With A Small Tweak, The ‘Shequel’ Campaign Makes Meaningful Changes To Classic Books

"Only 11 percent of women in the creative industry hold upper-level positions."

"What if we can inspire women of the future by retelling stories of the past?"

That's the question indie bookstore The Wild Detectives asked before launching Shequel, a campaign that imagines what classic literature would look like if the male protagonists were replaced with women. Dracula becomes Draculess, Dorian Gray is instead Doris Gray, Oliver Twist is replaced by Olivia Twist, and so forth. 


The bookstore, which is located in Dallas, has designed new covers for a few classic novels and created updated excerpts that replace the male leads with female ones. 

"The inspiration comes from our every day," Marina Cuesta, a spokesperson for the project, told A Plus. "Only 11 percent of women in the creative industry hold upper-level positions. The same happens in literature, both with writers as well as in the stories they tell. Women need more representation."

The Wild Detectives are no strangers to creating a viral campaign to encourage interest in literature. Last year, they used "litbait" to get Facebook users to click on links that took them to classic, copyright-free novels in their entirety.

Courtesy of Dieste

There are certainly powerful female leads in the works of classic authors such as Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, and more, but the number is still relatively low compared to male-driven books. 

The Wild Detectives, who worked with media company Dieste on the Shequel campaign, were interested in focusing on classic literature from the past to create positive change for the future. Selecting titles to change proved to be easy enough, but actually changing excerpts was more difficult. 

"We certainly kept in mind all the famous books with male leads. Oddly enough, the majority of these included the protagonist's name in the title, which made it easy for us to change it to a female character," Cuesta explained. "However, we came to realize that it was not as easy as we thought to change sentences and quotes throughout the text. In general, it has been a beautiful process in which we have also brushed up on our classic literature knowledge from our youth."

The campaign is part of The Wild Detectives' efforts to promote its third annual Women Galore Festival in Dallas. The event aims to raise awareness for gender equality in the arts and literature. 

"In order to change women's role in society we must display examples of women who have gone far, putting in play the famous 'if you see it, you can be it' phrase," Cuesta said. "We want young people to be inspired by these stories, we truly want them to live in a more equal world, free from stereotypes and old habits." 

The team hopes both the festival and the campaign will help to inspire new generations. They looked at the reading lists of schools across Texas and found that the 1873 classic adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days is being taught widely. The book follows Londoner Phileas Fogg and his French valet Jean Passepartout's attempt to travel around the world in an effort to win a bet. 

The Wild Detectives will be publishing a full version of the book recast with a female lead named Phoebe. 

"Our intention is to provide The Adventures of Phoebe Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days to schools so students can choose to read the male or female versions of the book," Cuesta said.  

Scroll through to see a few examples of books they revamped as part of the Shequel campaign:

1. "The Adventures of Sherry Holmes"

Courtesy of Dieste

2. "The Great Gaby"

Courtesy of Dieste

3. "The Invisible Woman"

Courtesy of Dieste

4. "Olivia Twist"

Courtesy of Dieste

5. "The Picture of Doris Gray"

Courtesy of Dieste


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.