Author Maureen Johnson had a simple idea: How would book covers look different if the authors’ genders were flipped? She proposed a coverflip contest to her fans and now, thanks to some help from The Huffington Post, we have an answer.
Out of all the young-adult writers on Twitter, Johnson has one of the most interactive accounts out there. She’s insightful, hilarious, a little cray, sure (AREN’T WE ALL?), but she’s never boring. When she proposed the idea for the coverflip yesterday, many of her 78,000 followers responded enthusiastically to the idea. The team at HuffPost Books jumped on board and agreed to put together a slideshow of the covers they loved. Her favorite entries would receive signed books and other prizes.
After reviewing the entries and narrowing down the choices for the slideshow, Johnson posted this article on the HuffPost Books’ site. In it, she explains her motivations for the contest and why an author’s gender has so much influence over a book’s cover. In her opinion, the “simple fact of the matter is, if you are a female author, you are much more likely to get the package that suggests the book is of a lower perceived quality. Because it’s ‘girly,’ which is somehow inherently different and easier on the palate.” She adds that even though a man and a woman can write books “about the same subject matter, at the same level of quality, and that woman is simply more likely to get the soft-sell cover with the warm glow and the feeling of smooth jazz blowing off of it.”
Johnson has a longer post explaining why gendered book covers have got to go. For now, though, we want to show you a few covers that were flipped for the contest:
+ “Carrie,” by Stephen King
Stephen King’s original cover for the novel, about a student who gets the ultimate revenge on her bullies at a high school dance, is dark, twisted and perfect for the nature of the book. It is a horror story after all! Flip the gender though, and “S. King’s” newest book gets a different treatment: There’s a smiling, pretty, blonde girl on the cover. She might be scary to some, but would you expect the same bloodbath at the end of the novel with this cover? We doubt it.
+ “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” by Ned Vizzini
Ned Vizzini’s original cover features a gender-neutral drawing of a head filled in with a “brain map.” The flipped cover features two hands touching to form a heart a la Taylor Swift. Notice any major differences between the typography of the two fonts? Notice how a male author’s book could demand an abstract cover while the same book by a female author would demand two supposed, real-life love interests? It doesn’t look like it has anything to do with a character seeking treatment for suicidal tendencies, does it?
+ “Franny & Zooey” by J. D. Salinger
For the original cover, Salinger gets a white background, black text, and a green accent along the spine. Flip the cover, however, and we have another pretty, young girl against a green cover. Even the font changes to a more stereotypically “girlish” style.
+ “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac
Kerouac’s original cover is stark, simple, with an abstract design. The flipped cover, presumably written by a female “J. Kerouac,” features a young, pretty woman leaning out the window of a car that is driving, you guessed it, on the road. It looks more like a carefree weekend trip than the riveting novel about meaning and belonging, doesn’t it?
What do you think about Johnson’s coverflip contest? Does a book cover influence your decision of whether or not to buy a certain book? If you want to learn more about gender equality, check out the action widget below.
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