How Susceptible Are You To Covers?

pinkchicklitThere’s an interesting article here which highlights the limitations of choosing a stereotypical cover. Traditional publishers commonly force their authors to display the most effective title, the most effective cover and, in some cases, the most effective name, in order to hopefully sell more books.

I heard an interview last week where JK Rowling explained how the publisher forced her to drop the Joanne from the name on the front and go to initials instead. Apparently, they assumed that the readership would be mostly boys and would be put off by a female author.

If you’re a female author who writes vaguely about anything romantic then the chances are that you’ll be forced to have handbags, stilettos, love cuffs, and cocktail glasses all over the cover. Equally, if you’re a male author who writes about anything serious, then you’ll have a black cover with possibly a car or a jet blazoned across the front.

If you’re the wrong gender for your genre then look out. Publishers will appear to malfunction in front of your very eyes and fall apart amongst exploding springs, whizzes and bangs.

Is the market that clear cut? Are we that easy to influence as readers? I don’t think so. I’m a bloke, in case you haven’t realised by now, and yet I hardly ever read action/adventure, or sci-fi, because it’s just not my bag. I tend to read girls books. How do you think that makes me feel? Like a half-man, an excuse for a man, a girl trapped in a boy’s body? Um… no… not really. I just like reading that sort of thing.

The genre can be depicted with an appropriate title and cover without having to play to the gender so much. I’m not going to be able to read a book with pink stilettos on the front; 1) because I just don’t think my self-esteem will be able to handle it, and 2) I reckon it’ll be something like Sex in the City which I can tell you now, I do draw a line at. So, they’ve lost a reader.

Why differentiate by gender so much? You’re cutting off 50% of your potential readership with a value judgement which is based on very little apart from a cheap stereotype. Fine, if it’s a book about gynaecology then paint it pink and sparkly and make it go ‘woo-hoo’ when you open the cover, but not everything else too.

As a self-publisher and, as a writer in general, I’m writing stories that will appeal to people like me. I think that’s what any writer can do. You write the books you read and I’m sure you read a vast array of books. Think about that when you’re picking titles and covers for your own books, and make sure you don’t alienate a whole section of the market.

Until next time…

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3 responses to “How Susceptible Are You To Covers?

  1. As a reader I’m ridiculously susceptible to cover quality. I try and look at reviews as well, but the cover should be a reflection of the work inside. But I’ve realised that it’s the quality and relevance that impacts me the most, not the subject matter.
    Which also means my opinion is that too many covers are marketing ploys. A cover with a gun-toting space cowboy on the front should be for a book about gun-toting cowboys. An epic fantasy series should look at his themes and develop a cover that works for it – not just plaster a sword-wielding bikini babe on the cover to attract 14 year old boys (unless the book is purely about sword-wielding bikini babes, in which case by all means warn the rest of the world off). Sad as it is, I wish publishers and authors aimed their books at the people who want to read them, not the gender, race, age, sexuality that will give them the biggest short term return. I get that you want you work to appeal to the widest possible band of people, but I want people to finish and enjoy my books. And hopefully buy another one (Yes I know I actually have to finish writing one for this dream to have any chance of actually happening) I don’t want people to feel they’ve been conned into buying it. Surely it’s better for an author that plans on writing many stories to develop a loyal following of readers, rather than conning a few??

    • Yeah, I agree with you completely.

      Don’t get me wrong, I was saying the same thing. Pick covers which won’t alienate but also don’t put something on there just so it will appeal to a market sector. Reflect the story in the best way possible. That’s the point of a cover, it’s to tell the reader what type of story they can expect, not to be used solely as a cheap marketing tool.

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