On Judging Books by (Gendered) covers and Maureen Johnson’s CoverFlip

Last week Maureen Johnson made a fairly casual statement on twitter about books written by women (and sometimes marketed toward women) getting very different cover treatment as compared to books written by men.

So, being Maureen Johnson, she issued a challenge to Twitter: re-imagine some covers as if they were written by author of the opposite gender.

The results were posted on the Huffington Post website and, I’ve got to say, it’s interesting to see how tightly opinions are tied to covers on a subconscious level. I know covers play a role but it’s really interesting seeing how my opinions on a subconscious level reacted to the different covers.

You can see some of the flipped covers here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/coverflip-maureen-johnson_n_3231935.html#slide=2421931

You can also read Maureen Johnson’s essay about the problem here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-johnson/gender-coverup_b_3231484.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

And thanks to book blogger Liz B I can also point you to this companion article from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2013/05/09/fix-the-girly-book-covers/

And then, because it sounded fun. I flipped a couple of covers (originals on the left):

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Enchanted by Alethea Kontisenchantedflipped

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Timepiece by Myra McEntiretimepieceflipped

I’m not quite a graphics wizard but I’m pretty pleased with the results and I think you get the point of the challenge. Both of the books above feature male POVs (half of Enchanted and all of Timepiece). Guess which part the marketers thought was more viable? THAT SAID I really love both original covers and I really really love that the publishers are keeping consistent covers for both of series of books.

On Cover Commentary (some information and sources)

Earlier this week I posted a review on my NYPL blog of Justine Larbalestier’s wonderful new book Liar. The review can be viewed over on my blog at NYPL (and on this blog as I cross-post everything).

You might have heard about Liar because of the controversy associated with the cover the book was slated to have when it was released in the USA. This cover featured a white model on the cover–despite the main character being very obviously black. I also received a wonderful comment on that post asking how such things could happen and if authors have approval on their covers.

The short answer is sometimes they do, but not always.

There is a lot of really information out in the world from authors, readers, and bloggers about book covers. Too much information, really, to put into a comment as I had initially planned. Which is why you get this post.

Onward to the information and sources:

Sometimes authors do get input on their covers and it leads to cool ones like that found on Barry Lyga’s Goth Girl Rising (cover discussed here on Melissa Walker’s blog: http://www.melissacwalker.com/blog/2009/10/cover_stories_goth_girl_rising.html)

Other times it results in inaccurate covers like the one found on Liar which Justine Larbalestier discusses at length, and more eloquently, than I ever could in a series of posts on her blog, particularly in this post: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/

If you interested in hearing about more book covers, Walker also has a lot of posts where other authors discuss their covers here: http://www.melissacwalker.com/mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=cover+stories

Maureen Johnson has also discussed her covers briefly on her blog. The end of this post marked DEPARTMENT OF COVER STORIES discusses the cover of Suite Scarlett. This post mentions the cover of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes under POINT FORE

Johnson’s posts also led me to Bookburger’s commentary on the crazy cropping that goes on in a lot of covers (including several of Johnson’s): http://bookburger.typepad.com/bookburger/2007/01/covergirl_repor.html

Bookburger has a whole feature of cover reviews found here: http://bookburger.typepad.com/bookburger/covergirl/

If you’d like to see some behind-the-scenes shots of what it takes to shoot the photos for a book cover you can check out Ally Carter’s post about the cover of her upcoming book Heist Society here: http://www.allycarter.com/labels/Covers.html

Laura Schaefer’s blog has a post with shots of the cover shoot for The Teashop Girls (which I think has a perfect cover that totally nails everything about the book) on her blog here: http://teashopgirl.blogspot.com/2009/03/delicious-behind-scenes-look-at-teashop.html

“Cover twins” are another interesting phenomenon in the world of book covers which happens when two covers use the same stock photo as happened with North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley and Evermore by Alyson Noel. Their specific “twin-ness” is discussed here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6646736.html?nid=2788

Finally, if you are interested about book covers in general, you should check out JacketWhys, a blog all about children’s and young adult book covers as well as having a handy page linking to articles and other information on cover design found here: http://jacketwhys.wordpress.com/articles/. The site was inspired by The Book Design Review which discusses cover design for a broader spectrum of books.

Hopefully all of that will answer some questions people were having about book cover design or at least provide some more information on the subject.

If you have any other sources readers should know about be sure to post it in comments!