Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sexism in Cover Images

I've never read anything J.K. Rowling has written, and I don't consider myself a fan of hers. But I still think this is bullshit.

So, Rowling released a gritty crime thriller (level of grit undetermined) under the name Robert Galbraith. It got decent reviews, but flopped, until she came forth as the author. Here is the cover released when nobody had reason to think Galbraith was female:

Kind of a typical crime cover, showing the shadowy male protagonist quite grittily walking away down a fog-filled London street. Fences to symbolize the fences we put up around ourselves, blah blah. I don't love the cover, it looks a little bland to me, but it clearly marks the book as a crime novel.

Here's the second printing after the big reveal. Name's still Robert Galbraith, but oh, the differences:

You can almost see a little phantom Oprah sticker in the upper corner. While I haven't read the book, and don't plan to, I have no idea WTF this cover has to do with the contents of the book. A lady's back? There's some kind of camera thing on the right, but this doesn't at all say "crime novel" or "gritty" or even "slightly gritty" to me. And of course, flowery cursive writing, the kind of thing women love. Women, am I right?

Yeah, it's possible that given Rowling's stature she had input on every stage of the cover design process, or at least veto power. Maybe this doesn't bother anyone else. But I haven't seen a side-by-side comparison of these covers yet, so hey, I've got this one.

It sucks that books with women on the cover, with flowery cursive writing, aren't taken more seriously. But they just aren't. As it looks now, this cover is heavily coded female, and if it were a crime book by an unknown female writer, I would fully expect it to tank due to its insides not matching up with its outsides (probably?) and looking like the kind of book many people would be embarrassed to pick up. I have zero interest in self-publishing, but this kind of explains why some female writers choose to do it.


  1. Okay, totally have to disagree with you here.

    I didn't read the book, but my wife did and from what I understand the crime or murder mystery is about a starlet (the "Cuckoo" in the title in fact). So the cover is totally relevant to the book.

    To me, the first cover looks more "self-pub" and the second cover looks more...I don't know. Polished? More than male / female, it's more a dichotomy of first time author / bestseller. To me, the first cover looks like something a small press would put out, or a major publisher who didn't want to put a lot of money behind a first timer.

    I don't know, maybe that's just me.

    But if anything, I think the first one looks "girlier" (something about the green to purple color scheme), and the second one looks more like "hey dudes, this book totally has chicks in it!"

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