More on genderflipping
After last week’s post on genderflipped covers, my friend Flit dug up an article she remembered reading about a a bias study regarding female playwrights.
The article is well worth reading, but for the TL;DR folk among us (sorry, I only just learned that TL;DR meant “too long; didn’t read”, so now I have to use it at least once), the take-away is “in an as-controlled study as is possible, it turns out women discriminate against female playwrights more strongly than men do, even though plays written by women make more money.”
That doesn’t really do the article justice, but it’s as close as I can get in a sentence-long summary. Go read it, really, if you’re at all interested in the topic at hand.
The reasons behind the above two take-aways are complex. It appears that women discriminate against women more strongly because they percieve that if they don’t, when they bring too many womens’ work to the table, the men around them will dismiss it/them. So they’re culling early. And it appears the reason womens’ works make more money is that people will take a chance on a promising young male playwright and produce his play, but will tell a promising young female playwright “Now all you need to do is write a hit!” and only after a truly remarkable script has been written will it be produced.
The latter in particular seems to me to fall in line with what I’ve read any number of times regarding women submitting material to anthologies/editors/conference papers/etc: that women are accepted in higher proportion relative to the percentage of submissions, because the work is of higher quality. This is due, evidently, to women being taught that they have to be perfect before they can risk trying, because anything less will fail.
This is not saying men will throw any old shit to see if it sticks, but evidently that they’re trained to believe that they should try, whereas women are less so trained.
So that may in effect be the answer to the Great Social Experiment I’d like to try, the one of writing two series of the exact same type, one under a male name and one under a female name. (Although to properly balance it I couldn’t even write one under CE Murphy, because that’s a name with a known quantity and reader base, which would skew the results. They’d have to be two equally unknown (or known) names, which makes it an even more impossible project.) Or perhaps that actually has no reflection at all on what the results of a Great Social Experiment might be. But it does feel like it all ties together, although of course the way it ties together most basically is “Society: it am broked.” @.@ :)
So Maureen Johnson, YA author, threw down a gauntlet a couple of days ago regarding the way books are marketed and asked her jillions of Twitter readers to gender-flip some of their favorite book covers. To make a cover that might have been offered up if the book was by a person of the other gender, or was gender neutral (initials instead of full names. She’s written a terrific article about the whole problem of gendered covers here, and it is truly worth a read. Really truly honest to God.
But if you never click through on another link I offer, go check out the slideshow of covers people did, because they’re flipping awesome. Er, so to speak. Let me show you my single-most favorite of all of them, or at least my favorite of the fantasy novels. This is a recent GRRM cover for A GAME OF THRONES:
This is Georgette R. Martin’s A GAME OF THRONES (image by Electric Sheep Comix):
“Her publisher decided she didn’t need the second “R” in her initials,” said the artist.
It’s nearly perfect. I think the font is actually *too* ornate, but I totally get a Jody Lynn Nye vibe off this, and wouldn’t be surprised at *all* to see it on one of Michelle West‘s books.
Now: for a degree of fairness, GRRM’s covers have undergone enormous changes in the past 15 years. This is the first one I actually remember seeing:
It’s still aimed at a totally different audience than Georgette’s cover is. And honestly, of the three, Georgette’s is the least likely one I’d pick up, although for me, the fact that it has a woman’s name on epic fantasy would make me take a look, anyway.
There’s a Tumblr tag of genderflipped covers that is one of the most worthy things on the internet. Some of them are merely in the A for Effort category, which is admirable on its own, but honestly, many of them are *brilliant*. Check out this TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY by Johanna Le Carre (image by xotus):
This, this, *this*, this is what makes me want to run the Great Social Writing Experiment. To write two series of the same type under one obviously female name and one under an obviously male name, and not let anybody, including my editors, know the gender (clearly a theoretical agent would be in on this, but beyond that) of the person writing the books. Just to see what happened with covers, reviews, promotion, sales, all of it.
This is not, mind you, a practical experiment. I mean, it’d be a lot of time and effort and investment and while I was getting it off the ground, what, I’m going to survive financially by saying, “Hey, here’s my Kickstarter! Fund me, and in ten years you’ll find out what the project was! Hardcover LEs all around!” or something? Yeahno. :) But oh how I would love to try it.
(Someone asked on Twitter, so I’ll answer it here too: No, I haven’t seen any “EC Murphy” covers (and don’t expect to, because my name isn’t that big), but I have to admit I’d kind of love to see THE QUEEN’S BASTARD or PRETENDER’S CROWN with the assumption of a male writer. :))
Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t necessarily want all covers to be gender neutral, but what prompted Maureen to do this genderflip thing was saying “If I had a dime for every boy/man who’s said “Can’t you get less girly covers so I can read this?”…” She went on to say,
The assumption, as I understand it, is that females are flexible and accepting creatures who can read absolutely anything. We’re like acrobats. We can tie our legs over our heads. Bring it on. There is nothing we cannot handle.
Boys, on the other hand, are much more delicately balanced. To ask them to read “girl” stories (whatever those might be) will cause the whole venture to fall apart. They are finely tuned, like Formula One cars, which require preheated fluids and warmed tires in order to operate — as opposed to girls, who are like pickup trucks or big, family-style SUVs. We can go anywhere, through anything…
There’s obviously a larger societal problem going on here, but it’d be pretty damned nice to see Michelle West (or Kate Elliott or Judith Tarr or or or or or) getting covers that weren’t oriented At Girls.
It would be even nicer, of course, if a cover like Georgette Martin’s or Johanna Le Carre’s wasn’t off-putting to boys. Making covers more neutral can’t be just about making them more appealing to the male of the species; that’s still assigning them a gender preference, the one we regard as default. But! As an awareness issue, this kind of project certainly does the trick, and I loooooove it!
I’ve been given the all-clear to post the MOUNTAIN ECHOES cover!
Holy crap, guys! Penultimate Walker Papers book! (And damn, I wish I’d thought of saying RAVEN CALLS was the antepenultimate book when it came out, ’cause I love that word. :))
OLD RACES: YEAR OF MIRACLES
My head is going to explode of squee. :)
Revisit the world of the Negotiator Trilogy and learn how it all began…
Four hundred years ago, the master vampire Eliseo Daisani and the dragonlord Janx fell in love with a human woman during the Year of Miracles–the year London burned.
This is her story.
Available in fine e-stores everywhere on July 1!
*mutter* I love that cover copy, but it needs more to it. *mutter*
Tara O’Shea has done herself (and me and my collections!) proud with these covers, I think. I’m completely thrilled with all of them and really feel like I’ve gotten a beautiful, cohesive set for my collections. If you need ebook covers, holy beans do I ever recommend working with Tara. O.O
The whole trifecta is behind the cut as one image so you can see them together. I am so happy with how they look, *dances squeefully*!
Seriously, this year is really great for Old Races stuff! Between BABA YAGA’S DAUGHTER and the three short story/novella collections, that’s 21 new Old Races stories (at least 9 of which are new even if you’ve been a patron for all my Old Races crowdfunding projects!). And this from a writer who thought she’d never write in that world again. :)
I just gotta figure out how to boost the signal on ORIGINS so it rises in visibility on Amazon (particularly amazon, who are we kidding)’s ranks. It’s not doing badly, but it’s not getting nearly the traction EASY PICKINGS managed in its first week of release. (OTOH, EASY PICKINGS’s sales have picked up visibly this month, very nearly matching the ORIGINS sales, and I don’t think that’s coincidence.) I mean, EP has a lot of things going for it–novella length, two authors, two popular series–that ORIGINS doesn’t (though the wordcount on ORIGINS is at least as long as EP’s), but I’d still like to figure out how to boost that…
Anyway! Happy days. :)
Old Races short story collection answers
I should have been smart enough to answer these without having to be asked, but somehow I wasn’t. :)
There will be 3 Old Races collections coming out in epub this summer.
The first, OLD RACES: ORIGINS, will contain five of the Old Races Short Story Project stories, all set long before the Negotiator Trilogy:
» Salt Water Stains the Sand, a story of the djinn which is also available as a free read on my website;
» The Death of Him, a story of the selkies;
» Falling, a story of the gargoyles;
» St. George & the Dragons, a story of the dragons;
» Legacy, a story of the humans
and may or may not have a 6th brand new story depending on how much I get done before the cover art comes in.
The second, YEAR OF MIRACLES, is the novella that tells the story of Sarah Hopkins, the human woman that Janx and Daisani both fell in love with in the Year of Miracles–the year London burned.
The third, OLD RACES : AFTERMATH, will contain at least four stories all set after the Negotiator trilogy, and will include
» Awakening, a story of the vampires
» Perchance to Dream, a Janx story reprint (the original publication was in DRAGON’S LURE)
» Aftermath, a Margrit Knight story included in the ORSSP for those who bought in before June 1, 2011
and at least one other brand-new story to fill the collection out.
In theory these collections will be released in May, June and July, but that really depends on when I get the cover art.
If you haven’t read the Negotiator Trilogy already, I would humbly submit you read it first, ’cause these collections are backstory and history (and what happens next) for stuff you learn in those books, and of course as the author I think you’ll get the most impact from reading them in publication order. The Negotiator Trilogy, in order, is HEART OF STONE, HOUSE OF CARDS, and HANDS OF FLAME,
Print edition: Don’t hold your breath. It may eventually happen, but it’s not a near-term thing, and frankly, it probably depends on how well BABA YAGA’S DAUGHTER does from Subterranean Press, so if you haven’t pre-ordered that yet…do!
ORSSP patrons: I will be getting epub/mobi/pdf files to you, complete with the shiny new cover art, by the end of April. Thank you for your patience. O.O