More Cover Talk

I received an ARC of Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials a few days ago in the mail. I’m excited to read it, partly because I need a break from my recent diet of rather depressing dytopias, and partly because it’s written by Rosalind Wiseman, who also wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes, a nonfiction volume for parents of teenage girls that was evidently the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls (a movie enjoyed by both males and females in my high school – some males saw it about a dozen times in the movie theater, I kid you not).

Here is the cover design of the book I received:That design will never see the light of day in a published format, though, because Penguin Group has changed the cover to this:

When publishers choose a cover, they’re making a strong argument about who they believe will be – and should be – interested in the book. The first cover appears to be more gender-neutral, while it seems to me that the second appeals to a more female audience. I don’t know much about the book aside from the title, which I think could appeal to both genders pretty easily, but it looks like the publishers have opted for a girl-centric readership. (The protagonist of the book is also a girl, but the subject of “Do boys read books narrated by girls and vice-versa” is the subject for a whole other, much longer, post.)

I am almost universally opposed to having real photographs (or depictions that look as if they could be real photographs) of actual people on the covers of books. It prevents me from forming my own mental image of the person, which is a large part of my reading enjoyment. (This one isn’t that bad because their faces aren’t showing.) Also, as the cover controversy for Justine Larbalestier’s Liar has shown, the models for so many of these covers all look alike. I understand that publishers want to sell books above all, so if they find something that works, it makes financial sense for them to stick with it. I still lament the fact that truly creative and attention-grabbing covers on YA novels aren’t as ubiquitous as they should be.

What do you think about these covers? Do you have a preference? After I read the book, I’ll have a better idea, but teens grabbing a book from the library shelf aren’t going to have that knowledge going into it either. Honestly, I’m not crazy about either cover – the first isn’t as interesting as it tries to be, and the second is just too much like so many other YA covers.

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  1. says

    I got this one, too, and thought the same thing. I'm trying to remember WHERE, but there was a great blog about it, too. I agree with you on the people/no people, and I agree about the sell this will be. This is a GIRL book now. The other one was fantastically gender neutral.

    How annoying. It actually does impact my reading of it now.

    Have you noticed that book covers targeted at guys are generally just…dumb? Look at, for example, "Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about the Grapes of Wrath." Great, hilarious story guys would love and dorkified, unappealing cover. Same with "Shooting Star" (a new football book). It's sparkly, for goodness sakes!

  2. says

    Also, how come there are never any fat girls on covers? Obviously, publishers have a hard time with colored models, but they also push one size on all of their covers……which is precisely why using people on the covers annoys me.

  3. says

    What really kills me is that TEENS SEE THROUGH THIS. I don't get why publishers think that they're selling an image when in fact the teens are so much smarter than this. Yes, you want an attractive cover, but by white washing or by putting only one body type or look on a cover, you're not doing the book a favor. I think teens aren't given enough credit for being smart and thoughtful of this. They are much more accepting than they're given credit for.

  4. says

    Coming to this late, but…if I were choosing between two books with these covers, this is what I would think:

    Cover #1: Indie. Edgy, with a sharp dry sense of humor. Intelligent and potentially explosive. Possibly contains violence. Looks like a damned good book.

    Cover #2: Contemporary teen romance. Not my thing. Go on to the next book.

    I don't know why publishers and studios feel that they have to gender-market their product. Really, girls and women DO read things that don't involve girls and romance. And they write such things, too. Can we please break away from this archaic sexist thinking and focus on methods of marketing that are a bit more profitable?

  5. says

    Gehayi – I think the problem is that the blatant gender-marketing IS profitable, unfortunately. But they've stuck on the one thing that's profitable and are failing to take a risk and explore other avenues that may work just as well (or better!).

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