Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Judging a Book by its Cover

by Sariah S. Wilson

In my July 27 Entertainment Weekly there was a short blurb in the book review section about a new trend that has emerged - one book with multiple covers.

In the case of Patrick Rothfuss' "The Name of the Wind," the publisher wanted to target readers outside of its normal audience. So they created a cover that would appeal to traditional fantasy readers, and one that looked more literary. You can check out both covers at Amazon.

They mention a couple other releases that didn't have a specific object in mind - they just wanted to have different covers, like Steven Hall's "The Raw Shark Texts" (in blue and red) and Miranda July's "No One Belongs Here More Than You" in pink and yellow (and apparently in July's case the first print run had 10,000 of each color, but all later printings will only be the yellow one). (You can probably see both of these covers at Amazon as well, but my internet connection is not working too well and I can't get them to come up.)

So then I thought - why would a publisher do this? In Rothfuss' case, it was to try and attract a larger audience. Did it work? Wouldn't the book still be put on the shelves in the fantasy section, even with the un-fantasy cover? It seems like a waste of money to me to have multiple covers. It has to cost more - and it made me wonder if the gamble was worth it.

Is it an attempt to make the books into collector's items? That if you have one of those rarer July pink covers, does that make it more valuable someday? But that doesn't benefit the publisher or the author, so I can't see the value in that.

Is there a hope from the publisher that readers will buy the book in both covers just so that they can own both? I know magazines (Entertainment Weekly especially does this) have multiple covers for the readers who will buy the same issue over and over just to get all the covers. However, a magazine costs considerably less than a book.

I thought of books I love and adore, books I read over and over, and I can say that I don't think I would buy an additional copy with a different cover unless my copy was falling apart and needed to be replaced, or if I had a beloved paperback then I might want to buy a sturdier hardcover.

So I pose the question to the readers - what reasons could a publisher/author have to release a book with multiple covers? And would you ever buy more than one copy of a book to own all the different versions of the cover?


At 8/19/2007 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea is ingenius! Got a suspense novel that features counted cross stitch? Use a typical stark, suspense cover for one and then a softer, pastel cover featuring a counted cross stitch as a second cover and catch the attention of the women who generally are more interested in handwork as well as suspense readers. Two markets for one. It has to be less expensive to produce a new cover than a completely new book.

I think I'll mention this to my publishers!

Thanks for the idea!

At 8/19/2007 11:40 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

They do this in the U.K. with Harry Potter. They have both children's and adult covers. The children's covers are very colorful and "kid" looking and the adult covers are stark black with a simple picture of some important item from the book (like the goblet of fire).

At 8/19/2007 12:33 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Sariah, Six LDS Writers and a Frog is invited to join the LDS Blog Webring I set up. You may do by going to my blogspot, locating the webring on the righthand side of the page and clicking on Join. Hope to see you come aboard.

Be sure to insert the code on your blogspot right after signing up or it halts the progression of the webring as people click on next.

At 8/20/2007 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like fantasy books, but I am more into the serious fantasy (oxymoron maybe?). I bought Patrick Rothfuss' book, and I picked it up because there weren't cheesy dragons or elves on the cover. It looked serious. I think there are multiple niches within specific genres, and multiple covers can attract across those niches. My $.02 anyway.

And Name of the Wind is awesome. Buy it if you have any interest in fantasy.

At 8/20/2007 11:33 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I agree with Stephanie and Marlene--it's probably best used as a tool to increase readership by crossing into and attracting a second audience, even if the difference as simple as gender.

At 8/20/2007 1:50 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I don't think I'd ever buy multiple copies of a book just to have the different covers. I'd wait until my first one was worn out.

At 8/20/2007 2:47 PM, Blogger Janet Kay Jensen said...

I bought a book because it had a new cover and title, only to find out it wasn't a new release by the author at all! Just a new title and cover, which was misleading.

I'm also wondering if it's a regional strategy, to attract readers to something that's familiar . . . . but I think one cover should be plenty!

At 8/20/2007 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have all three Harry Potter covers (US, UK, UK adult)but I'm a bit of a nut.

As for different local covers it attracts different readers. They may be ultimately shelved together but they are not displayed in the same spot.

Publishers have been doing this for years when a movie comes out and the book is recovered with a movie image.

At 8/20/2007 10:32 PM, Blogger Don said...

You have just written about three books on this blog - in effect, given them free publicity - for no reason other than the fact that they are each being published with two different covers.

It sounds a little bit like a gimmick to me. And it sounds like it's working.

At 8/21/2007 10:42 AM, Blogger marcus said...

I think the multiple covers would work best in bookstores, like the ones I shop at, where all new releases are out on tables or shelves near the front of the store. I generally walk around this section of the store looking at covers and titles, picking up any that seem interesting and reading the synopsis on the dust jacket, or the back of the book.

Once the book loses it's place among the new releases, I can see how the different covers wouldn't help sales, but for an initial run directed at stores who have the new -release setup, it could help sell a few more books.


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