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Gender trends in book marketing

So I ran a little survey on Facebook this evening. I placed the covers for the original and expanded versions of Movement side by side, and asked readers which cover image they’d be most likely to pick up in a bookstore. I expected that due to different interests and life experiences, women would tend to prefer the left image while men would tend to prefer the right.

I was only partly correct. 13 men and 25 women responded. 12 of the women preferred the leftmost image, while 13 preferred the one on the right. All 13 men preferred the image on the right.* One respondent could not be easily classified as male or female. This respondent preferred the image on the right.

The point of this experiment was to determine to what extent men and women react differently to ebook covers. It seems clear that men and women DO respond differently, although the difference is not as drastic as I’d expected. There remains the question of why.

The comments offer some clues. One woman reported preferring covers with people on them. Several respondents observed that the cover on the right has more color and contrast, and therefore draws the eye more. And of course the ballerina on the left gives the impression that the story is exclusively about dancing: not a topic that will necessarily draw people’s interest. The rightmost image is also somewhat wider.

All of this was valuable information for me. When I released the expanded edition of Movement a few weeks ago, I deliberately tried to design a cover that would appeal to a male audience. The original cover image, I felt, was too strongly geared toward women. The story’s content is science heavy, and its most outspoken fans have been male. The dynamic young dancer on the cover did not, in retrospect, seem like the best way to reflect those truths.

I suspect that my original cover choice is representative of a common newbie publishing error. I selected a cover image that (1) was drawn directly from the story’s events and (2) appealed to me, personally.

On the face of things, (1) doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to do. We’ve all seen book covers that bear no resemblance to the story’s content. We all know how annoying that is. So what’s wrong with drawing an image directly from the story?

In this case, the problem was that the image I’d selected, while accurate in every detail, was not representative of the story as a whole. It falsely implied that the story was primarily about ballerinas, and quite possibly lost me a lot of readers. The second image is far less specific, and yet the rushing lights and emphasis on technology are a good representation the story’s core elements.

Perhaps more importantly, cover design is clearly affecting men and women differently. The geeky-researcher part of my brain wants to compare a few more images. I’d like to see what happens when covers with roughly equivalent color compositions focus on different structural elements — one with a character portrait, for example, and the other with a technological emphasis. I’d also like to track recently published SF novels to see whether cover designers are subconsciously taking the author’s gender into account when creating cover art, and whether the resulting variation in covers (if any) is correlated with a difference in sales. It would be interesting if the disparate sales rates for male and female authors could be traced to the layout and conceptual emphasis of their respective book covers.

Would any of that research turn up measurable results? Honestly, I’ve no idea. At this point, it’s just a thought experiment. But it’s one heck of a thought experiment, if you ask me. And one that I may follow up on at some later date.

*A couple of control respondents on google+ suggest that this was not the result of the order the images were presented in. On google+, the image of the dancer was on the right with the image of city lights on the left. The gender trends still held.

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ConFusion Schedule

From January 17-19 I’ll be in Detroit for Legendary ConFusion, where I’ll be hanging out, being a guest on panels, and meeting lots of awesome people. If you’re going to be there, feel free to come up and introduce yourself!

Follow @nancyfulda on Twitter for live updates during the convention.

Here’s my schedule:

More Dumb Questions
9pm Friday – Michigan Room
Myke Cole, Jacqueline Carey, Nancy Fulda, Sam Sykes, Laura Resnick

Myke Cole has volunteered for a second stint moderating the panel where the sillier the question, the better. Please show up ready to try to stump the panel with goofball queries, or just set up a good joke to see what is done with – or to – it.

Freelance Editing with Nancy Fulda and Saladin Ahmed
9am Saturday – Rotunda

What does a freelance editor do? What can one expect when working with an editor, and how can you make sure to get the best out of the experience? Come in, ask questions, and demystify the process.

Everything I needed to know about writing I learned by reading slush
1pm Saturday – Erie
Ferrett Steinmetz, Sarah Gibbons, Elizabeth Shack, Nancy Fulda, Patrick Tomlinson, C. C. Finlay

One of the most instructive thing that an aspiring writer can do is read as wide a variety of other writing as possible. Generally this is done by voraciously consuming all the words one comes across, but there is another way. Slush readers weed out submissions for publication, and generally have a highly tuned grasp of what in writing patently DOES NOT WORK. Here are some of the lessons learned. Remember, they read them so you don’t have to.

What does rejection mean?
5pm Saturday – Rotunda
Ian Tregillis, Elizabeth Shack, Mike Carey, Amy Sundberg, Nancy Fulda, C. C. Finlay

Rejections are a part of the business when writing, but few of us understand what a rejection is – beyond the soul crushing part. We discuss what a professional rejection is and isn’t, and try to help shed light on both the why? and the what now?


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Guest Appearance on Writing Excuses

The Hugo-award-winning cast of Writing Excuses has invited me for a guest appearance. Well, technically, they’ve invited me for four guest appearances, subbing in for Dan Wells, who is currently in Germany not-being-a-serial-killer.

This is not the first time I’ve been on Writing Excuses, but it’s the first time I’ve been on the show at the same time as Brandon Sanderson, thus demonstrating conclusively that we are not actually the same person.

We did the recording a few weeks ago, and the episodes will air within the next few months. Expect lively conversations about artificial intelligence, how to create engaging characters, un-teaching the reader, and other writing-related stuff.

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Latest Audible Books

Ok, so, um… I’ve been a little busy lately. Please don’t be mad at me for not posting this sooner.

I’ve got new audiobooks out. A Starscape Slightly Askew is about sibling rivalry, extraterrestrial linguistics, and the archaeological remnants of a thousand-year-old alien civilization. The Man Who Murdered Himself is about a guy who undergoes an illegal treatment to cure a hideous illness. Blue Ink is about the effects of cloning technology on a colonial planet.

Blue Ink and The Man Who Murdered himself are older stories which have gotten a lot of positive feedback.  A Starscape Slightly Askew is pretty recent, and one of my personal favorites. You can get them free at Audible with a 30-day Trial Membership.

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The Writers’ Bill of Rights

Some of my online friends were discussing the various flavors of Imposter Syndrome not too long ago. Turns out, pretty much every author I’ve ever met has days where they don’t feel good enough, don’t feel smart enough, don’t feel like they have what it takes to be a “real” writer.

In response, Robert Dawson put together this Writer’s Bill of Rights. He’s given permission for others to share it with attribution on the internet.

This Bill of Rights is one of the best resources for writers I’ve ever seen on the internet. Every sentence is so very, very true. I wish every struggling, insecure author could read it.


* * *
You are allowed not to be the greatest writer in the world.
You are allowed not to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer, or even that flash contest in your local newspaper
You are allowed to have a day job at which you spend more time than at writing, and that you may be unwilling or unable to give up.
You are allowed to have a family who need and deserve large quantities of your time.
You are allowed to write stories that are not as good as the best thing you ever wrote.
You are allowed to have dry spells. For as long as it takes.
You are allowed to sell stories to $10 markets. As Leonard Cohen puts it:
“I took my diamond to a pawnshop / But that don’t make it junk.”
You are allowed to have a lifestyle that won’t let you get to national workshops, or even your two-bit local convention.
You are allowed to have stories that haven’t sold at all yet—and may never sell.
You are allowed to not be [insert name here].
And you will still be a writer.
And that’s good.
Because otherwise there would be damned few of us left.
(Note: Robert has also posted a printable version here. Which is awesome, because this is totally the kind of thing one might want to hang on the wall.)

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BAEN Anthology

I’m pleased to announce that my short story “Deadfall” will be published in the SHATTERED SHIELDS anthology, edited by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. The book will be released from Baen in November 2014.

“Deadfall” was a fun story to write. I’d been reading some of Brandon Sanderson’s work the month previous, and was impressed at his skill with combat sequences. “Deadfall” does not attempt to duplicate Sanderson’s style, but I definitely pushed myself to strengthen the impact of my own narrative technique. I paid a lot of attention to the action sequences in this story, and I’m very pleased with the result.

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Hold on to Your Horses by Sandra Tayler

I’ve always had a soft spot for beautifully illustrated children’s books. I adored Mercer Mayer’s Professor Wormbog and the Search for the Zimparumpazoo. I fell in love with David Wiesner’s Tuesday, and from the first moment I saw Dinotopia, I knew I would someday own a copy. The combination of words and pictures to tell a story more powerful than either could tell alone is, in my opinion, one of the greatest accomplishments of storytelling.

Enter Angela Call and Sandra Tayler, who joined forces a few years ago to create a picture book every bit as delightful as the ones I’ve treasured since childhood. Hold on to Your Horses tells the story of Amy, an impatient and innovative child whose great ideas get her into a lot of trouble. I loved Amy’s story. I love the little illustrations with dancing horses and footprints running across the ceiling. I love the tender words and artful rendering of Amy’s late-night cuddles with her mother, and the strength of the metaphor that permeates the final pages. Hold on to Your Horses is a fabulous book.

I am, admittedly, not unbiased in my assessment. Sandra is my sister, and it’s utterly unsurprising that the story she told and the artist she selected are a perfect match for my sensibilities. Fortunately, Jim Hines and Booking Mama have no such predispositions. Neither do my children, who insisted on at least five or six repetitions before I had a chance to mention it was written by their aunt. I’m not sure they’ve really even processed the ‘aunt’ part. But they sure do like the book.

Hold on to Your Horses can be bought at the Schlock Mercenary store or at, and an author-approved free copy is available in PDF format. (Hint: it makes a great holiday gift.)

And, because Sandra is my sister, I’m going to include a MAJOR SHOUT-OUT to the STRENGTH OF WILD HORSES KICKSTARTER. Amy’s story isn’t finished. In the next book, she learns what idea horses are good for, and how to steer them to even more amazing places.

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Halloween Freebies!

Ok, so anyone who follows my various social media outlets already knows this. Hexes and Tooth Decay is free to read at Bear Mountain Books, in honor of Halloween.

Also — and this information HASN’T gone out to the social media crowd — the Hexes and Haunts anthology is free at smashwords for the next three days. If you’ve never used smashwords before, they have books in pdf, text, epub and mobi formats, plus a couple of others I can’t remember the names of. Oh, and if you’d rather pay for the convenience of direct delivery to your e-reader, here are the links for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

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Upcoming Conventions

It’s official. I am escaping from Hermitdom!

I’ll be at Legendary Confusion in Detroit from Jan. 17 – 19, 2014 and at Life, the Universe, and Everything in Provo from Feb. 13 – 15, 2014. Panel assignments and further schedules to be forthcoming. If someone offers to teach me how to play Magic, the Gathering, I might even jump in as the worst-playing celebrity in LTUE’s Charity Draft Tournament.

I am thrilled beyond speech to see everyone in person again. Drop me a line if you’re going to be at either of these events, and we’ll figure out a time and place to meet up. :)

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More epic space opera!

A Starscape Slightly Askew, originally published in the Writing for Charity anthology, is now available in kindle format. This was originally intended as a standalone story, but I found the narrative style so delightful and the relationship between the sisters so intriguing that I’ve decided to come back to it. I’m working on a second story from Kittyhawk’s point of view right now, with stories from the perspectives of Raven and Sparrow to follow.

Also: Another Dark Expanse story! Castles in the Sky is now live on the game’s web site, integrated into the info packet on Galactic History. A rollicking space opera featuring a distraught sixteen-year-old who has been evicted from her alien foster family, the story is freely available to anyone with a web browser. Deception, betrayal and ray gun battles abound.

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Nancy Fulda -- Hugo and Nebula Nominee

Web Site | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Google+

That Undiscovered Country
Jim Baen Memorial
Award Winner

paperback | kindle | nook | PDF | Other

2011 Nebula Nominee

Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, March 2011

paperback | kindle | nook | smashwords

The Breath of Heaven
Stories from Distant Worlds

paperback | kindle | nook | smashwords

In the Halls of the Sky-Palace
Jim Baen's Universe, June 2009

kindle | nook | smashwords

Backlash (novelette)
Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, 2010

kindle | nook | smashwords

The Man Who
Murdered Himself

Phobos Award Winner

kindle | nook | smashwords

Dead Men Don't Cry:
11 Stories by Nancy Fulda

Paperback | kindle | nook | smashwords | DRM-free

Nothing This Fun Could be Good for You (article)
Available at:
Clarkesworld Magazine

Like Rain From Silver Skies
Available at:
Basement Stories

Knowing Neither Kin Nor Foe
Available at:
Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Nancy Fulda is a 2012 Hugo and Nebula Nominee, a Phobos Award winner and a Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award recipient. She is the first (and so far only) female recipient of the Jim Baen Memorial Award. Her fiction has appeared in a number of professional venues.

Nancy Fulda is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


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July 2014
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