Author Joe Hill shared this and it’s been going around Facebook all weekend, but this article from the The Independent in the UK by Katy Guest brings up an age-old debate that really should be over and done with by now.
I say over and done with because by 2014, gender equality should be here. It’s been almost a century since women won the right to vote, yet we’re still fighting for equality. Pink used to be a color more associated with males. Men used to wear dresses as toddlers and young children. Yet somehow, in 2014, we’re living in a world where publishers think a book must “appear” girly for a girl to want to read it, and the cover must be gritty and action-packed for a boy.
The author, Katy Guest, is a literary editor who makes the point that children don’t care if a book is targeted or “marketed” towards boys or girls. Children like a good story. They enjoy characters they can identify with on an emotional or personal level. Look at the craze surrounding the Harry Potter series? Or the Hunger Games? Divergent anyone?
Strong female and male characters. Story lines with complexity and realism. J. K. Rowling didn’t try to protect children from the realities of life such as poverty, death, or child abuse. Children (and adults) of all ages were drawn to the series because of this realism. In fact, in the case of the Harry Potter series, the covers are hand painted art, designed from the plot of the novels themselves. Intriguing and interesting! What a concept!
I agree with Ms. Guest that there is too much focus on profit and marketability in book covers these days. In fact, authors are told from day one to “build their platform” and “establish your brand.” Instead of novels sporting covers from the plot, covers need a gimmick, as if readers are too stupid to pick up a book for any other reason than a marketing ploy. I find this as insulting to the reader as these gender specific covers. (Unfortunately, Hunger Games and Divergent bare branded covers rather than something akin to the artwork of Harry Potter artist, Mary GrandPré.)
As a writer, I understand that marketing does help a book sell. I also understand that catchy covers can help keep a book stuck in someone’s mind. But I wish that publishers would give their readers some credit. We don’t need a book wrapped in pink or blue with girly or jagged fonts blazing across the spine for us to want to read it. Give me an interesting character and a unique plot and I’m yours.
Give me a relevant cover, and I promise you’ll sell more books that way. After all, all it took was this to hook me into a lifelong love of fantasy novels. All it took was this book cover below to mesmerize my thirteen year old self. From that moment on, I was not only a dedicated fantasy reader, but a fantasy writer as well.