Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a very disappointing thing in bookshops and libraries, and that is the covers put onto books by female authors. I’ve come to the conclusion that publishers are either not creative, don’t want to spend time on books by women or have a very narrow view of what teenagers want from book jackets.
Many YA/teen novels by women have covers like this.
A large number of young adult/teen fiction novels by women have dull jackets that are just unimaginative variations on the same theme. The most common image is of a single girl or young woman with an appropriate background. The person stares out at you with an inscrutable expression.
There are numerous examples to illustrate this statement. I blogged about Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion Books) previously, when you search for it online several covers can be found. I prefer the one with the bicycles but two others have a girl’s head on them. One is in profile and the other looks out from the cover, with suitably dramatic backgrounds. If that’s the first time you’ve seen this type of cover, it looks deep and impressing, but keep looking down the shelves, there are many more. Witch Child, Sorceress, Sovay and Pirates! by Celia Rees (all published by Bloomsbury) have suffered the same fate. Pirate Queen by Morgan Llywelyn (O’Brien Press) and several of Mary Hooper’s books are also designed in the same style. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Penguin Books) breaks the mould in an amusing, although perhaps unintentional way. There is a girl on the front, but she has her back turned, so you can’t see her face.
A popular image, but facing away from the reader
All of the books that I mentioned above have strong female protagonists and the cover designs are so inappropriate. The girls’ expressions do differ somewhat, from determined to dangerous to dopey, but they are still weirdly alike. The old phrase holds true here that ‘when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’.
Usually, books from one genre will have similar covers, but these books are not the same. It is unfair to the authors to take romantic, historical and adventurous stories and lump them all in one category. As all these books are put together, one wonders what feature they share. It’s fairly clear, all these books have been written by women. So it seems that despite the variety of plot, setting, language and characters to be found in all of these books, they are all labelled and packaged according to who wrote them.
There are many variations to this type of book jacket.
Maybe publishers don’t think teenagers want more unusual book jackets, and I can’t comment on how accurate that judgement is, if that is their reasoning. However, I do know that if an interesting title catches my eye on the spine of a book and I have a closer look at the cover, seeing the familiar staring face on the jacket will not inspire me to read it. Although it’s good advice not to judge a book by its cover, it doesn’t mean people don’t. Even if you don’t decide whether to read it or not based on the cover, if the outside doesn’t interest you, it’s possible you won’t approach the book with an open mind. The imagery on a book jacket can cause you to have certain preconceptions about the story, and the obvious one here is to think that it will be the same as all the others with the same type of jacket. If you were to read a selection of the books that I mentioned above, or any others that looked the same, you would know that this is untrue. However, what does it tell us about publishers, do they think all YA/teen novels by female authors are the same? Certainly, all the books feature girl who ‘go places’, but all in hugely different circumstances.
This type of cover can look haunting, sad, enticing…
I think that publishers should really pull up their socks in this area and start designing some original and unusual book covers for women authors’ YA and teen fiction. It is silly to bracket all of these books together, when they are so diverse.Each of these novels have something different to offer. Surely their covers should reflect this? Let me know what you think about this topic. The comment box is open…
Photo Credit: http://www.amazon.com and http://www.goodreads.com
After a while, it gets boring, seeing the same thing over and over again.
However, this image is repeated very often.