There are a number of ways to identify whether gender-based marketing practices have been used to promote and publicise a title, other than the actual content.
These can include the following three gender-based marketing strategies:
1. A publication’s front cover
Book covers are often the biggest message-bearer in terms of gendered marketing strategies. What do the colours, graphics, design and fonts used say about the contents and intended audience? Covers marketed at a female audience are more likely to feature people on the covers, for example, while ‘serious’ (i.e. male-authored or titles marketed towards a predominantly male audience) book covers are more likely to feature things or objects (Palmer, 2013).
2. Promotional blurbs
Books that use gender-based marketing strategies highlight a title’s gendered appeal strongly in promotional blurbs used in catalogues, websites and the cover. Books written by women are more likely to be marketed ‘as softer, more rom-commy’ than similar books written by men. Books that appeal to men as much as they do to women are encouraged to ‘elide their femaleness in order to pump up their sales’ (Johnson, 2013; Fallon, 2013).
3. The position of books in brick and mortar bookstores
Women’s fiction is often relegated to the ‘close-quartered lower shelf’, while other genres are placed at eye-level, effectively increasing exposure (Wolitzer, 2012; Johnson, 2013).
As a consumer, it is important to be aware of these strategies when making your purchasing decisions. Don’t be afraid of breaking the mould. Be aware of the strategies and make up your own mind about what it is you want to read.
As a publishing professional, consider whether it is really necessary to market titles using these gendered-based strategies. Will you alienate potential other readers outside this targeted group?
Can you think of any other examples of how publishers, authors and other industry professionals use gender-based marketing strategies to promote their work to one sex over another?
Do you find gender-based marketing strategies effective?
If you haven’t already seen the results of Maureen Johnson’s experiment reversing the gendered covers of popular titles, check them out here.
Fallon, C. (2013). ‘Do we know ‘chick lit’ when we see it.’ The Huffington Post, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-fallon/do-we-know-chick-lit-when-we-see-it_b_3728017.html>
Johnson, M. (2013). ‘The gender coverup’. The Huffington Post. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-johnson/gender-coverup_b_3231484.html>
Palmer, R. (2013). ‘Coverflip: some meandering thoughts about gender and marketing’. We got so far to go: social justice rants and raves. <http://taikonenfea.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/coverflip-some-meandering-thoughts-about-gender-and-marketing/>
Wolitzer, M. (2012). ‘The second shelf: on the rules of literary fiction for men and women’. The New York Times. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/books/review/on-the-rules-of-literary-fiction-for-men-and-women.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&>