Labels: attract or avoid?

As a publisher, I don’t like to label our books, apart from what one needs to do for ISBN purposes. And for that, I use broad categories. My reason for not labelling a book is that many of our books at TSL cross genres and styles. Labels put them in boxes, narrowing the focus to one aspect or interpretation.

How do you feel about labels? Do they put you off reading certain books or authors? Or do they attract you to the book or author?

Most people I speak to are put off by labels. They find them divisive – whether on books or other marketing outputs. Concerns range from being inappropriately labelled or judged (e-readers have helped hugely in this regard as fellow commuters can’t tell what you’re reading) to receiving unwelcome attention, and feeling excluded.

For others, the label can signify acceptance and being part of a community.

Labels are useful for drawing attention to issues, events, topics, themes, etc. It’s a form of classification – a useful tool for targetting a specific audience. Pigeon-holing people or books can be restricting for some, whilst liberating for others.

Following an over-dinner conversation with an ex-colleague who is now a novelist (not published by TSL), I came to the realisation that even our imprints are a form of labelling. While I’m comfortable with the broad categories we use, I’d rather let readers decide using the cover image, title, blurb or what they know of the author whether or not they want to buy a particular book. Ignoring labels has led me to read richly and diversely. Later, the application of a label has often led me to a ‘really’ or ‘hadn’t seen that’, or ‘interesting interpretation’, thereby generating new thoughts and reflections on a text.

Where do you stand on the label spectrum?

Take a look at the TSL catalogue and let us know your thoughts.

PS: having literally just finished this piece, this popped into my inbox, more concerns about labels.

Image courtesy of