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Pink & Glittery Book Covers

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Paul Whybrow

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This article draws attention to a peculiarity of publishing, that could justifiably be labelled 'sexist'—though, no one's doing exactly that yet.

Pink and glittery 'chick lit' covers are putting men off reading books by women, says author | Daily Mail Online

(click the BBC link for more of JoJo Moyes' opinions on chick lit writing)

I've been vociferous on the Colony, in my criticism of book cover design, which is formulaic and lazy, in a lot of cases. If you've ever thought that silhouettes were left behind in the 18th- and 19th-centuries, then you've never looked at a display of contemporary fiction in a bookshop.

Jojo Moyes makes some strong points about how books written by women are marketed. I've always found the pink and glittery approach to be patronising, but I feel the same way about action novels aimed at a mainly male readership—depicting guns, battleships and jet fighters—this is sometimes referred to as dad lit. How butch can you get? There's got to be a tasteful middle ground.

For my own Cornish Detective novels, should they ever be published I'd prefer something that wasn't pigeon-holing them as being for male or female readers, and I'd also like to avoid overt suggestions that they're crime writing. I'm fairly skilled artistically, and have designed the covers for all of the titles I published online. I also created a cover for the second story in my crime series The Perfect Murderer, which shows an anonymous figure cycling at night; the serial killer uses a bicycle to stalk victims.

I somehow doubt that my designs would be acceptable to a book publisher. The only author I can think of, who's got his own way with book design is Alasdair Gray—who uses his own typography and illustrations within the text and for the book cover.

What do you think about the clichéd use of colour, glitter and weaponry on book covers?

Is it an acceptable form of targetting an audience, who know what they're after and don't care about the packaging?

Are you put off by such book covers, maybe missing a good story? After all, many readers are already deterred by a book being of a genre they think they don't like.

theperfectmurderersubtitle.jpg
 

AngryPI

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I read the blurb on the back to see if it's a story with a plot I could be teased in by. The first few lines/page to see if the style of writing is easy to jump into. And the front cover to see the plot, character and feel of the book. The cover is the first thing that draws my eye to read any of the other selling points; if it doesn't look professional, or speak to the genre then I don't see why I should give it a chance.

Book cover designs, I feel, are a lot like haircuts. They change styles with generations and they may look ridiculous/hideous in hindsight, but they are signs of the changing times. And though a fair proportion of us wouldn't like to admit it, we do follow trends set by marketing leaders.

I do judge a book by its cover--sad, but true.
 
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Book cover designs, I feel, are a lot like haircuts. They change styles with generations and they may look ridiculous/hideous in hindsight, but they are signs of the changing times. And though a fair proportion of us wouldn't like to admit it, we do follow trends set by marketing leaders.

I must be sad too then hehe :p
 
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I thought you said sadness loves bubbles LOL
That's what you mean, really, isn't it :p
And there is no angry way to say bubbles, try it LOL :)
And buddies help/heal sadness :)
 

AngryPI

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Sadness does love bubbles, but only because destroying beautiful, ephemeral things is its favourite activity.
Sadness also likes to bring buddies down to its level.

"BUBBLES!@$%^&*()+!!!!"

See, it can be done.
 

Robinne Weiss

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Book covers are just like the 'if you like this, then you'll love that' suggestions retailers use--it makes some marketing sense that books geared toward a particular market have a particular look, if that look has proven attractive to that market. They're pure marketing, aimed at the reader, not based on the author's gender. I guarantee that a chick-lit book written by a man would also get a pink glittery cover, if the marketer thought it would attract the target readers. Does that make book cover design boring and formulaic? Yep. Just like television commercials, newspaper ads, and Facebook ads, because they're just that--advertisements. I'm not fussed about it, and I truly wouldn't mind someone with marketing savvy pimping my book covers--it's just me and a cartoonist doing what we like, and I'm sure we could do better, from a marketing perspective.
 

KG Christopher

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I was browsing in a bookshop over the weekend. A manga book caught my attention. I cant remember the name. However. It had an hour glass flattened onto the jacket. The book was sealed. So you could not read it. The hourglass had a fully funcyioning load of yellow sand within. Which fell from top to bottom. I spent 5 minutes turning the book up and down...just to see the sand flow...i think the book was something to do with the flow of time. But i never got passed the mesmorising glow of sand to find out.
 

Amber

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I like book covers. I think they’re art. I saw a good one tonight, from an unexpected place. There are versions of the cheesey sort I like. But also, I enjoy being surprised with something different. Or, interesting shapes, raised fonts, those covers you open and find something else inside. Sometimes simplicity is best, sometimes a cover that tells a whole story of it’s own is great.

I agree with what Angry Pi says, different styles come in and go out of fashion.

Of course it’s acceptable. Nothing communicates an idea so quickly as a good image and with novels, people are buying what they want to feel. They’re not buying information. Readers will pick a book with an evocative image over a blank cover every time.

Pink glitter can be used effectively. No reason to turn our noses up at it and no, i don’t think it’s patronizing. Sometimes I like bare male chests and i’m not against a woman sheathed in leather showing her cleavage either. I like knives and daggers and even guns. Interesting fonts are fun. Beaches and sunsets are less interesting to me but a jaunty sun hat thrown on the beach and a figure moving towards a frothy ocean can make me believe i’ll feel the sun on my shoulders and smell salt in the air when I read it.

I haven’t read a lot of traditionally published books where the cover didn’t match the book. But as with the case of the sun hat on the beach, I might read one of those maybe once a year. But i don’t fall in love with them. They are what they are. Usually, a not very challenging read with a simple story.

The book covers that horrify me are usually self-pub book covers. I don’t get horrified by content. But they’re hardly ever nice. Since it’s not that hard to either do a halfway decent book cover yourself or throw a rock and hit someone who can, there’s no reason for any book not to have a nice cover. At least, if the author is doing their job.

Book cover styles do say something about our value system and what we care about now. Or, what speaks to us now. Self-pub book covers are less articulate than traditional book covers in this way too. Often, they only say a mistake has been made.
 

KG Christopher

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So happy to see you around here! Where are you living?
HI Quillwitch, glad to see you are active.

I am still living between Geneva in Switzerland and Spain. Unfortunately I have not been writting too much as work is quite demanding. I write software, which has a creative slant, so not all bad. How are your projects?
 

Paul Whybrow

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Forget pink and glittery book covers, what we really need are pulp makeovers of classic titles, as this amusing article shows:

50 Pulp Cover Treatments of Classic Works of Literature

I particularly like the Immortal Madame Bovary A BRILLIANT AND CYNICAL STORY OF THE WOMAN WHO FLOUTED THE MORAL LAWS OF HER DAY COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED which has the price of 3 shillings and 6 pence printed on the title character's bum!

On a serious note, I wonder how many fans of pulp fiction were introduced to serious literature by this marketing tactic.
 

Rich.

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I love the Kerouac covers. I think I might be the kind of person they were aimed at. :)

On a serious note, I wonder how many fans of pulp fiction were introduced to serious literature by this marketing tactic.
I don't know, but it puts me in mind of something Orson Scott Card said (can I quote him without being associated with his unsavoury views?):

... "serious literature" — as if the rest of us are just kidding.
 
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