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30 August 2007 @ 01:17 pm
book covers  
jlassen is embroiled in a bit of a brew-ha-ha over the cover of an anthology coming out from Night Shade Books soon. They've listed all the authors on the back and featured five on the front cover. All five of the featured are men, though the anthology's split down the middle with both male and female writers.

I really don't much want to get into a gender politics war here, but the point of a cover is to sell books. Me, if I were picking the five authors to put on the cover, I'd probably have gone with Bruce Sterling, Peter S. Beagle, Garth Nix, Gwenyth Jones and Kathleen Ann Goonan. The reason I would've chosen them is because *I* happen to know all those names, but I don't read short stories and I have no idea at all if Jeffery Ford or Lucius Shepard might be surefire bestsellers when it comes to trying to get people to pick up a book of short stories. I am not, personally, inclined to think that it's indicative of deliberate discrimination.

A couple weeks ago when I was in New York I got to meet the art director at Del Rey, who rather tentatively informed me they'd probably be taking some liberties with the main character of THE QUEEN'S BASTARD, Belinda's, dagger. I said something to the effect of, "Well, no shit," because the dagger was given to her when she was a very, very small child. The whole thing is about six inches long, because it was scaled to a child's hand. It's symbolic and important in the book, but it would look *stupid* on the cover if it was done to scale. I said it was *fine* to take liberties; that what I wanted was a sexy, beautiful cover that would sell a lot of books. It doesn't have to be literally perfect. (The art director said something to the effect of, "Oh my God. Can we keep this one?")

Similarly with the Walker Papers, for that matter. My editor, when she sent me the PDF for the URBAN SHAMAN cover, said, "Now, I know this isn't exactly what we discusssed...." which made me go *agh* with worry, and then I opened up this file with an incredibly, incredibly gorgeous cover. It *wasn't* exactly what we'd discussed, or hell, even close, but it was *exactly* the kind of artwork that book needed. Jo's got a bracelet. A bracelet is featured on the covers of all the books. Jo's bracelet looks *nothing like that*. Jo doesn't wear belly shirts or low-cut jeans or have a cool belt like the one on the covers. It doesn't matter. The covers are beautiful and they are representationally perfect. They give the right feeling for the books. That's their job.

I expect jlassen did not spend any time thinking about whether he was representing a "fair" male to female ratio on the front cover of the book, because it's not about being "fair". I expect he thought, "Ok, which of these names are most likely to sell this book?" and took the five that seemed most promising. This is not intended as an insult to anyone. It's not belittling anyone. It's not gender warfare. Perhaps it's not fair, either, but chilluns, life isn't fair. jlassen is trying to do business, and yes, all right, sure, perhaps it's a shame that Bruce Sterling and Peter S. Beagle are more likely to sell books than Kathleen Ann Goonan or Gwenyth Jones, but they're Bruce Sterling and Peter S. Beagle, for heaven's sake. They're more likely to sell books than almost anybody in the sf/f industry. I don't think it's got much to do with their plumbing.

Okay. Ranting over. Back to work.
 
 
Current Mood: irateirate
 
 
 
T. Rev: It's todayst_rev on August 30th, 2007 01:02 pm (UTC)
*opens mouth*

*looks around*

*closes mouth*
Kristine Smith: endgamekristine_smith on August 30th, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
'Yes,' to all you said.

Natural20natural20 on August 30th, 2007 01:46 pm (UTC)
Yes indeed.

Of course, I do have to admit that my mental picture of Jo is somewhat informed by the cover art, well, bar the bracelet. The tops and jeans definitely figure.
sclerotic_rings on August 30th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)
Over the weekend, I came across an anthology of "The Best of F&SF", published around 1973, in the local Salvation Army store. Judging by the table of contents, I'm sure that the editor went to similar measures to be fair to the authors reprinted therein, as I seem to remember the collection was split evenly among male and female writers. I also noted that not a single story was by a "name", which could have had something to do with the state of SF in the early Seventies. I also suspect that this is one of the reasons why that collection had been sitting in that Salvation Army bookcase for quite some time.
Alix (Tersa): Arwen Reading (tersa)tersa on August 30th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
I read this very early this morning and it kind of stuck with me until re-reading this now, but...


Me, if I were picking the five authors to put on the cover, I'd probably have gone with Bruce Sterling, Peter S. Beagle, Garth Nix, Gwenyth Jones and Kathleen Ann Goonan. The reason I would've chosen them is because *I* happen to know all those names, but I don't read short stories and I have no idea at all if Jeffery Ford or Lucius Shepard might be surefire bestsellers when it comes to trying to get people to pick up a book of short stories.

If you *did* have the information that perhaps Jeffery Ford or Lucius Shepard were relative nobodies or even first-time authors and were put on the cover above Gwenyth Jones or Kathleen Ann Goonan, would your opinion change?

I'm not a raving feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but if the published, known female writers were passed over in favor of unknown male writers for cover space, I think it would bug me a little.

(And I think I have more reaction to that, but it all hinges on whether or not Ford and Shepard are relative unknowns or not so I'll save it. :)
Niall Harrisoncoalescent on August 30th, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
Ford and Shepard aren't unknowns. They've been writing for a while, and have racked up sales and award nominations and wins. Ford is currently on the ballot for a couple of World Fantasy Awards, for instance.
Niall Harrisoncoalescent on August 30th, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC)
This, incidentally, is Ford's comment on the matter.
kitmizkit on August 30th, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
If you *did* have the information that perhaps Jeffery Ford or Lucius Shepard were relative nobodies or even first-time authors and were put on the cover above Gwenyth Jones or Kathleen Ann Goonan, would your opinion change?

If I had that information I would find it inexplicable if they were listed on the cover before/instead of any woman who might have positive bookseller name recognition. I'm working from the assumption that jlassen, as a publisher, has a fair idea of who the booksellers will react positively to on the cover of a book, and that the five men listed have more reliable sales numbers and/or more critical acclaim than anybody else in the anthology.

I mean, I don't know that Garth Nix is well-known for writing short stories, but he's well-known as a writer. Any writer in an anthology is going to get more exposure from, oh, for example, the major name on the book being, say, Mercedes Lackey, than she would if the name on it was David Palmer.

And, y'know, for all I know, jlassen did choose poorly and maybe Kathleen Ann Goonan has more bookseller than some of the men who are listed. Likewise, maybe including a woman's name on the front cover on general principles would be a good idea. But I don't believe it's a matter of malicious intent or indicative of trying to belittle anybody of either gender. My real expectation is that it just wasn't something jlassen thought about, and it's resulted in a tempest in a teacup. If he didn't think about it, maybe he should have, but I have a hard time being upset if he didn't, because I'm working from a fundamental trust that he was, without ill intent, trying to produce what he thought would be the most appealing line-up to present to booksellers so that the book would then be well-presented to the public.
Alix (Tersa): Writing (tersa)tersa on August 30th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
It seems from what the other commenter said that Ford and Shepard are not unknowns, so my reaction (had I had it) would have been unjustified. :)

This is why I try to wait until I have all the facts before going off on my screeds! :>

(If you want to know what it might have been had they been unknown/new, feel free to ask me in email. I don't think I want to get into such a politically charged topic on a public blog, especially yours. :)
Denysedenyse on August 30th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
I think one of the early covers of the Hobbit involved a lion, two emus and a strange looking tree with bulbous pink fruit, so you're not doing too badly! (Tolkien, on the other hand, was most upset about the cover)
Tayefethtayefeth on August 30th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
FWIW, if the front cover is all male and the actual contents are split fifty-fifty, as a consumer, I would wonder what the person who made the cover decision was thinking. Yes, the point of the cover is to sell books, but if the editor/publisher thinks that women don't sell books, can I expect that sort of attitude to show in the stories selected?
T. Revst_rev on August 30th, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)
For what it's worth, a completely random draw of five balls from an urn containing eight black balls and seven white balls will produce five black balls in roughly 2% of all trials.
nuj on August 30th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
I haven't heard of any of the authors (don't read enough true SF anymore, apparently!), so the specifics related to this book are beyond what I should comment on.

Based on other things, though, I'd be shocked to learn that any editor/publisher deliberately and with conscious intent put only male authors on a cover. I *do* agree with those who've said (in various places) that it's a mindless form of sexism.

A while back someone did an article about how few female authors were reviewed in NYT Book Review. Out of curiosity, I counted how many in the book section of Entertainment Weekly were female. I was stunned to see it was a ratio of about 9:2, male dominant. And I look almost every week now, and it's almost always male dominant.

Which is weird in one way, because I understand there is a majority of female readers overall. On the other hand, women will read books by men, but a lot of men won't read books by women (again, that's what I hear--the male readers in my life don't give a flying fig *g*). If both women and men are reading certain books, it stands to reason those books will sell more than the books being read by fewer men, which means they'll have better name recognition, which means they'll wind up on covers of anthologies.

Or something like that.
Niall Harrisoncoalescent on August 30th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
I haven't heard of any of the authors (don't read enough true SF anymore, apparently!)

Actually, of the five authors on the cover, four -- Beagle, Ford, Shepard and Nix -- are primarily known as fantasy writers. There are actually more women known for sf in the book than men known for sf, which is both kinda cool and kinda ironic; though I don't know whether any given writer has written fantasy or sf in this case, of course.
nuj on August 31st, 2007 01:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification!
(Anonymous) on August 31st, 2007 04:40 am (UTC)
unrelated


Just stumbled on a gorey/star trek mashup and figured you'd want to know.

http://shaenon.livejournal.com/48834.html


(regular lurker)