f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 5 of Book Covers: Market

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, April 29, 2005

Day 5 of Book Covers: Market

America and the UK are, if you weren’t aware, two different places. They say “lift.” We say “elevator.” They make a great “Office.” We make a mediocre one. Each country feels the need, apparently, to inflict separate book covers on its populace.

I really don’t have much to say about this except, I suppose the comments that most readers like the American versions makes sense given they were designed for American readers. That’s comforting.

I find looking at book covers from other countries fascinating. The book covers for the German versions of Harry Potter, for instance, kick ours all over the place. And I like Mary GrandPre’s illustrations.

All to say, and this is going to be the most blatantly obvious unhelpful thing ever written, while you may not be able to tell much about a book from its cover, you can make some pretty decent guesses at the men or women who are supposed to like it and buy it.

We got only a couple examples of favorites.

Kathleen Popa named Nicholas Christopher’s A Trip to the Stars.

Mark Bertrand mentioned Jean Giono's The Horseman on the Roof. And you need a little story too, because his choice doesn't translate all that well to the screen..
"It's the original North Point Press paperback of Jean Giono's The Horseman on the Roof, a burnt-orange dust jacket on a white paperback. I'd never heard of the author or the book at that time, and I found it on a remainder table in a Chicago bookstore, nestled among the glitzy former bestsellers. The color caught my eye, the austerity of the design made me curious, and when I saw that it was a dust jacket and the same text was printed in faint gray on the white cover beneath, I had to have it. Turned out to be a wonderful book, and then a film was made of it in France and the new edition has movie stills on the cover! Alas.... "

Some favorites of mine are:

A (notice it?) Chip Kidd cover for Jim Knipfel’s memoir Slackjaw. (Look close at the embossing.)

Will Self’s Great Apes.

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

And this one.

(I wanted to spend an entire day looking at pulp covers because I think they, perhaps, understand their audience better than anyone. But alas the week is over.)

Next week, maybe, Gilead. (And speaking of Marilynne Robinson, I love the new repackage of her book Housekeeping. I need to write a book 18 years from now and get cool new covers on my books, too.)