Something for the Ladies

We in book publishing know that women make up a large majority of our market, but what do we do to cater to them? There are many ways for a publisher or bookseller to keep women in mind, but to cover them all today would be excessively long. You’re all busy people, I know. So I’ll focus specifically on packaging in this blog post.

When contemplating a cover design, keep in mind that women tend to prefer colours and soft shapes. This is clearly old news considering how colourful and ornate many covers already are. But beware of prioritizing prettiness. Paco Underhill in his new book, What Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female Friendly, reminds us of two things that are especially relevant to book cover design:

Women want control, and in many buying situations this means they want information. While a cover’s aesthetic may be eye catching, what will sway your female reader to pick up your book is the information on the jacket.

The other thing to keep in mind is that often women are much more comfortable with masculinity than men are comfortable with femininity. In other words, making a book look particularly pretty is not essential to reach women—and it may deter male readers from making the book their next subway read. This is a relief when it comes to figuring out how to package a book for a broad audience, but it isn’t to say that a cover for female readers shouldn’t reflect their tastes.

If Underhill is right (and he seems to back up his advice with thorough market research so he probably is) packing more information onto the jacket of a general nonfiction book and brightening it up a bit stands to go a long way to engage women who might otherwise be uninterested, intimidated or turned off. And making your next novel cover a little less feminine won’t alienate your female readers, but it may attract more male readers.

And remember that women do their own shopping, but they also buy for their family and friends. Just because women aren’t your target audience for a book does not mean they aren’t the primary purchasers. What are you telling the purchaser to let them know your book is ideal and appropriate for the person they’re shopping for? Something to think about.

More on Paco Underhill.

A little something on his book.