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Chick Lit Cover Art Causes Author/Publisher Rift

British author Polly Courtney has severed ties with publisher HarperCollins out of frustration at how the jacket art on her last three books have portrayed her stories as frivolous chick lit. “My writing has been shoehorned into a place that’s not right for it,” she states in an interview with The Guardian. “It is commercial fiction, it is not literary, but the real issue I have is that it has been completely defined as women’s fiction … Yes it is page turning, no it’s not War and Peace. But it shouldn’t be portrayed as chick lit.”

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the cover design for Courtney’s latest book It’s a Man’s World, which features a lithe young woman in a short skirt and high heals, standard imagery that characterizes much of women’s fiction. The novelist feels the cover misrepresents the story, which is about a woman’s struggle to helm an all male staff at a men’s magazine.

“I’m not averse to the term chick lit,” she expands, “but I don’t think that’s what my book is. The implication with chick lit is that it’s about a girl wanting to meet the man of her dreams. [My books] are about social issues – this time about a woman in a lads’ mag environment and the impact of media on society, and feminism.”

“The titles and covers have been a problem with all three of my HarperCollins books, right from the start,” she admits. “If I had my time again I certainly wouldn’t have signed with them. There’s a feeling that any author should be grateful for any attention they can get from any publisher – that they should take what they can get. But I don’t think they should have looked to sign me on the basis of what I’d written so far.”

“…To give Avon [an imprint of HarperCollins] their due, in terms of the editorial process they didn’t try to change what’s inside into something different. It’s the packaging. From the reader’s perspective, they’ll see it on the shelf and think this is chick lit, and it’s not.”

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