When bad covers happen to good books

June 05, 2009

wonderful book, awful cover
wonderful book, awful cover

[Synchronicity–CNN is talking about book covers today, too! ] As we all know, I am endlessly fascinated by book cover art. I’ve talked about it here, and here, too.  A story in Publishers Weekly illustrates the power of a great package. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosney was one of my favorite books of 2008. The novel garnered rave reviews, incredible word-of-mouth, excellent foreign sales…and a disappointing sale of 6000 copies in the US. Guess why?

http://www.amazon.com/Sarahs-Key-Tatiana-Rosnay/dp/0312370830
Need I say more? Where do I begin? With the pale re-use of an iconic image from a previous bestseller? http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TDTNS7HZL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_.jpg With the undistinguished font? The murky colors? The ambiguous imagery and mixed message? No wonder readers overlooked this poor book.
But this is why I love book people. When their passion for a project kicks in, there’s no stopping them. According to Publishers Weekly, http://www.sarahskey.com/article-24703998.html the book’s publisher stepped in and had the book repackaged in trade paperback format, with a thoughtful and intriguing new cover: http://idata.over-blog.com/0/51/68/46/sarah-bis/SKUSA.jpg featuring an irresistible blurb from Augustin Burroughs. Oh, and a new price point, don’t forget that. The result? Sales leaped up to 185,000–making this book a legitimate bestseller and giving the author the happy ending she deserves. 

Need I say more? Where do I begin? With the pale re-use of an iconic image from a previous bestseller?

wonderful book, cover that did it justice
wonderful book, cover that did it justice

 With the undistinguished font? The murky colors? The ambiguous imagery and mixed message? No wonder readers overlooked this poor book. A wonderful novel deserves better, don’t you think?

But this is why I love book people. When their passion for a project kicks in, they’re willing to regroup and try again. According to Publishers Weekly,  the book’s publisher stepped in and had the book repackaged in trade paperback format, with a well thought-out and intriguing new cover and an irresistible blurb from Augustin Burroughs. Oh, and a new price point, don’t forget that. The result? Sales leaped up to 185,000 (and counting)–making this book a legitimate bestseller and giving the author the happy ending she deserves.

Soooo…I will try to post my summer reading here, but I’m very lazy about broadcasting what I’m reading, because I read so much! 

But this is a novel you won’t want to miss. Heartbreak and redemption and a little-known (to Americans) bit of WWII horror. A must for book clubs!

Ah! Success!
Ah! Success!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

| 8 Comments
  • I just read “Sarah’s Key” and still can’t get it out of my head. It missed my radar, somehow, until my SIL loaned the newest cover version to me. My heart is still aching from the story. A must read. Absolutely.

  • When I read this, I knew I did the right thing. I’m a new author and I knew my book needed a striking cover. I didn’t want any cookie-cutter images, so I had an illustrator produce it based on my concept. The result turned out great. Hopefully, it will help with marketing. But this post confirms why I made that investment. The cover is VERY important in terms of marketing. Thanks for a great post.

  • Just finished Just Breathe and was longing for a new great read. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m dragging the kids to the bookstore momentarily and will pick this one up! BTW – loved Just Breathe! Will we be seeing any of those characters again in the future??!!

    • I think you’ll like Sarah’s Key. I promise you’ll like the cover!

      I would love to do more with characters from JUST BREATHE. I’m hoping o use the setting again because it’s just so amazing. Some interesting folks, too! Thanks for the note.

  • I am not sure why, but more often that not, I buy books by their covers. If nothing else, it is the reason I will pick up a book to read the back cover. And so I found Susan Wiggs those many titles ago.

    I would never given the first cover of Sarah’s Key a second glance, but oh! the children running hand in hand with a European background??? You betcha!

    And Sara(h) is my favorite name as it is my daughter’s :o)

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