Moving Beyond Gendered Book Covers


With all my research on publishing, one of the most interesting elements I’ve run across is the making of book covers. Whether we like it or not, we do tend to judge a book by its cover, and, as a result, the art on the front often determines whether or not we put the book back on the shelf or pick it up to read.

Just this morning I ran across an interesting article about the gender tones behind book covers, and how females books get passed off as romance novels (even if they are not) and therefore are considered for the less educated. Women are apparently more likely to get a paperback while their male counterparts get hardbound copies. This is a sad reality of the world we live in. Please feel free to read the article and I encourage you to watch the video that goes along with it: Coverflip: Maureen Johnson Calls For An End To Gendered Book Covers With An Amazing Challenge

I had never noticed this influence in my life before. I had never stopped to think how a woman’s book about the same subject matter often gets a female image on the cover, or slightly more feminine print for the title. I had never considered that I might subconsciously assume something about the books intended gender just from the images on the front. We live in a world where images are constantly being flashed in front of us, and I suppose books are no different. Sometimes we just need to stop and think.

And so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to examine title and the description more than the outside imagery of the book. Just because there is a female on the front doesn’t mean it’s filled with romance or other more “feminine” plot ideas. I hope in the future of our society we’ll begin to move away from having gendered covers. Men and women should be able to read and enjoy the same things.

As a future author I shudder at the idea of men putting my book aside simply because someone decided to slap something “girly” on my cover instead of something gender neutral. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean my ideas are any less valid or that I only want to write about females finding love. I want to go beyond that, and I hope that in the future book covers will help me and other authors finally conquer the idea that women’s writing is somehow worth less.

Any thoughts? What makes you more or less likely to pick up a book? Why do you think we do this to our book covers? Is there a good way to change this or do you think it should remain the same?

And school is finally done for summer so I should be able to get back to posting regularly. Thank you loyal readers for your patience!


Filed under Reading

7 responses to “Moving Beyond Gendered Book Covers

  1. I didn’t even create my book cover (which hasn’t yet been approved by my publisher) with girls in mind, even though paranormal romance generally attracts girls. I created my cover out of what would be aesthetically pleasing, would look good as a thumb nail, and accurately represented my book’s contents. But you look at it and can’t even tell if it’s a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ cover.

    • That’s great that you’re simply going for something that looks good. I’m glad not everyone goes for a certain gender when creating a book cover.

  2. The style of a cover should fit the genre, whatever that genre may be. On the example of the two covers you’re showing, I would look at the first and instantly think “Thriller. Suspense.” There’s a dark tone to it, and it’s not just the bold masculine font. The second I would probably put under general literature, or perhaps memoir or women’s fiction. Not romance–I don’t get that from it. I do agree it is more feminine but not overly so.

    Again, I think it’s a packaging to hint at the type of book that is inside.

  3. You should definitely look at this article about minorities being represented on the covers of YA novels, it’s really interesting and your posting reminded me of it.
    I love your blog, btw, there’s always something interesting!

  4. I’m editor of a small press publishing only Cuban women writers, so your thoughts and recommendation of the Coverflip article are helpful. All of the authors I’ve published so far target a general public, not only a female public. By the same token, they do favor female protagonists more often than not, and in some cases they privilege representation of women’s lives. Still, why should this prejudice the readership, right? It shouldn’t, in an ideal world, yet as a society we still haven’t fully moved past the idea that reading about men is for everyone, and reading about women is for women. Sigh.

    Looking back at the first three covers, two are fairly gender neutral, and though the third is feminine, it was supposed to look vaguely haunting and play off the title (Ophelias) for people who know Shakespeare. And now I will be even more conscious about the ramification of covers for the upcoming books. Thanks!

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