August 19, 2020

Women on Book Covers

I have noticed a trend with book covers lately. Having a woman on the cover is not new. Many books feature women characters, so it makes sense to feature a woman on the cover. A while back, I noticed that those women on the cover didn't have a face. Either it was cut off partially, or it was just a female figure with no head. Most recently, I've noticed that covers are now featuring women with their back turned. I had a feeling that most of these books were Historical Fiction, so I did an experiment.

I went through all the books on my T0-Read shelf on Goodreads and noted the titles of all the books with women on the covers. I divided them into categories based on the way the women were positioned on the cover: Front-Facing, Sideways or profile view, Back-Facing, and headless. I also noted the publication year of the book and the genre best used to describe the book. Here is a summary of my results.

For the women facing away from the observer 76% of the books were historical fiction. 18% were non-fiction. 6% were contemporary fiction. So my feeling about historical fiction was right. That's a large number.

For women facing forward on the covers 26% of those books were contemporary fiction. 23% were biographies, which makes sense. You would want to have a picture of your subject on the cover, yes? 15% were memoirs, again you want to have a picture of the subject on the front. 13% were historical fiction. 4% were non-fiction.

For a profile view of the woman, 45% o those books were historical fiction. Fantasy and Contemporary each had 19% and Biographies got 13%. Memoir had 1 solitary book with this device.

Headless women. 56% of the books were historical fiction. 30% were contemporary. 2 Biographies did this. Memoir and Non-fiction each had 1 headless woman on their covers.

Now, there is much about this experiment that was not scientific. All of these books are on my to-read list and most of them were published in this century. Maybe I just happen to be attracted to books with women on the cover. I do have some books with men on the cover and books with dogs on the cover. But it is overwhelmingly women. Also, most of the books on my list were published in this century. This means I looked at recent trends, but I didn't look at ALL books published in these years. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Anyway, I did find that, of the books I've come in contact with, many of the books with women with their backs turned on the cover are in fact Historical Fiction.