Skip to Content

To be judged by your cover

On Thursday evening, I was delighted to be invited by Bookham Library to co-host an event celebrating women authors with novelist Melanie Rose.

Melanie, who has had her writing published in several different countries, displayed the various translations. What I found particularly interesting was how differently the same book was packaged. For the English market it was in typical chick-lit style (barbie-doll girl pictured in slimming silhouette, walks toy-dog while wearing stiletto heels across undulating pink hills); for a French audience with the look of a quirky graphic novel; the Czech Republic cover suggests erotica; whilst the German packaging was not only a thing of beauty but, with its tactile hessian texture and gilded leaves, invited you touch it, to pick it up, and, more importantly, to open it.

Melanie’s book does, admittedly, feature a dog, but it is chiefly about identity – a serious subject and something that is a far greater challenge to illustrate. For me, the darker – almost sinsiter – photograph from the Dutch artwork seems to do this best (see below).

Like so many other female authors I have spoken to, Melanie struggles to associate with the chick-lit label. It wouldn’t matter so much if money-strapped book-buyers faced with a perplexingly wide choice didn’t – as the saying goes – judge a book by its cover, or didn’t feel that they in turn were going to be scrutinised by the person sitting in the opposite seat on the train, based purely on their choice of reading material. In their attempts to illustrate escapism, marketing departments are turning to images that our reading demographic cannot relate to. Notably, there was not a single man in the audience, but neither did I spot any  barbie-doll women.

Julian Barnes praised the designer of his book jacket in his recent acceptance speach, reminding us that if traditional publishing is to survive, books must be things of beauty; collectables; items that people want to possess. Like the artwork of album covers, I would hate jacket sleeves to become museum pieces.

Dutch artwork

You can read more about Melanie at:

One comment

  1. I’ve been known to read so-called chick-lit, a term I dislike, as I quite enjoy romantic comedies (as books, not films). I have to say though, those “pink silhouette” style covers put me off completely.

    Comment by Captain Black on November 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm