My first book is due out soon - mid-sized independent publisher. Fcking delighted as I am to be published, I hate the packaging. All girly and female looking winsomely into middle-distance. My second novel has a male protagonist, some swords and literary pretensions, and my agent is recommending dumbing it down and publishing it under a male name.
If your protagonist is a young woman, you're chick-litted and pinkified. If your protagonist is a man, and living in a violent era, you're undermined in a different swords 'n sandals way.
What do you need to do to be taken seriously, besides abandon plot and readability....
Sorry, this is a bit grumpy. I am lucky to have an agent and a book deal. But. But. But.
I think the most freeing publishing discovery for me was learning that I could change my name at any point, take a pseudonym and reinvent myself as an author (the first time this happened it was forced upon me by a publisher, mind you, but I'm glad it was in retrospect). I honestly think the key is to write a lot and write a lot of the one type of ms that publishers might actually want. It is a business, after all. Soul-destroying, isn't it?!
Did you have no say in the cover design etc, Jack? And is the second novel committed to the first publisher or not? How would you describe what you do - is it literary fiction and you feel you're being genre-ified?
Very few first time authors have much say in the cover design (unless they are already famous for something else). I appreciate your irritation (I was able to demand my publishers amend the cover of my book as they had ^spelt my fucking name wrong^). But Novelist is right - you might find it easier to reinvent yourself with a new pseudonym. Good luck.