasons explained in that post, it couldn’t work. It didn’t work. It neglected quite a few important aspects of the novel. For example, its colorful setting(s) and characters. And its humor and various action-filled plot lines. And, most importantly, its ear-splitting, horns-throwing rock n’ roll.
After that first design, I went looking for a new face for Horatio.
If I told you how long I worked on this one, you’d laugh me out of the room, and rightfully so. I spent so much time trying to give this guy a trim off the top and sides because I can tell you with 100% certainty that Horatio Slice is not some fucking Jon Bon Jovi lookalike. (Sorry about that, Jon Bon Jovi.) Looking back at this cover now—actually, looking back at this cover, like, 10 minutes after I had walked away from it—it’s abundantly clear that the fonts and colors were off. Too playful. Too kitschy. Not enough rock ‘n roll.
I had purchased that metal font especially for this project and, fuck, I was determined to use it. This replacement Horatio is good, but serious. Those are serious, cock-sucking lips. There is rock n’ roll intensity here in that photo and font, but where’d all that fun go?
How about if I put a squirrel on it, you know, to represent the squirrelly heroes found in the novel?
No. No, I guess not.
And Now for Something Almost Completely Different
Folks, I present to you now the cover for Horatio Slice: Guitar Slayer of the Universe.
I knew it was a hit because I sent it to Oleander after an exhausted Horatio cover day, and she responded by telling me that she was hyperventilating—a physical blow to Oleander, of course, but a huge ego boost for me.
I think it does a good job capturing some of the things that Horatio is—loud, vibrant, rock n’ roll, queer—but not all. I want to see the humor here, but don’t necessarily, unless you think big hair is funny. Purple and orange could be funny.
It might lack Horatio’s sense of adventure. There are no pirates! No sexy blond septuplets! No tattooed Vixenites! No squirrels! But fuck, how the hell could we get all of Horatio in one image without, you know, confusing you, Horatio’s potential reader?
There has to come a time when we say enough is enough, I guess, or, more accurately, when I say enough is enough because it’s hard to let things go when you love them so much, when you want the best for them always, and so it’s easy to find things to pick at, to constantly change and brush up—the font, the photo, the colors.
But then I remember what’s way more important than the cover—Oleander’s story. My God, this story. This story has such potential to make you laugh out loud, to hold you by the short and wiries throughout its twists and turns, to make you want to rub one out, and what you’re rubbing and what comes out doesn’t matter one bit, not to Horatio, not to us, just as long as it feels good. That’s all this novel and its characters want.
It’s kind of a gift, officially wrapped in purple and orange. And when the day comes (and it’s coming soon!), we hope you like it.
Jake loves comments, so please leave one, if you’d like! Also, get a sneak peek at Horatio Slice: Guitar Slayer of the Universe! Chapter 1 is included in Alternative Fucks, a charity anthology to raise money for the ACLU, available Monday, February 20, only at godeeperpress.com.