Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pink Cover + High Heels = Novel for Women. What??

Recently, I read a funny post over at A Moment of Jen , author Jennifer Weiner's blog, in which she mentioned a recent episode of the sit-com 30 Rock. In the show, the main character, portrayed by Tina Fey, was spotted reading a book featuring a hot pink cover and a high-heel. The book's title - Novel For Women.

Ms Weiner makes some funny and ironic observations about this scenario, most pointedly noting that even she, a prolific writer of novels for women, likes to go off the estrogen grid and read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction. (Her post also humorously skewers the ways in which male and female writers of the hard-life, rising from the ashes memoir are critiqued. You probably can guess at the disparity. This is a must read piece that makes me love Ms. Weiner all the more. Where's my bloggy emoticon for giving someone the high-five?)

But back to 30 Rock poking fun at women's literary choices.

Women like to read about women. That's no news flash. But we like to mix it up. Most of the readers I know - men and women - like to mix it up a lot! I've been reading a biography about a famous Fox News reporter this week. I've been reading a book about Gustave Flaubert. And yes, I've been reading some fiction - What Happened to Anna K by Irina Reyn and recently finished The Glass of Time by Michael Cox. One of my top 5 favorite books from last year was a political thriller - Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. And The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, which is a very universal story, topped my list, too.

A look at these two covers below, which coincidentally both feature Russia as a backdrop, reveals a few things about the target audience, right? My personal focus group (hubby) just looked over my shoulder at these two and said Smith's book cover looks like a sports jersey and Reyn's is definitely feminine.

So this discussion got me to wondering about how marketing wizards pitch fiction for women written by women.

I did a couple blog searches about this subject. Guess what I landed upon?

The Great Chick-Lit Cover Up from The Guardian Book Blog.

From the article:
"Publishers are now adding chick lit-style covers to any book written by a woman, whether it fits the genre definition or not."

Say it with me - WHAT???

Within this article, a few authors who've had their covers reflect the "novel for women" style say they feel the publishers choice has mislead the reader.

So what do you think? Are you drawn to a certain type of cover? Are these marketing wizards correct in their assumption that so many of us do, in fact, judge a book by its cover? What's your reaction to this marketing concept? Have you ever come home with a book that appeared one way and then turned out to be something different?

For another discussion and examples of how and why bookcovers change from hardback to paperback, see my previous post The Power of Book Cover Design.

Until then, Happy Reading!

K. Harrington
author, Janeology
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