Cover Art Marginalizes Female Authors

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The disparity in the number of male and female bylines might very well have something to do with the artwork featured on their books. Cover art informs readers of a book’s contents, and publishers certainly try to manipulate readers, as Eugenia Williamson explains at the Boston Globe:

Harbach’s all-text cover has a hand-drawn, cursive script (for ladies) on a navy blue background (for men). It is done in a deliberately casual style, reminiscent of letterpress posters and jars of artisanal pickles, that’s become graphic shorthand for “young, hip, serious novelist.” (See also: selected works of Jonathan Safran Foer and Emma Straub.)

So what does it say when there’s enough cover art featuring faceless women to generate a GoodReads list with more than four hundred titles? Female writers are being treated differently even before readers open a book.


Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →