Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Comet Dust and the Gender Divide

Received 90% of male vote.

Book Cover Appeal: Men and Women are NOT Alike

Most of us are vaguely aware of this fact, but I was gobsmacked by it over the weekend.

Anyone who has followed my writing for a while knows how I like to experiment with book covers and titles. Hence, my new novel was called Days of Darkness for barely a week. The new title is Comet Dust. 

You'll recognize the same 'Brunette in the Wind' from the original Days of Darkness cover. Over the weekend, I came up with an alternative cover, 'Purple Starry Head'.  

The two covers are designed to give off different vibes.  In the aftermath of a comet hitting the Earth, Brunette in the Wind plays off of the ongoing chaos and decline of civilization. On the other hand, Purple Starry Head captures the main character's determination to hold onto her dreams and work for a brighter future.

Received 90% of female vote.
Anyway, I conducted a very scientific poll to gather input. It consisted of me emailing family members and asking random people on the internet to choose their favorite cover. Thirty or so people replied back. Age range: 13 to 59. About two-thirds were women.  

Since I didn't intend the poll to be a study of gender differences, the results surprised me. Only one male voted for Purple Starry Head. Two women voted for Brunette in the Wind. That's a striking gender divide. I'd love to know the reason. Do you think it's just a color palette thing with Comet Dust or something deeper? Feel free to comment below.

What I have taken away from this is that men and women have very different tastes. Duh. Of course, they do. But what does it mean for me as an author? 

The poll tells me that I should use a target market approach. When facing the apocalyptic fiction crowd, which has a strong male readership, Brunette in the Wind is the obvious choice. If I'm going after a female-dominated genre like paranormal suspense, I should probably go with Purple Starry Head. Then again, maybe I should toss both covers and go with something entirely different. Lucky for me, changing an eBook cover on a whim is super easy. Hurrah for the digital age!

The following was edit in later on August 26, 2016: 

Another hurrah for the digital age! Just because I can . . . my experimentation with book covers continues.

Here's a third option. I dub it 'Dusty Gloom'.

This cover displays the dust left behind by the comet in literal fashion. It lingers in the air, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the planet, creating famines and economic disasters. The mood it's supposed to provoke is confusion and despair. Although the main character tries to remain optimistic, a sense of hopelessness has gripped the world, and it's weighing her down.

I wish the Dusty Gloom cover had existed when I conducted the poll. It would be helpful to know how it stacks up against the others. What do you think?


  1. Hi Verhoff, I have to agree that there's a decent gender divide on what accounts for eye appealing in a book cover. If I were to see either of these two books on the shelf, without even looking at what genre they are, I would pick up the Brunette in the Wind and read the flip cover. However, I can see the appeal of the Purple Starry Head and how it would attract more of a feminine eye. As for me, it didn't come off as apocalyptic and I would assume it was a romance novel at first blush. Regardless though, both covers have decent professional feel to it, so both are good and just depend on what market you are aiming for and what your main theme for the novel is. If its filled with chaos, I would think the first cover captures it more, and if your theme is indeed hope and dreams, then the second cover would capture that more. Anyways best of luck!

  2. I'm a woman and ... I wouldn't have even touched purple starry head if I'd seen it on a shelf. It has no appeal for me at all. But I'd have bought Brunette in the Wind based on the cover alone... not sure what that says about me :-D

  3. Thanks for sharing your opinions, Steve and Marianne. Your explanations as to why you chose the cover you did is really helpful.

    Since I made this blog entry, more people have weighed-in here and elsewhere. The men's voting has remained consistent, unlike the women.

    Purple Starry Head now has about 50% of the female vote. It could be that knowing what the men have chosen has influenced what the women like. However, I suspect it has more to do with the fact that the first group of voters were non-writers and they had no idea what the novel was about. If I had given them more information about the plot, it might have changed their opinions.

    Good thing I don't conduct polls for a living, LOL.

  4. To be honest I can understand why males would choose the first cover - it's all about sex appeal.

    Myself, I find that rather irritating. A cover design that uses SA as a hook says "cheap trick" to me, suggesting that the book behind the cover won't exactly be a literary classic (erroneous impression I know, but there you are).

    The second cover has a more intelligent, philosophical aura to it, but it doesn't say anything about the book and you need to do something about that white background.

    BTW I designed my own cover for my novel Centurion's Daughter. A fringe benefit of being a graphic designer. ;-)


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