Branding, Writing Under a Pseudonym, Book Covers and Gender

I’ve heard that it’s important for writers to have a brand. If you pick up something by JK Rowling, or Stephen King, you know what you’re in for. They have a particular style, particular themes, and of course genre. From a marketing perspective, some authors have found it useful to jump genres under a pseudonym, so that their current fans won’t be disappointed. The downside is that some fans appreciate good writing no matter what the genre. Perhaps it’s the voice, rather than the tropes, that make for a good read.

Astute as always, Kevin Andrew Murphy has this to say about one of his favorite authors.


“I’m going to wade mildly into the fray currently in F&SF. I backed the Women Destroy Science Fiction! Kickstarter from Lightspeed and am downloading it, looking forward to reading the stories by numerous friends and colleagues. I was also wondering if Paula Volsky had any new books out since her Curse of the Witch Queen was my absolute favorite at sixteen–and still a favorite–but when you’re a writer, your reading time goes down. I discovered she’s got a new trilogy but it’s published under the pseudonym of Paula Brandon. As romance. But looking at the descriptions of The Veiled Islands Trilogy–The Traitor’s Daughtor, The Ruined City, & The Wanderers–they look like classic Volsky. Yes, a romance plot, but lots of action and adventure and fun magic. Plus zombies. But the covers? The Bridesmaid Dress, Return of the Bridesmaid Dress (now with more sparkles!), and The Bridesmaid Dress Revisited (now dripping with lace cuffs!). And the model’s head cut out of the frame.

While I curseknow a bunch of people have been saying, “Boys don’t read books by women” and I’ve been thinking, “But I’ve got piles of books by women! More than half my favorite authors were women when I was a teen!” they do not have covers like this. And that, I think, is the problem. Boys are fine with someone who looks like a competent, even prettily attired, heroine on the cover, but not with something that looks indistinguishable from an issue of Modern Bride.

And that’s part of the problem. How hard is it to have the heroine in the lavish gown fighting a zombie?”



4 thoughts on “Branding, Writing Under a Pseudonym, Book Covers and Gender

  1. toconnell88

    I remember reading a domestic drama by Maggie O’Farrell. I enjoyed it immensely, but hated the cover image and what it said about me. The font and colour scheme, too. It wasn’t a fluffy book by any stretch; it was tightly written and full of darkness. If I were a female reader, I think I’d have found the cover patronising (just as teen and erotica readers should resent the carbon copy Twilight and 50 Shades-aping covers). I guess I just don’t understand marketing.

    I’m older now and just finished Aimee Bender’s The Girl with the Flammable Skirt. Ultra feminine cover, despite gender-neutral themes. I no longer felt embarrassed about reading it in public (really, who gives a shit?), but I did think the publisher’s aim for a particular demographic was narrow-minded and overly traditionalist.

    I’m trying to read more female writers this year. I’ve never shown prejudice to any writer, but I have been reading perhaps too many white, middle-class males. *shrugs* I pick books up based on their plots/own merits. Author branding is a necessary evil best left to agents.

      1. Setsu Post author

        No problem at all, haha!

        The good thing is that it’s a constantly evolving set of trends. My favorite fantasy and SciFi book covers were painted (rather than photographed) and were mid-scene. There was enough of a close up that you could see emotion in the characters’ faces, too.

        Might be dated, though. At least the fonts are, now.

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