Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Book Covers for Boys —

Vs Book Covers for Girls.

Of course, I actually do think some books are likely to appeal mainly to girls (and women), whereas others are likely to appeal to both girls and boys (or women and men).

Nevertheless . . . this is a really fun post about the kinds of covers given to books that are intended to appeal to girls, vs the kinds of covers that are meant to be marketed to guys. And the reason it is funny is that it is true (as well as extremely creative).

I have NO IDEA how you would go about creating a fake cover. If I ever self-pub a book, I will certainly have to hire someone! Which is too bad, because as I say, these altered covers are great!

For example, compare:

Do you think each of these covers would appeal to the same readership? Not a chance! Which looks serious? Which looks fluffy and appealing? I have to say, the “girl” cover also looks VERY YA, which makes me laugh, because if there is a less YA kind of book EVER WRITTEN than GAME OF THRONES, I don’t know what it is.

On the other hand, I don’t know how absolutely universal this kind of marketing is. Maybe some kinds of books are more likely to get serious covers no matter who wrote them? I know that “Robin Hobb” could be a guy’s name, but no one could be in any doubt that “Diana” is a female writer. So, given that, how about these covers?

Is there something about Epic Fantasy which leads publishers to give books of this sort more serious-looking covers? Maybe if the author is particularly well-known?

Also, of course the primary function of the cover is to sell the book — though I certainly prefer an accurate cover, both as a reader and as a writer. I wonder if publishers’ marketing departments are actually right about what kinds of covers appeal to particular segments of the market?

If you’d like to flip through the altered covers and weigh in — which cover DO you prefer, in general? If you’re female, DO you tend to prefer the “girl” covers, and vice versa if you’re a guy?

I’m especially curious because I generally prefer the “guy” covers — but I am not very much into romance. I definitely do prefer the “girl” version of A Clockwork Orange, though. Also the original “girl” cover of Heist Society.

Which raises a separate question: When we talk about marketing a book “to women”, are we really talking about marketing a book “for romance readers”? Because if so, maybe a better axis for marketing departments to think about would be romance vs non-romance rather than any form of girl vs boy?

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3 Comments Book Covers for Boys —

  1. Joshua

    That romance/non-romance question might attract wolves. :)

    About Robin Hobb’s cover, I notice how large her name is compared to the others. I am also pretty sure that wasn’t the original cover for the book.

    Everything I know about this is by hearsay, but covers are to get a reader to pick the book up, ultimately to buy it but the important thing is getting their attention. Apparently they are also part of convincing the book buyers for large bookstore chains to buy the book. The trick is to look like the kind of book the target market would like: romance books have a certain look (a a woman with a topless man seems to appear often), paranormals another (dark, gray or black color scheme, red accents, woman in black or gray holding a dagger or gun or wrench or motorcycle or…), YA books another, etc. It doesn’t really matter how different the writing inside is (this backfires on me somewhat because I want books that are written a certain way more than being about a particular subject). A secondary or tertiary consideration is to look like other books in the same series (just saw the covers for Hex Hall and two sequels today in the library and am slightly amazed at how they carried the reflection motif through) and like other books by the same author.

    Various authors who have had their covers changed have posted about the reasons; I wish I could think of examples. I think Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken is one but I’m not sure it’s officially been changed from the supercool cut paper art yet. D.M. Cornish’s Foundling trilogy changed styles for the third book’s release (in the US, I think). Sometimes they will change midway through a series to attract new readers, figuring the ones who are already reading will buy the books anyway. Irene Gallo may talk about covers some at the Art Department or the Tor.com blog, if you’re interested in chasing down those posts.

  2. Joshua

    About the actual flipped covers: I mostly like the ‘guy’ covers. Throne of Glass I like both for different reasons but I’d probably be more likely to pick up the guy one. I don’t like the abstract ones (original Kerouac, original Clockwork Orange) and so the flipped ones are at least not repellent. I think the flipped one for Maureen Johnson’s book is also girly, but perhaps just because of books like Crossed and Twilight and so forth that have an object on a solid color field. I… actually can’t think of any ‘guy’ books that are designed like that. Don’t like the original Harlan Coben but more because the cover says “thriller” to me. I don’t like either Carrie or It’s Kind of a Funny Story or Levithan or Eugenides (despite the author’s name) or Shutter Island. The original Heist Society is way better, I agree. (I didn’t like the story, but that’s another story!) Doubt I’d get past the first page on either Lord of the Flies after reading it in high school. J. D. Salinger original cover says nothing; at least the girl one has personality (and she’s holding a book), though the title is hard to read.

    I wonder if I partly like the original covers better because they are generally better designed and look like it, even if they weren’t designed specifically to attract me?

  3. Rachel

    >I wonder if I partly like the original covers better because they are generally better designed >and look like it, even if they weren’t designed specifically to attract me?

    Could be, could be. After all, one presumes those were designed by marketing department professionals, and the flipped covers just for fun by random people (even if they do have mad design skills by my standards).

    And, yeah, I’m ignoring the actual story. No cover could possibly make me re-read Lord of the Flies!

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