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Monday, September 12, 2011

Manly Men

I had a very exhausting weekend--most of it spent clicking on photo after photo of half-naked men. Yes, my weekend was brutal. But I did it all for you.

The sad part is, I never found the perfect guy for the cover of my next book. There was a deficit of manly men. 

There were plenty of boy-men, suitable for YA. There were also a lot of men that would've worked for gay fiction. But there was nothing (I liked) for heterosexual tastes, men with hair on their chest and a serious 'I can protect you' expression. Men who looked old enough to know how to make love to a woman.

Most of the guys had shaved chests, over-the-top abs, or else they were oiled up like man-hams in a greased pig contest. Some wore stupid grins. Others looked either bored or uncomfortable when paired up with women. 

I tried one model because he had some nice stubble on his chin and a melancholy expression that would've worked for this story line. He wasn't particularly buff, but neither was he boyish. I slapped him onto my background and IMMEDIATELY two manly men on my panel of judges declared: Too gay.


I'm a little limited because I already paid for a month's subscription to this art database. I don't want to spend more money and time looking at men. (Strange as that may sound.)

I pulled some more model photos and one might make the cut. He looks familiar to me, or more to the point, his tattoo looks familiar. It's a set of wings tattooed on his back, which is rather apropos. 

I have to admit, I've always been hypercritical of male models on romance book covers. I like men to look like real men, masculine, filled-out, and athletic. Super muscles and abs just look dumb unless the main character is a bodybuilder.

And what is with all the shaved chests? I have never met a straight man with a shaved chest. Is that new? Do men shave their chests and grease their bodies nowadays?

I know I've been out of the market for a while, but surely it hasn't changed that much. 

How do you feel about men on cover art? Man-hams or guy-next-door?

For the record, I would've rather just used a prop as the focal point, but those sorts of covers aren't as easily remembered.


Angelina Rain said...

I like the shaved chest look, so I enjoy my covers of shaved men, lol, but yeah, I noticed that many image databases have men that are too young or too old.

What image site did you join?

Last night while serfing the web I found out that one of my facebook friends is a cover model (I have no idea who this person is or why I friended him, but now he comes in useful, lol). He has his own image database site. I'll email you the link to it just in case you can't find the right man on the site you joined.

Rula Sinara said...

I don't mind shaved chests, but I agree with all your points. I'm still laughing at the term man-ham ;)

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: Well, that's handy. Email me when you get a chance.

Rula: Ref: shaved chest
I must be old-school. LOL! But then I'm sure Greg prefers I not go back to school.

Stephany Simmons said...

I'm with you all the way! I was in the same position not too long ago. I got so frustrated that I went with a silhouette.

L.G.Smith said...

What a terrible dilemma, having to search for the perfect male body. :D

Had to laugh at the greased up man-ham, though I have to admit I don't like very hairy men. I think for the cover of a book, a man-ham is what sells. At least it's what you see everyone using, so...

Krista D. Ball said...

All of the guys I've dated in my life have naturally been on the less hair side. I'm not sure how this worked, but there you go.

EXCEPT this one woolly mammoth I dated. Holy crap that man was hairy. His sister talked him into a back wax and, after the pain wore off, he decided that back waxing was awesome and he didn't stop after that.

lol So, I'm rather used to man-hams being hairless.

*this blog comment really has nothing to do with this blog post. I just wanted to say man-ham*

Maria Zannini said...

Stephany: I had a friend whose publisher went with a silhouette and it was perfect.

LG: I don't want them to be gorillas. But I don't want them baby-butt smooth either. It would make me feel like I was doing something illegal.

Ref: man-ham
Did I just make up a new word? LOL.

I'm not fond of overly furry men. I want just enough to know the difference between boy and man.

Angela Brown said...

Ref: they were oiled up like man-hams in a greased pig contest

I nearly spit out my cheese and peanut butter cracker laughing at that. Too hilarious. Sounds like the site you're using will be a good one for me since the male model for my cover would need to fit the YA half-angst/half-disinterested look.

Anonymous said...

Aw, poor Maria, LOL.

As my father likes to say, some men are just more evolved than others.

I'm with you on the "serious 'I can protect you' expression. Men who looked old enough to know how to make love to a woman." I'm more concerned with the age thing...don't want to be drooling over someone young enough to be my kid, LOL.

LD Masterson said...

I feel so old. I didn't even know men shaving their chests was a common thing. In my day (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), guys wanted hair on their chests. I remember my brother, and both my sons for that matter, watching for those first few chest hairs to prove they were becoming men. Boy, I'm really out of it.

Maybe I should do some research. *grin*

ajkulig said...

LOL I am really glad that I will likely never write a book that needs that kind of cover. I would feel the same as you--or maybe just have to put my husband on the cover ;)

You should look up military/fireman guys =)

Cate Masters said...

I'm having the same problem, Maria. I'd like my people to look realistic. Try finding an actual couple! It's scary.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Man. Ham. I will now use this in day-to-day conversation.

I've known lots of men who shave their chests, but I've known lots of men on swim teams. It's required then. ^_^

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I couldn't stop laughing as I was reading. For the record, my very hetero son with the great abs and good muscle tone shaves his chest. He's 26 so I guess it's a thing with the younger crowd.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: Sorry. I'll give better warning next time.

Raelyn: Yes! It could be just the site I was using, but the expressions on the male models were too glib.

Linda: We're from the same Ice Age. Obviously, I am out of touch.

ajkulig: Exactly. I'm looking for the fireman type.

Cate: It is incredibly hard to find good couples which is why I've been sticking to single people. People can be good looking and realistic.

Barbara: Greg read your comment and he said that I no longer have to write books. I'll be famous for man-hams from now on.

Susan: I'm a dinosaur. I have no other excuse.

Mike Keyton said...

Suffering for your art again, Maria? My heart bleeds :) Why not just go for Vladimir Putin? You'd corner the Russian market

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Definitely not right for this book.

I've been working on a new cover today. I've decided to go against the tide and use another woman--with a macabre twist.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

mmm, like Joe Manganiello who plays alcide on true blood. That is manly.

I like them to look realistic, but, let's get serious, if they're hot enough, i may not notice much else ;)

Rosie Lane said...

Man-hams is going in my dictionary as of now. Superb word.

I don't like the overgroomed look. A little bit furry is far more appealing.

Dee said...

I'm looking at a paperback right now with a guy with wings tattooed on his back... JR Ward's Covet. So you might wanna skip that one.

Chest hair is so over. Unless you're Conan the Barbarian. And actually it's possible Jason Momoa could single-chestedly bring it back into fashion.

But really, what attracts readers these days, even old broads like me, is the bare, unhairy chest and over-the-top physique. Remember, you're not selling this book to yourself. Try to empathize with those of us laying out the cash to buy and give us the goodies... yum! :)

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Steady girl. LOL.

Rosie: At least I'll be famous for something.

Dee: I'm an old lady--hairless chests do nothing for me.

But speaking as a designer in which I have more experience than even writing--a good cover is more than attractive people. It should tell a story on its own and be intriguing enough to invite a closer look.

Ref: angel wings
I checked it out. It's actually the cover to Crave. My guy didn't look like that one. But it doesn't matter anymore. I decided the tattooed guy was too ordinary. I like the one I just finished much better. :)

jackie b central texas said...

Maria that lovely masculine trail to "The Promised Land" is necessary on a male physique. Clean lines and clean body makes a bigger impact than huge bulging muscled and no body hair at all!

You know I needed a laugh today and let us just say looking for "Manly Men" is not a job I envy you either!

Marianne Arkins said...

Hairy chests make me shudder. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to discover my DH had no hair on his chest -- naturally. YAY!! He's since grown two or three, and I tolerate them, but I can NOT stand hairy chests. I don't find them at all sexy.


I wonder if you took an actual poll what kind of results you'd get. I may have to do that somewhere with a high volume of people. Hmmm....

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: You're reading my mind. That's exactly what I look for. --among other things. :)

How are you doing? I know you're still in the midst of chaos. Drop me a line whenever you get a chance.


Marianne: Greg has been reading the comments and he said he was willing to bet that most of the women who go for smooth chests were probably younger (than me). So far, that seems to be the case. It's a generational thing.

Marian Perera said...

I don't know if I'm younger than you or not, Maria, but I don't mind hairy chests on men at all. To me, hairlessness looks... male modelly. Like there's something missing, or he's been airbrushed.

Hairy chests just seem that much more masculine to me.

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: You're definitely waaaay younger than me. :)

Air-brushed is a good word. They look Photoshopped. It's one thing if they're naturally hairless--they still have normal fuzz. But to Nair it off makes me think they're too high maintenance for me.

I couldn't date a man who takes longer in the bathroom than me.

Doreen said...

I like them to look like real the ones you see in the supermarket or at the gas station..not the ones you see on book covers!

Carrie Butler said...

Hah! Man-ham...

Maria, I'm afraid you've started something. *grins*

Great post! I'm all for men with a healthy dose (or double-dose) of testosterone. ;)

Jenny Schwartz said...

No man-ham for me -- I like the hero to look at least vaguely realistic. Then again, I wasn't ever a Fabio fan either.

Maria Zannini said...

Doreen: Book covers have always been over the top, perhaps mugging Hollywood. It's not that I'm opposed to beautiful people--but I want them to look accessible, the kind of person you could meet.

Carrie: :grin: Men shouldn't have to be man-hams to look like they can take care of themselves.

Jenny: Which reminds me of a recent commercial I saw of Fabio with his balding head and flabby stomach.

We each have our season in the sun and then we have to do something else.

Carol Kilgore said...

Man-hams - LOL. Every cover man I've seen lately looks like that. Nice to look at, but nothing like the real thing. At least nothing like the real things around here.

Susan Blexrud said...

I like swimmer's bodies...broad of shoulder and lean of hip. Make that VERY broad of shoulder. And for me, expression means everything. I like a man whose face exudes intelligence and mystery. And if one side of his mouth turns up in a half-grin, yep, that's a definite winner.

Great post, Maria.


Nadja Notariani said...

Okay Maria, now you are officially in my most favored blogger group! (Not that you give a whit - but I thought I'd
This post, with hilarity, speaks what countless women want to scream from the rooftops! Where have all the manly men gone?

Chest hair, leg hair, facial hair, and armpit hair (yes, even that)- all make a man look like - well, a man! I do not want to look at a boy. I also don't want a man that looks like he takes longer to 'get ready' or to do his 'daily regime' than I do.
No, uh-uh.
" But there was nothing (I liked) for heterosexual tastes, men with hair on their chest and a serious 'I can protect you' expression. Men who looked old enough to know how to make love to a woman."

I'm feeling your pain, Maria. Ha!
Thank you for stopping by today - and keep up the great posts! ~ Nadja

James Garcia Jr said...

Hi, Maria. I didn't have time to read the post. Sorry. I was just curious about the boudoir photo that you had me send you. What did you want it for again?


I was on my third glass of wine and should have been in bed already. I read your post and just couldn't help myself. I'm silly that way.

Good luck with the cover.


Maria Zannini said...

Carol: Art/advertising goes through style cycles. I don't mind the occasional man-ham, but every cover looks virtually the same. The cover should tell a story in itself--not be another page from a flesh calendar.

Susan: Expressions are vital to me. If the model (men or women) have a smug look, it's an instant turn off to me.

Nadja: I once knew a guy who spent longer in the bathroom than his wife. He was a man-ham. I pitied the wife.

Jimmy: ROTFL! You're going to get the evil eye from your wife now.

Sophia Chang said...

The hilarious thing about this post is that I do the SAME thing. And boy do I get sidetracked... :D

Maria Zannini said...

Sophia: Very easy to do. ;)