Sarah Rees Brennan (sarahtales) wrote,
Sarah Rees Brennan

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The Covers, They Are A-Changin'

'Sarah!' I hear you cry. 'Where are the publishing posts of yore, so informative and yet so hilarious?' 'No,' you actually cry. 'We really didn't miss them. You don't actually know that m-'


I have been told by Some People (and by that I mean Justine 'Don't Spoil Me! Why Are You Spoiling Me? QUIT SPOILING ME OR I WILL USE MY AUSTRALIAN KUNG FU' Larbalestier) that sometimes when I talk about books and movies and television shows, I tend to spoil them for people by means of gently saying 'I was so sad when so and so died' and 'I hope that Character A and Character B make out/turn into zombies/take over the world again.'

That's okay. For not only am I going to be mostly talking about covers, I promise that my brief summary of each of the books (all of which I recommend) will be MOSTLY LIES. There will be a bit of truth, here and there. But you'll never know where, unless you read them all. Rest assured you will be spoiled for nothing but the stories that play out in my head.

But this is mostly a Cover Post, and it is about an aspect of covers I have not yet previously discussed! It is about what happens when a book changes cover in the transition from hardback to paperback. (I am concentrating on US editions alone, as they have many more hardbacks than UK editions.)

So why does this happen to some books and not others? Weeell, for many reasons. Obviously, a cover's main job is to sell the book, so stuff like hitting the bestseller lists means your covers tend not to change.

Naturally most books, they hit not the bestseller list. So all covers are changed to increase sales: sometimes sales are good, and the cover changes anyway. Why is this?

Because the publisher is like 'These sales, they are very nice, but we would like to sell MORE.'

Publishers, they never say 'Ehhhh... I think we've sold enough books.' No indeed - the 28 millionth copy of Twilight out the door is just as sweet as the first!

So sometimes, they think 'This book is selling despite the cover. We hear lots of complaints that the cover does not appeal/does not match the story. We will change it... and sell MORE!'

Sometimes, they think 'This book is selling to a certain audience. The audience this cover appeals to. But we think another audience would like this book. So let us CHANGE IT UP! (and sell more!)'

So let us go with the assumption that there are Two Kinds of Covers. Object covers, in which you are like 'Huh, that is some stuff.' And people covers, in which we are like 'Huh, those are some humans.' In the people covers, there are two subsets (watch me do the fancy maths) - covers concentrating on faces and covers concentrating on figures.

How and why do covers change? Let us go BEHIND THE CUT, and see. With guaranteed no spoilers, just lies!

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

SCARLETT: This is a story about me, New York and my HANDSOME BROTHER, Spencer.
SPENCER: Who needs New York when you have me, Scarlett? Look at me, I'm juggling a walrus!
SCARLETT: This summer I will be getting a very strange job. As a spy. A ninja spy.
SPENCER: Scarlett, pay attention to me! I've just performed a triple backflip on a ladder with a watermelon on my head!

An excellent book, particularly all the bits with Spencer in them. Now you will see in the change from the hardback (first cover hardback, second paperback, them's the rules of this post) that they changed the aesthetic from a Face Cover to an Object Cover.

The covers ask different questions: the first one is 'Why is that dreamy girl in charge of the ring-y bell? Some guest at the hotel could be tempted to seize it and ring out a tune on it! Not that I personally have ever been tempted in such a way.' The second cover is 'That key does not honestly look like it will fit in a lock. Why are the - OH I SEE. Well, hello New York skyline.' One emphasises Scarlett, and one New York.

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How To Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

You know how it is. You're at a club, you meet a fairy, you do a few too many shots of Cuervo, and then the fairy dude is always calling you and calling you, and sending text messages like 'HAVING A SHOT OF MEAD - CATCH UP WITH U LATER?' and 'LISTENING TO TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART & THINKING OF U' and really, you want to concentrate on your basketball game. So you and your friends hatch an elaborate plot to, as the saying goes, ditch your fairy. (Fairy boyfriends, not like vampire boyfriends. Not keepers.)

This cover is also a big change: from a person, with an emphasis on her figure and actions rather than her face, to an object cover. The change is pretty unusual - illustrated covers are rare in young adult: I've heard Received Wisdom that people think illustrations look kiddy. But it's a really striking image - it is a GIANT HAMMER squishing a FAIRY. Not only is it definitely memorable image, it suggests action and comedy, while the figure cover is a little more traditional, and suggests romance a bit more: the fairy is a sparkling trail.

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Tithe by Holly Black

A faerie prince and a handsome troll have a bet on that the faerie prince can't make a human girl the queen of the Summer Homecoming Court. A romantical and comical adventure ensues, complete with frisky mermaids, and complicated when the faerie prince accidentally swears a sacred vow to be the human girl's love slave. These things happen...

I have shown these two covers before, BUT, I find it interesting because it was a series cover change: all the other covers in the Modern Faerie Tales look like the paperback. (Same with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but the second book is sadly not yet out!) It is a dramatic change from a person cover to an object cover - an object cover that is stark, and thus arresting - in contrast to the hardback cover, which is illustrated and has a lot going on.

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An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

What do you do when your girlfriend Katherine leaves you? Well, you could go on a heartwarming road trip with your best friend and learn a little about love and life, OR you could clone Katherine a thousand times, in order to make a clone army and TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Nothing says 'I'm over you, baby' like being God King of the Universe.

I wished to have one cover change which showed two people covers, as that happens too: a figures to faces cover. The figures cover suggests both people and (given the font-yness, another fine authorly word for y'all) maths. The face cover, though, differentiates the people - the faces of the girls all have personality, giving us the idea that these Katherines we have such an abundance of are special snowflakes. Engaging the reader in different ways!

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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

STABLE BOY: I work for a corrupt household in which there are a mysterious pair of twins! I love the Good Twin.
GOOD TWIN: We kind of keep our dating in the family.
STABLE BOY: ... Beg pardon?
GOOD TWIN: Well my parents were brother and sister. And we have a relative we keep in the shed. Personally, I'm in love with my sister.
STABLE BOY: And you're the good twin? WHAT DOES THE EVIL TWIN DO?

This is an adult book, proving that my Theories Hold Good for all covers, not just YA. And we see the change from an object cover to a people cover - a figure cover rather than a face cover. The theory behind the change may have been 'This cover, it is so pretty! But - in a bookshop, is what people want to see... more books? Is that what will grab them?' And so a cover suggesting people, and the past - and suggesting more action. Because people can move by themselves, and books cannot! (I know you guys keep me around for these deep insights.)

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The Forest of Hands And Teeth by Carrie Ryan

A young girl defying her puritanical upbringing to achieve her dream - of being a zombie slaying ballerina. When the Royal Ballet House pairs her with Reginald DeComposing, the aristocratic scion of a wealthy zombie family who loves ballet even more than brains, will Mary be able to work with Reginald? And will her dedication to zombie slaying be compromised when these unlikely partners... fall in love?

So both these covers are not only both people covers, but both face covers, and yet we see a different aesthetic! The girl in the hardcover looks haunted, the forest a ghostly backdrop, her hair streaming in the wind. The girl in the paperback is framed by spiky branches, her gaze not off into the woods but intense and out at the reader. Wiiidely different aesthetics, even though the covers would sound alike if described. Which is why my post has so much VISUAL EVIDENCE.

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So covers, when they change, they usually change types, or change into a different subset. They go from action-y to atmosphere-y or vice versa. They reflect very different aspects of the book. It is always a big change.

And The Demon's Lexicon cover is changing from hardcover to paperback. I am most interested to hear your thoughts on what it may be like!
Tags: book, stumbling through publication
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