Monday, May 10, 2010

Judged by Your Covers?

There's an extremely interesting article in yesterday's Observer about the different covers given to the same book in different countries - and a fabulous colour spread which, in the print edition, makes you so glad of the day our newspapers took to colour!

The difference in designs is staggering - Everything Is Illuminated represented in France by a man fondling a woman's breasts, for godssake (?!). Perhaps the most interesting point is that, according to designers interviewed, in both Europe and the US there's less of a sense of the need to hide 'literariness' - covers for literary fiction in Europe are plainer because literary fiction sells better than in the UK, and in the US 'literariness' is deliberately and proudly flagged. What a philistine lot we are in Britain, and no wonder Nick Clegg got it in the neck after claiming a fondness for Beckett!

On the other hand, one commentator believes that there's no real need for these geographical differences, and that it all comes down to 'bloody-mindedness' and pride.

9 comments:

litrefs said...

For "Legend of a Suicide" the US and UK covers were different, but also on the UK back cover, front-flap etc I think they suppressed any hint that it was a story collection, leaving me thinking it was a puzzling novel. According to some UK reviewers this is because UK readers are anti-short-story.

Michelle Scott said...

This was very interesting, especially since yesterday I finished Foer's book "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.". This sounds terrible, but I hated the cover and probably wouldn't have read the book if my friend hadn't said how good it was (I loved it!)

Here in the US, I think that the cover of the book you read is a status symbol. People like literary covers because it shows they're intelligent.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Very interesting, Michelle, re literary covers in the US.

Mike French said...

So us literary types should really be targeting the French market?

Damn, now I've got to get my whole novel translated. Anyone know any good French agents?!

fiona glass said...

I watched a tv programme about this a couple of years ago and that claimed that US covers were more conservative than in the UK, with designs still current that we'd have stopped using a good few years before that.

The examples they showed certainly seemed to bear out their argument but whether they were very selectively chosen I'm not sure!

Elizabeth Baines said...

This certainly makes me want to check it out - very interesting! (I could become quite geeky over this!)

Elizabeth Baines said...

Tim - sorry missed your comment previously! Depressing implications for us UK short story writers...

Literary Kitty said...

That French cover for Everything Is Illuminated was absolutely bizzare! I can't even begin to fathom what the designer was going for!

Interesting that the European market for literary fiction is a lot less competitive than here.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Someone on the Guardian Books website commented that, since much of EII is set in 19th century stetl Lithuania (I think) the artist had appropriately chosen a design based on Chagall's paintings. Fair enough, but the fondling of the woman's breasts...?!!