There’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…