Gendered marketing

In this space a week and a half ago I linked some interesting articles on women and publishing. One of the linked articles discussed book covers in particular and linked an interesting exercise in cover re-design which I think is brilliant. Go look at the link, especially the slide show with redesigned covers starting with Game of Thrones. Yep, brilliant. This got me thinking on some recent experiences I’ve had in book marketing. Let me tell you about two of them. In the first I was the one books were being marketed to, and in the second I was the one doing the selling.

  1. At the bookshop where I work we get publisher’s catalogues and staff review these to help our manager make decisions about books to buy. Several months ago I was looking at an independent publisher’s catalogue. This publisher has several imprints. The catalogue pages were colour-coded so that you could see where one imprint ended and the next began. So far so good. But. The pink pages contained books whose covers shrieked that they were marketed to women. The blue pages contained books marketed to men. The pink books were (generally) fluff. The blue books were (commonly) serious. I almost hurled the catalogue across the store. There’s nothing wrong with fluff. But the men I know like a nice bit of brain candy as much as women. Our preferences in the kinds of brain candy we choose might be different, but still. C’mon people. Get serious. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that at the time I was in the middle of applying for work with that publishing company. Maybe I’m glad things didn’t work out?
  2. I do the initial work on the marketing emails that go out from the bookshop. Mother’s Day was last month, so I duly designed a gift suggestion email about M-Day that was approved and sent out. We got an email back from a woman who teaches New Testament wondering why there were no biblical studies books suggested for M-Day in the email. Well there were, but they were a click away in the “more suggestions” list found on our website. But a translation of the Psalms was featured in the email. For Father’s day there will be cookbooks. We are trying hard not to follow stereotypical categories.

Last weekend I had a conversation about Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. My friend the Library Page asked if it was more history or romance. I said it was historical, but commented that the cover marked it as a romance. I also said I thought she’d enjoy it.

Any thoughts on gendered marketing? Experiences? Not judging a book by its cover?

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