When I studied Marketing at University, I was taught about the psychology of color in advertising and marketing. It is widely acknowledged that brands carefully chose colors for their logos and advertisements based on the desired reaction and action they hope to evoke from their consumers. For example, the color orange symbolizes confidence, cheeriness and friendliness and is used by brands such as Nickelodeon, Fanta and Amazon in their logos.
After University, I dabbled in various jobs in media and marketing. By the time I wrote my first book, I had forgotten about the vital lesson in color and psychology that I learned at University. I wrote a ‘chick-lit’ novel. When my publishers sent me cover options, I gravitated towards a pink cover with a girl’s feet on it. One of her tie-up stilettos is undone in the image. I thought this particular cover was perfect because it represented my protagonist, Nikita Kumar well; a 25 year-old who doesn’t have it all figured out and who constantly finds herself in embarrassing situations.
The book hit the stands and I started receiving emails and messages from readers. The reviews were positive and I was ecstatic; except for one tiny, little issue. When I told my male friends to read my book, they’d say things like, ‘I really want to but I can’t be caught reading a book with a pink cover.’ Whatever happened to not judging books by their covers?
As a ‘chick-lit’ writer, I had the genre as well as the cover discouraging men from reading my book. In today’s day and age when men are metrosexual and men increasingly sport the color pink, I was surprised to note that men were afraid to be judged based on what they were reading. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw how men based so many of their decisions on perception. How many men do we come across who admit to enjoying rom coms? We’ve all seen men secretly enjoying mushy movies, but when questioned about their favourite films, the more ‘manly’ genres win; think superhero, action and thrillers.
In a society prevalent with gender stereotypes, very few men are confident enough to break the stereotypes and own their choices. No wonder then that many women authors refuse to call their books ‘chick-lit’. The genre name itself implies that it caters only to women readers when in fact, the last thing any author wants is to alienate a significant portion of potential readers.
In reality, my books are better defined as ‘contemporary fiction’. Indeed, the men who did manage to get over the color of the cover and read it, came back to me saying how much they enjoyed it. In fact, some of them even admitted to thinking that it would be un-relatable and girly and then being pleasantly surprised once they read it.
As an author who wants her books to reach as many people as possible, I made the calculated decision of ensuring that the cover of my second book was more ‘neutral’; I chose a predominantly blue cover with hints of white and yellow. The result? I definitely had more male readers for my second book than my first.
I took this decision because I figured that I already had more than enough going against me. I’m a female author writing chick-lit. In India, which is still a predominantly patriarchal society, the most popular romance writers happen to be men. Even in a genre which is thought to be a woman’s domain, readers are choosing to buy books written by men over women.
Reading, in general, opens your mind. It is ironical that an activity that is supposed to open your mind can be bound by society’s perceptions. The joy of ‘discovering’ a book lies in picking up books you know nothing about by authors you’ve never heard of before. So take chances, break stereotypes and get out of your comfort zone when it comes to reading. Haruki Murakami said it best when he said, ‘If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.’
Anjali Kirpalani is the 28-year old author of the bestselling novels ‘Written in the stars’ and ‘Never say Never’. She is currently working on her third novel. She can be reached on @anjalikir