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Annie Brown ...the last word.

IF I see one more book cover in pastel, with a pair of cartoon legs, a bottle of wine and high heels, I'm going to use it in a dirty protest right there in the store.

Thank the Lord I may not need to as it appears that chick-lit is history, not the Simon Schama kind, but the bargain bucket sort.

Sales of the genre have fallen faster than a chick-lit heroine's pants, down by 50 per cent in some cases.

Faced with some of those covers I have in every instance, to quote Bridget Jones, chosen: "Vodka. And Chaka Khan".

But look behind the saccharine sweetness of the binding and you'll see that in some instances the discerning reader is a victim of some very misleading marketing.

Author Polly Courtney has just dropped her publisher Harper Collins for its "condescending" marketing of her book as chick-lit.

She said: "I'm really proud of what's inside this book. I'd just say one thing, don't judge a book by its cover."

The book cover features the mandatory long legs dangling from a pencil skirt-clad pretty girl who is perched on a desk.

Courtney, a Cambridge graduate and former investment banker, made her name when she wrote the book Golden Handcuffs, exposing the macho culture of the city.

She admits It's a Man's World is not Tolstoy but like all of her work, it is an intelligent read, in this case about the female editor of a lad's magazine facing the sexism of her staff and also the ire of the feminist lobby.

The writing is razor-sharp but the cover reflects all the bite of a marshmallow. Just because a book is written by a woman with women in mind, doesn't mean its reader has to be lobotomised to enjoy it.

Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters wrote chick-lit of sorts back in their day but few would deny that they were also literary masterpieces.

Bridget Jones may have been light and trite but was embraced enthusiastically because it told the truth about the fallibility of women.

It was well written, it was clever and it was fresh and funny.

Publishers become so greedy that they saturate the market with anything that emulates a bestselller and if it doesn't, they make it look like it does.

The misery memoir was a classic example. I would write a misery memoir about reading a misery memoir if it wasn't all just so miserable.

Nicky Hornby can write about football and Tony Parsons about fatherhood and they are praised for being both progressive and insightful.

Their covers aren't blue with a hairy pair of legs and a can of lager on the front, although actually they might want to rethink that.


HARP OFF J Polly Courtney has ditched Harper Collins over the marketing of her book
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 3, 2011
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