Guest post by Michele Gorman, author of Single in the City
You shouldn’t run with scissors. You should say please and thank you. Sometimes it makes sense to do what you’re told, so I rarely run with any sharp instrument and always mind my manners.
Sometimes, though, what you’re told just doesn’t make sense. I’ve been told that American chick lit fans won’t get the humour in a book set outside the US. And I’ve been told that the whole population wretches at the sight of a cupcake on a pastel cover.
I reject these claims, and that’s why I’m self-publishing by novel in the US as an eBook for Kindles, Nooks and iPads, with exactly the kind of cover that has chick lit detractors seeing pink.
When my agent sold Single in the City’s publication rights to Penguin (UK) last year, we held back the US rights. I wanted a US-based publisher for the book’s American launch. After all the main character, Hannah, is American. There’s a strong theme about seeing London through rather baffled American eyes. We thought that surely it would be a great fit for the US market. But sometimes publishers have less faith in the books, and the readers, than we, the writers, do. The US publishers we approached said that the book isn’t right for the American chick lit market. Readers won’t understand the humour of a book set in London, they concluded.
If those publishers are right then Single in the City should only have sold to American women living in London. Yet the book was a best-seller, bought by many nationalities in the UK and thousands of readers abroad. That’s because Hannah’s story is universal. It’s a fish-out-of-water tale. It’s about finding your feet in life and love. And everyone identifies with the cringeworthy humour of making a fool of yourself. I think some US publishers are selling chick lit fans short by claiming they won’t understand the book.
Having decided to self-publish, an even bigger decision loomed: Of the million and one options, I had to design the best cover for the book. The answer seemed obvious. Steer clear of pastel, illustrated covers.
After all, the press has been abuzz lately with articles denouncing girly pastel covers. Newspaper articles predict the demise of the genre and the term chick lit is used as an insult. Plus, I was launching into the US. American chick lit usually has photographic covers. So clearly American women prefer them over the illustrated covers we tend to have on our British books.
And yet. I’m proud to write chick lit. More than that, I’m proud to write chick lit that stays true to the genre’s light-hearted, humorous roots. I want my cover to reflect the book’s contents. And I don’t care what the critics say. They don’t speak for the readers of the genre, and I don’t write for those critics. I’d much rather have a woman sneer at my cover and pass it by than see her buy it because she doesn’t think it’s chick lit. A wise reader once pointed out that if you market cheese as chocolate, all you do is miss the cheese-lovers and disappoint the chocoholics. I want the cover to proudly declare that this is fun, funny chick lit. I’m happy to forgo some sales to ensure that I reach the women I’m writing for.
And that’s why I’m self-publishing. Like Hannah, I’m taking a leap of faith.
Buy: Single in the City