28 February 2008

Save Ferris (from a bad cover)

Joshua Ferris' first novel THEN WE CAME TO THE END had one of the best covers I saw on books last year. Whimsical, eye-catching and clever, it referenced the book's content -- a tale of coworkers at a failing ad agency -- without drawing it out. Witness:

Unfortunately, someone decided when it came out in paperback this week that it ought to look more like an airport self-help book:
I'm okay with the cartoons even though I'm pretty sure there was no Olive Oyl character, but the red letters scream, and the red and the yellow just don't look good together. If I had a better command of Photoshop, I would try to transform the red letters into black, but for now, just pretend. What's really odd about this is that the website for the hardcover release picked up on the book's cover with a charmingly lo-fi handwritten design; the site has been redesigned, which I think was a smart choice (and I like the cubicle map) but it seems like a lot of trouble.

My sense of injury was compounded when, while seeking for images to illustrate this point, I ran across the British hardcover and paperback covers. The hardcover is a much muted version of the American paperback:

That retro-flyer font is nice. But get a load of this paperback!!

A miniature office layout. I love it! Granted, it wouldn't make me buy the book alone (I got it from the library, and got a copy for Christmas from my dad), but it's just a little more whimsical. I can see someone picking it up to study the drawings, which are smaller, and potentially walking out with the book.

Cover redesign woe: It happened to Alice Munro last year, and I said nothing, because I actually liked the paperback cover, and I didn't think that Munro necessarily needed a somber-toned cover to distinguish her from chick lit. But tell me, when was the last time you saw a book cover and thought, "Not that I'm judging... but what's wrong with it?!"

Images: US hardcover pulled from Slushpile, US paperback from Barnes and Noble; British hardcover from Waterstones, British paperback from Credo.


Jess said...

I find this fascinating. I never paid that much attention to book cover transformations between hardback and paperback. I didn't even realize it really happened. But you are so right that it changes the feel of a book dramatically.

heidikins said...

Fascinating! Too bad those middle covers were ever conceived... the post-its and the cubicles are brilliant!


Emily said...

i actually don't mind the american version that much. but the british paperback is the best. the british hardcover looks too much like a coca-cola ad.

bookchronicle said...

I must admit that I hated Ferris' hardback book jacket. While the softcover isn't much better, I definitely was not a fan of the Post-it notes.