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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Which cover is more mainstream?

Romance author Monica Jackson did an interesting poll on the covers presented for Donna Hill's new book Getting Hers. Initially, the publisher went with a black backdrop with red pouty lips. But somehow in the course of production, the publisher decided to go with two young African-American women who, in my opinion, although attractive look kind of hard and street. Anyway, one wonders what audience the publisher is trying to appeal to: the universal romance reader or African-American women specifically. To clarify the issue, the novel is about three friends, one black, one hispanic, one white. The story isn't reflected in either cover, but definitely not in cover 2 below:

Monica's poll attempts to determine which cover would be more likely to attract a wider range of readers. Below are the results presented at her site:

Who took the poll?

64% of those polled were black, 36% non-black

73% of those polled stated they primarily shop for books in the AA section, mainstream or romance. 23% of those polled visit the mainstream fiction section for most of their books, with no significant difference in numbers between black and non-black readers. 85% of those who visited mainstream section preferred cover #1. 16% of those polled buy from the romance section. 67% of these readers were non-black, 33% black.

Opinion of how books should be separated (marketing and shelving)

21% of those polled preferred books separated by race

59% of those polled preferred books separated by genre only

18% of those polled gave no answer to the query

33% of blacks prefer books separated by race. 100% of those polled who preferred book separation by race were black. No non-blacks stated that they preferred books to be separated by race.

53% of blacks stated they shop for books mostly within the AA section. No whites stated they shop for books within this section. 98% of these blacks state either they prefer books being separated by race or had no answer to that query.

Our core black readers are used to the convenience and browsing a wide variety of black books. They either don’t care or understand the implications of book segregation to the hard-working black authors they love to read, but their dollars support us and if it’s convenience they want. . . their dollar demands they get it.

90% of non-black readers prefer books separated by genre compared to 47 % of black readers prefer books separated by genre.

My observations are that most whites aren’t aware of book segregation and wouldn’t mind having books by black authors and with black characters sprinkled in with theirs.

14% of blacks gave no answer to the query of book separation and 10% of non-blacks gave no answer to the query.

The covers were a split

There was essentially no preference. A problem with the second cover is that it poorly reflects the story and it seems to be targeting an urban “street” market.

Life is a nothing but a gotdamn crapshoot.

55% of those polled preferred cover #1
45% of those polled preferred cover #2
There were no significant racial differences in preferences.
57% of blacks prefer cover #1, 43% prefer cover # 2
50% of non-blacks prefer cover #1, 50% of non-blacks prefer cover #2.
There also was no preference of cover among blacks who favor book segregation by race.

I agree with Monica's conclusion: book segregation isn't going away anytime soon. Unfortunately, black readers more than white seem to prefer the segregation, not realizing or caring about the detriment to black authors who want - no, need - to reach a wider audience. If we don't have the sales numbers, then we founder and it is just that much harder to get published again.

It should be interesting to see how Donna's sales do with the second cover. Again, I have a feeling more than a few readers are going to pick up the book thinking it's urban lit. Wonder if that's what the publishers are hoping for.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 11/17/2005 05:55:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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