A real male author cover
A real male author cover

I’m proud to write women’s fiction, but I know this genre label can raise hackles far and wide. The argument goes that, when men and women write about similar, (often domestic) topics, the men’s work is seen as serious fiction (a.k.a. The Great American Novel), while the women’s work is written off as light, beach-reading fare.

Last year, an author I love, Meg Wolitzer, wrote an excellent New York Times op-ed addressing this issue, and she also raised the issue of book covers, asking if a popular book by a male author with a wedding ring on its cover would have been taken as seriously if written by a woman.

A recent, non-scientific, but nonetheless fascinating experiment takes this argument one step further.

Earlier this month Maureen Johnson posed the question: What would the cover of a book by a male author look like if it were written by a female author? And vice-versa?

She sent out this tweet:

  1. Take a popular book.
  2. Make a new cover for it by switching the author’s gender and imagining the result.
  3. Deadline 5pm today. #coverflip

An imagined female author cover
Ideas poured in, making a strong point about perceived gender bias and expectations displayed on cover designs for female authors vis-à-vis their male counterparts.

Take a look at this wonderful slideshow of the type of covers that came in.

They say a lot about what our perceptions are of literature written by men or women … and maybe the experiment will help us to rethink gender biases when designing book covers.

What do you think, readers (and writers)?