Sunday, May 12, 2013
Annealed cover reveal, and "girly" book covers.
Second: Yesterday I sent my very first e-mail newsletter. That's right -- I'm not a direct mail virgin any more! In it, I revealed the cover for Annealed, the fifth and final Pipe Woman Chronicles book. For those of you who aren't on the mailing list yet (and why aren't you?), here you go:
I'm going to do another contest for this book release, too. More info next week.
The rest of this post is going to be a bit of a rant.
One of the things that set me off was an article in The Nation by Deborah Copaken Kogan entitled, "My So-Called 'Post-Feminist' Life in Arts and Letters." In it, Kogan talks about how her latest novel has been nominated for Britain's Women's Prize for Fiction. You may have heard of the Booker Prize, Britain's big-name prize for novelists. The women's prize was started because all of the nominees for the 1991 Booker were men.
That was over twenty years ago. There are still two prizes. In this so-called "post-feminist" world, women still have separate-but-equal prizes.
And then I saw this post by Alexandra Petri on washingtonpost.com -- "Fix the girly book covers!" Petri's posts are usually meant to be humorous, but this one is spot-on, and it references one of Kogan's points: books written by women are typically not taken seriously by the writing establishment. Trad-pubbed authors have little to no say over the titles of their books, the cover art, or the marketing category they're slotted into.
Petri links to Maureen Johnson's post at huffingtonpost.com about a project she started on Twitter that came to be called "Coverflip." The idea was for people to take the cover of any book and re-imagine it as if written by someone who was either of the opposite sex or "genderqueer" (Johnson's term, not mine). The results are funny as well as eye-opening; go here and scroll down the page to see the slideshow.
As entertaining as all this is, it masks an ugly truth: the prevailing wisdom in publishing is that both men and women read books written by men, but only women will read books written by women. But women make up the vast majority of readers. So trad publishers try to appeal to the perceived market by giving books frothy titles in cursive fonts on candy-colored cover art -- or, alternately, shirtless men with six-pack abs. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the marketplace and all that. But one consequence is that it marginalizes women writers who write serious books, so that their work isn't taken quite so seriously. And I'm not convinced that it's not intentional.
I shudder to think what the Pipe Woman Chronicles covers would look like if a trad publisher had gotten hold of them. Shirtless Indian with six-pack abs! Oh baby! Feel free to try your hand at a girly cover for any of the Pipe Woman Chronicles books, if you like. I'll post my favorite.
Anyway. Just consider me a voice in the wilderness, crying out that it's not yet a post-feminist world out there. Not by a long shot. Not until big literary prizes treat men and women alike. And a word of advice to Kogan, and to any other trad-pubbed woman who's not being taken seriously by her publisher: Go indie.
This moment of bloggy non-post-feminist ranting has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.