12 February 2010

Paperback Upgrade/Downgrade: Zoe Heller and Arthur Phillips

Two books I really liked from last year just came out in paperback. I'm going to give my (non-artist, non-sales department) opinions and you tell me which you like better.

First case: Zoe Heller's THE BELIEVERS. This cover is based on the British edition and I like it just fine:

But the paperback is definitely an upgrade:

I was scanning the H-shelf at a bookstore and this jumped right out at me. It alludes cleverly to the subject matter -- a family in the '00s of which the parents were '60s radicals -- without being obvious or spoilery. And the book opens in a townhouse much like this one. Is it possible the designer actually read the book? That's... splendid! (I don't know if they always can or do -- if anyone with insider knowledge wants to chime in...)

Second case: Arthur Phillips' THE SONG IS YOU. The hardcover design is a bit vague but the black-and-white photograph with the blue are pleasant:

And here it is in paperback:

What's so bad about it? Well, I'm still not a fan of the font, but I couldn't help noticing this cover illustration is a slightly altered photo of Arthur Phillips. I recognized it right away -- see? (Don't know why I remembered it, but carry on.)

I mean, he must have signed off on it, and I doubt anyone in a bookstore would care. But is this going to be part of the writer's job now as well? Are there not models for that?

Bonus cover: While looking up the UK cover for THE BELIEVERS I spotted the across-the-pond paperback redo for Joseph O'Neill's NETHERLAND, whose derivative design I wrote about last year. Behold:

Definite upgrade. I know some people find that tilt-shift work unbearably twee, but I am not one of them yet.


Wade Garrett said...

I love the new cover of Netherland. Its probably better than the cover of the original hardback. Most paperbacks seem to have worse art than the hardcovers, which is strange, because given a second chance you'd think they'd be more likely to get it right. Worst-case scenario, just keep the original artwork!

Ellen said...

But if they keep it, the designers for the paperback imprint aren't justifying their existence, so they have to at least slap a seal on one corner to prove they're doing something.