This week, we read a great article by Meg Wolitzer in The New York Times about the ways in which novels written by men and women are perceived differently — both by readers and by publishers. She has many great points, and the article is definitely worth reading as a whole if you’re interested in the state of gender and book publishing, but one of the ideas that stuck out to us was Wolitzer’s discussion about the primary way in which books are marketed — their covers. She writes,
“Look at some of the jackets of novels by women. Laundry hanging on a line. A little girl in a field of wildflowers. A pair of shoes on a beach. An empty swing on the porch of an old yellow house. Compare these with the typeface-only jacket of Chad Harbach’s novel, “The Art of Fielding,” or the jumbo lettering on “The Corrections.” Such covers, according to a book publicist I spoke to, tell the readers, “This book is an event.” Eugenides’s gold ring may appear to be an exception, though it has a geometric abstraction about it: the Möbius strip ring suggesting that an Escher-like, unsolvable puzzle lies within. The illustration might have been more conventional and included the slender fingers and wrist of a woman, had it not been designated a major literary undertaking.”
Wolitzer posits that this is part of the reason that books by women sometimes get ignored by male readers: their feminine covers “might as well have a hex sign slapped on them, along with the words: “Stay away, men! Go read Cormac McCarthy instead!”” We have to agree. To try to get a visual handle on her point, we’ve pulled just a few covers of recent, critically acclaimed books by men and by women — several of which Wolitzer mentions in her article — though of course any grouping is likely to yield slightly different results. Click through to see our conclusions, and be sure to weigh in yourself in the comments.
… Read More