Lessons from a great book jacket designer

2 March 2015

From The Book Deal:

The bright yellow cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is instantly recognizable.


The Wall Street Journal called the jacket, designed by Peter Mendelsund, one of the most iconic in contemporary fiction in the U.S.

Mendelsund, Associate Art Director at Knopf, now has his own new book, Cover, published by powerHouse Books. It’s a fascinating inside look at the process that goes into creating a memorable book jacket, including the opportunity to see dozens of discarded comps.

. . . .

The job of every book cover

“Jackets are expected to help sell books,” says Mendelsund. “They wheedle, shout, joke, cajole, wink, grovel, and otherwise pander in every possible way in order to get a consumer to pick up a given text.

A new book needs first and foremost to catch a browser’s eye, to stand out in some way. There are so many books published in one year and so many of their covers look alike, don’t they. I prefer ugly covers to clone covers. At least ugly covers demand a certain amount of attention.”

. . . .

Advice for self-publishing writers

Keep it simple!

“Most self-published book covers fail because they are trying too hard,” says Mendelsund. “Even design professionals fall in the trap of trying to shoehorn too much design into one composition. I often tell students, ‘your problem isn’t that you have poor ideas, it’s that you have five ideas competing on the same page at the same time.’

If in doubt, stick with typography. Make sure the typography is legible. Use your handwriting if your handwriting is decent. If not, use a font. Any tried-and-true standard face will do (Bodini, Baskerville, Garamond, Helvetica, Trade Gothic). Pick a pretty color for your background. Voila.

When you start to incorporate illustrations, photographs, etc. the amateurishness of the work begins to show. But there’s no need for any of that stuff. Many of the best book covers are simple as could be.

Link to the rest at The Book Deal

Forget Fabio: DIY Covers

22 February 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

The rapid embrace of self-publishing over the past decade has increased the competition among indie romance authors to put out professional, memorable cover designs that fit within the genre and adhere to current trends, but that stand out in a crowded market. And while the cover design process at a major publisher may involve the art department, editorial, sales and marketing, and publicity, indie authors must go it alone. We talked to a variety of authors and designers in the industry who shared their advice and observations about what’s hot for romance covers in 2015.

Before the now-iconic monochromatic Fifty Shades of Grey cover design, the romance industry was perhaps best known for its Harlequin “clinch covers” of the ’80s and ’90s, usually featuring the bare-chested model Fabio Lanzoni embracing a busty maiden. “A clinch cover—a couple engaged in an embrace, sometimes wildly passionate, sometimes sweeter—is a romance classic,” says Romance Writers of America board member and New York Times bestselling author Leslie Kelly. It’s something she predicts will never go out of style.

. . . .

But, while self-published and traditional romance covers often follow the same trends, she says that indie covers tend to “skew hotter.” “While traditionally published books are still trying to grab the passerby at Walmart or in a brick-and-mortar store, [self-]published books are typically targeted toward electronic readers,” she says, which allows readers to choose a book with a sexy cover and still read it in public without fear of being judged.

This leads us to back to the basics of cover design: where do designers get these sexy photos that grace the covers of our favorite titles, and what goes into selecting them?

. . . .

Faced with the challenge of creating a memorable book cover on a shoestring budget, many indie authors and their freelance designers turn to stock photo sites for the images they need. Sites like Shutterstock or iStock offer users a massive selection of photos that can be downloaded for as little as $12 and as much as a few hundred dollars. But, while these sites are indispensable for authors and designers creating covers on a budget, their popularity also causes some problems.

“I think the biggest challenge is avoiding the overuse of certain stock images,” indie author and graphic designer Rachel Carrington says. “You don’t want a couple on the cover that is on four other covers.” To remedy this, she says she searches specifically for images that don’t have a high volume of downloads—something that can be tough if a designer is looking to keep up with current trends.

“The problem with stock images is that many of us authors end up using the same photographs for our covers,” says Katana Collins, a freelance photographer and author of the paranormal Soul Stripper trilogy. Since the beginning of 2015, she says she’s found the stock image used for her current indie cover, Capturing You, on two other books. For this reason, she says she plans to photograph the images for her next covers herself—thereby ensuring that they’re unique.

. . . .

In terms of what’s working in the industry today, the authors and designers we talked to are in agreement: “I think simplicity does it now; it used to be that the fancier covers were the ones that really got the attention,” says Carrington, who adds that her recent clients are asking for uncluttered covers. “Nowadays, it’s cleaner lines and unique colors.” Her favorite at the moment are the monochrome covers with color used only in the title or on a part of the image. “It really draws your eye,” she says. Collins also says that, as an author and a reader, she is drawn to simple covers using a single symbolic image.

Graphic designer Hafsah Faizal says she tries to steer her clients toward simpler covers. “I think the minimalistic covers stand out the most, and I try to keep my covers minimalistic as much as possible,” she says. Using her cover design for The Body Electric by Beth Revis as an example, Faizal adds, “If the book allows it, I’ll use colors that aren’t the norm.” The novel, which she describes as “science fiction with a touch of romance” features a neon green cover with a hand-lettered font. “I also try to use fonts that aren’t regularly used, but it’s not always possible,” Faizal says. She points to typography-driven cover designs that turn the title into a work of art, citing the YA titles Shadow and the Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, and The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski, as successful indie examples of this trend.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Indie Book Covers are On The Up

28 December 2014

From author Rebecca Lang via ALLI Self-Publishing Advice Blog:

Can I just say all of these amazing book covers I’m seeing are exciting the socks off me! That good covers are becoming the norm, rather than the exception to the rule, is truly heartening.

When I first started self-publishing, good covers were few and far between. I really feel the balance has now tipped tremendously in favour of indies, and this demonstrates a high level of professionalism. I’m so pleased to be part of such a focused and inspiring group of people.

. . . .

Nearing the completion of my first self-published book, I decided to have a stab at designing the book’s cover. I had seen some covers that I really liked and set my mind to replicating a couple of them – an eye-catching tabloid-style of cover with block colours, arresting images, and a darker more academic effort.

If it was any good, I reasoned, I would have saved myself some money and added an extra string to my bow (writer, editor AND book designer!).

As it was, it really wasn’t very good at all – but at the time I thought it was Magnificent! Genius! A Work of Art!

That was until I showed a graphic designer friend Tim Hartridge who politely considered it. He never said ‘Oh sweet Jesus, this is an abomination!’, but he did design something much, much better.

. . . .

Paying for the services of a good graphic designer is part and parcel of investing in yourself, and getting your readers to invest some time in getting to know your writing.

Link to the rest at ALLI

Here’s a link to Rebecca Lang’s books

How I Gave Away Over 2,000 Books on Kindle in 3 Days Without Any Prep Work

10 December 2014

From author D.J. Gelner:

As many of you know, I co-edited an anthology of sci-fi and fantasy short stories this year with my good friend and fellow author J.M. Ney-Grimm.

The result is Quantum Zoo, a book near and dear to our hearts, and the hearts of the ten other writers who contributed excellent stories to the collection.

. . . .

You see, part of the impetus for releasing Quantum Zoo was that we wanted to get it in the hands of as many people as possible using a variety of promotional methods to see what works to promote fiction these days, and what doesn’t.

To those ends, we put the book in Kindle Select for its initial 90-day term, and figured we’d get around to setting up a free promo at some point.

Of course, life got in the way, and before I knew it, we found ourselves scrambling in September with only three potential promo days left!

J.M. and I worked tirelessly to brainstorm some ways to give more books away–after all, we didn’t want to do QZ or our fellow authors a disservice by watching a piddly 30 or 40 people download it for absolutely free!

So we came up with a gameplan that was part foresight, part improv, and a good amount of luck.

And we gave away over 2,000 books on KDP Select over the course of those three days!

. . . .

1) Get a Killer Cover

The days of “not judging a book by its cover” are long gone. For a lot of readers, a professional-looking cover is the first indication of quality in a publishing world filled with increasing amounts of people who don’t take the business terribly seriously.

. . . .

2) Choose THE RIGHT Keywords

Amazon only allows KDP authors to use 7 keywords (in addition to the keywords in the title) to promote your book in their vast search engine.

At first, it can be a daunting task–which 7 words do you choose as a new author? I remember using plot-related keywords with JWATT at first, things like “dinosaur hunt,” “Isaac Newton,” etc.

Over time, that sense of enormity has shrunken down to something more akin to “frustration.” For the longest time, it seemed like no matter which keywords I chose, there was little or no effect on sales.

In promoting Quantum Zoo, J.M. and I had a bit of an epiphany, probably spurred on in one of our brains by David Gaughran’s excellent book, Let’s Get Visible:

Make the keywords Amazon subcategories, or at least related to those subcategories.

You see, Amazon puts fiction books into a vast web of categories and subcategories. I want to say that about a year ago, they vastly increased the size of this web, with a whole bunch of new subcategories. For a while, it seemed like there was no rhyme or reason to where a given book ended up–Jesus Was a Time Traveler (JWATT) was in Time Travel, Technothrillers, and a few others for a while. Rogue ended up in “hard sci fi.”

I think it was Gaughran who advocated making these new desired subcategories keywords themselves, to ensure that your book got in the subcategories you wanted. Essentially, you get the 7 keywords, plus the 2 categories you can select in KDP, plus whatever Amazon’s algos glean from your title.

The reasoning? This is the key part of the strategy! The more categories and subcategories the book is in, the better the chance it has to appear in a given top 100 list for that category or subcategory. The more top 100 lists the book appears in, the more visible it is to people who browse those top 100 lists for their next reads.

We actually followed this strategy with Quantum Zoo–since we have a lot of different takes on sci-fi and fantasy, we have a lot of potential genres we could be in. So we listed a bunch of them out: “first contact,” “technothrillers,” etc. in addition to picking the obvious “sci-fi anthologies” as one of our Amazon genre selections.

And this is also where the “luck” portion of the strategy came in. While we recognized the utility of being in as many different genres as possible for keyword searching purposes, we didn’t understand just how important being on those top 100 lists for both paid and free purposes was until we saw the results of our promo.

The strategy definitely helped us come out guns blazing–we noticed that the higher we got on those genre top 100 lists, the more books we sold, to a point, at least.

But it’s exponentially more important to be on the top 100 lists when giving away your book for free! That’s because as a “crap filter,” even the free book hoarders will scour the top 100 lists, using them as a form of “social proof” for which books are decent, and thus “worthy” (of a free download, no less!). The more lists you’re on, the more you can put the algos to work for you, and the better the chance you have of getting downloads.

The more downloads you get, the more potential reviews you get on both Amazon and Goodreads, and the more word of mouth you might start to generate.

About a month after publication, though, when reading up on the topic a bit more, I came across the following helpful page:

Amazon Categories with Keyword Requirements

In a rare look “inside the algorithms,” Amazon essentially has given us the tools to craft titles and use keywords to drill down into some previously esoteric sub-subcategories. I’ve since tried using some of these terms in my books, and while it can take a few weeks for Amazon to index them with your book, it works.

Now that you know just how important those keywords can be, have fun looking through the list for some ideas on what words you can use to get your next book in as many different categories as possible.

Link to the rest at D.J. Gelner and thanks to Jessica for the tip.

Here’s a link to Quantum Zoo

200 Years of Jane Austen Covers

15 November 2014

From The Guardian:

It’s more than two centuries since Sense and Sensibility was first published, in three austere volumes. Things have grown rather more colourful since, with heaving bosoms, gilt-embossed curlicues appealing to different decades and demographics. Here are some of Jane’s many faces.

. . . .

1 Sense and Sensibility, Thomas Egerton (1811)


In Austen’s time, books were bound very simply in cardboard covers with only a paper label bearing the title on the spine. Private purchasers would have the books rebound to match the other books in their library, like this “half calf” rebinding of the first edition of Austen’s first book, Sense and Sensibility: the front and back were covered in mottled paper, while the corners and the spine were covered with leather, providing cheaper protection. Novels would rarely have received a full leather binding in those days, as they were not considered worth such treatment – it would have been reserved for more “serious” books, such as history or poetry.

2 Pride and Prejudice, Chapman and Hall Select Library of Fiction (1872)


By the 1860s, all of Austen’s novels were out of copyright. The rising, literate middle class, were using some of their new disposable income to buy books at railway stations. Many of these were of rather lower quality than Jane’s novels, and unfortunately these “yellowback” editions received similar lurid covers and illustrations set sometimes awkwardly in then modern days. Thus, this publisher felt that Lydia Bennet flirting with soldiers in Brighton was a representative illustration of Pride and Prejudice!

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Signing a Publishing Contract

11 October 2014

What to Do Before Signing a Publishing Contract

Column by Brandon Tietz at LitReactor

Writing a novel is damn hard. Selling one to a publisher, in its own distinct way, is even more difficult because you’re essentially convincing a company to gamble on you and your work. This is part of the reason self-publishing is booming right now. Searching for a publisher is both a hassle and a blizzard of heartbreaking rejection, so when you actually do get an offer, it’s a huge moment. So euphoric that emotion can often blind the writer to those important details on what’s on the actual contract. It amazes me how many authors took their time working on their novels only to sign a contract after skimming it once. It’s not an iTunes update, guys…read the damn thing. Here are some key things you should know before signing on the dotted line.

Who Are These People?

I will go on record and say that I have scared away authors from a publisher I went through because it was a sub-par experience. They’re out of business now, if that tells you anything. What I’m saying though is that you should know the publisher before you sign any sort of contract that binds you to them. Now I don’t recommend asking authors whether they do or don’t like the publisher while you’re querying, but after you get the offer, feel free to reach out and get a feel for how they’re handling their business. Unhappy authors are usually a good indicator that you should tread lightly.



Don’t be blinded by your contract. Signing a bad one can be the thing that ends up screwing you over for the life of the novel. Do your research, ask questions, and for the love of God, don’t be afraid to ask for changes if you don’t like something. If three author copies sound low—ask for more. If you don’t want your book assigned to a certain designer—ask for an alternative. A contract is an agreement between two parties…not one party telling the other how it’s going to be.

Read the rest here.

From guest blogger Randall

That Book cover is ugly!

6 October 2014

What Makes for a Brilliant Book Cover? A Master Explains
By Kyle VanHemert at WIRED

If you find yourself in a bookstore, Peter Mendelsund can be hard to avoid. His dust jackets wrap big-name contemporary releases like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. He’s created ingenious covers for reissues of Dostoyevsky, Kafka, and other literary giants, updating a wide swath of the canon with a striking, graphic look. Cover, a new monograph of Mendelsund’s work, showcases the designer’s uncanny talent for capturing entire books with succinct, compelling imagery—a talent that has led some to deem him the best book designer of his generation. What makes it even more remarkable is that Mendelsund started his career with zero design experience whatsoever.


On one level, dust jackets are billboards. They’re meant to lure in potential readers. For a certain contingent of the publishing industry, this means playing it safe. “The path of least resistance when you’re designing a jacket is to give that particular demographic exactly what they want,” Mendelsund explains. “It’s a mystery novel, so you just splatter it in blood, and put the shadowy trench coat guy on it, and use the right typography.” Familiarity, the thinking goes, will always sell something.

Mendelsund does not subscribe to this view. He’s said that he prefers an ugly cover to a cliche one, and looking at his body of work, the thing that holds it together is that nearly all of his jackets have something weird going on, in one way or another.


Of course, catching a potential book-buyer’s eye is only part of Mendelsund’s job. A truly great jacket is one that captures the book inside it in some fundamental and perhaps unforeseen way. As Mendelsund describes it, his job is “finding that unique textual detail that…can support the metaphoric weight of the entire book.” That, of course, requires actually reading a manuscript closely enough to A) determine the metaphoric weight of the book and B) find a handful of relevant details within it. In other words, making a great book cover isn’t just about making. It starts with understanding.


Ideally, every dust jacket is unique to the book it’s wrapped around. But the realities of the marketplace often dictate how experimental a design can be. Mendelsund will have more interpretive freedom for a small volume of poetry, for example, than he does for a hotly anticipated piece of new fiction. “If you spend a lot of money on a book or an author, then you ratchet up the scrutiny the jacket’s under a lot—a hundred fold,” he says. “If this author got a big advance, then you’re going to have to jump through some flaming hoops with the jacket.”

Take The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Such was the buzz around the manuscript that when it came time to design the jacket, there were already a chorus of voices adding their take.


The final version, sure enough, had “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in huge type. To round it out, Mendelsund did what he describes as the “dumbass thing” of echoing the title visually on the cover itself, putting the text on top of an image of… a dragon tattoo. It was the rare case in which a novel had so much momentum that the best thing a designer could do was stay out of the way. “The book was going to sell well no matter what,” Mendelsund says.

And yet, Mendelsund insists that it wasn’t the most obvious approach he could’ve taken. The design featured at least one small victory against the obvious: the bright yellow backdrop. “Up until that point, I would defy you to find a dark gothic thriller with a day-glow cover,” he says.

For another view, an indie one if I may, I found Derek Murphy

Here’s what’s wrong with Peter Mendelsund’s Book Covers
From Derek Murphy at Creative Indie

A couple weeks ago I saw an article about Peter Mendelsund’s new book on book cover design; and I scoffed. Now I just saw another article on Wired, shared by Tim Ferriss.

Peter is obviously doing the rounds (and quite well) to promote his new book. Kudos to him. Here’s the big problem: Peter’s had a luxurious career as a cover design rebranding already famous and classic works of fiction, and breakout bestsellers – amazing books – supported by a heavy media campaign and a major publisher.

He’s said that he prefers an ugly cover to a cliche one, and looking at his body of work, the thing that holds it together is that nearly all of his jackets have something weird going on, in one way or another.

Looking at Peter’s work, I agree with his own take on his design philosophy. They are all creative, potentially clever, and ugly. And that’s fine – for literary fiction appealing to high brow readers. The tragic mistake is in applauding Peter’s work as a “golden measure” for book cover design, because it absolutely will not work for most books.


You see, most authors start out with no platform and have to catch reader’s attentions. They don’t have a big media or marketing campaign. Readers aren’t going to spend more than a couple seconds looking at their cover while browsing thousands of others in the same category.

The cover has to tell readers, immediately, what the book is about and what genre it fits into.

This can’t be done by being clever or thoughtful. Nobody is going to appreciate the cognitive associations and playful visual metaphors. Not to mention that a vast majority of authors are writing popular genre fiction or non-fiction (not literary) – and while literary authors may want to adopt Peter’s style to ‘fit in’ with other literary fiction, that in itself can be accused of being cliche; in other words, books in the same genre should look similar.


I pick the cover that is going to sell the most copies – and I’ll test it out with paid advertisements if I have to (though I’ve gotten very good at knowing which will perform the best). Selling more copies is all that matters for most authors. If you have a literary career, or are a professor, and are writing a book just to make yourself look good, then sure – go for something smart and obtuse and a little hard to figure out; something most people won’t like but a few people will think is brilliant.

But if you want to make money as an author, don’t be swayed by the sirens warning you to avoid the obvious and focus on something deeper and non-representational. Don’t worry about avoiding book cover cliches. Don’t focus on being creative. Get a damn fine cover that looks professional and immediately broadcasts the right genre. It SHOULD look a lot like the other bestselling books in the same category.

After you get enough people to buy it, read it and love it, and your name is so famous that people will buy anything you write, then you can start having fun with your book cover and taking risks with the design.

I’m not saying Peter isn’t a brilliant cover designer, of course he is. Another designer I like a lot is Chip Kidd.
And I’m obviously jealous of their talents. I’m not saying I’m a better designer than they are; only that, if they had to design covers that would sell popular fiction, they would probably look entirely different – and a whole lot more like mine – than the creative samples they’ve built their careers on.


So you have to decide what kind of author you are.

1. Are you the artist, who just wants to make an amazing book, even if nobody recognizes it in your lifetime and nobody loves and understands it like you do; you get no acknowledgment until decades after you die? Or, are you writing professional literary fiction with an established marketing campaign and recognized name? Great! Your book cover is a blank canvas.

2. Do you want people to read and like your book? Do you want hundreds of reviews? Do you want to make a bunch of money so you can write full-time? Then you better make sure your book fits the conventions of bestselling books in your genre, and appeal precisely to the readers who love that genre, and broadcast the core story message, and most importantly, make an emotional connection (in away that literary book covers almost never do, being purely conceptual).

In other words, the publishing methods that apply to famous authors are not and should not be the same for unknown authors on a small budget. You need to be more careful with how you do things. Your cover needs to look like it belongs in the top 10 books in your category.

While Peter’s new book should in no way be used as a manual for commercial book cover design, as an exercise in creative thinking and design it’s definitely worth perusing.

Peters Book Cover at Amazon

Derek Murphy at Amazon

From Guest Blogger Randall

Laura Resnick on Cover Art

17 September 2014

TPV regular Laura Resnick is interviewed at Diabolical Plots:

Laura Resnick has done extensive research, including interviews with authors and art directors, on how cover art is developed and how it has a drastic affect on sales and careers. Her current artist, for the Esther Diamond series, is Dan Dos Santos, a 5 time Hugo nominee and Chesley winner.

In this interview with Diabolical Plots’ Carl Slaughter, she provides the inside story on cover art.

CARL SLAUGHTER: You’ve done extensive research on how cover art affects sales figures and author careers. Give us some examples of cover art that tanked sales and delayed careers and some examples of how cover art moved a book off the shelf and fast tracked a career.

LAURA RESNICK: An editor once cited Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters to me as an example of a writer whose career was held back for years by bad covers. Peters died last year (peacefully at home, at the age of 85) after a career which included many New York Times bestselling novels. But that success came some 20 years and many well-reviewed books into her career, and there was a noticeable shift in packaging that accompanied her well-deserved success. For years, publishers were giving her muddy, generic covers that conveyed nothing of the tone of her books, and she developed her audience strictly on her own merits via word-of-mouth, with no help at all from her dreadful packaging. Then if you look at the packaging she started getting around the mid-1990s, you can see a definite shift in quality of the covers, which accompanied her rising sales. In particular, the eventual packaging of her Amelia Peabody series (the early books, poorly packaged, were also repackaged with the new look) was a winner, and the series was commercially very successful for years (she was working on another Amelia Peabody book when she died).

. . . .

I think Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, aka the “Trueblood” series) is an example of someone who got a boost from good packaging. Harris was a longtime midlist career writer who developed the idea for the Sookie Stackhouse novels in an attempt to use her strengths as a writer to achieve the commercial success which had so far eluded her. (Obviously, she succeeded, becoming a #1 hardcover NYT bestseller with this series.) Ace Books launched the first book in the series, Dead Until Dark, with a very distinctive cover. I remember picking up that book years ago because of the cover (which was impressive packaging, since I don’t read vampire novels). Harris was doing good work on a very commercial project, but the distinctive packaging really helped that series stand out early on.

CARL: Who makes decisions about cover art and who should be making those decisions?

LAURA: At large publishing conglomerates (ex. Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, MacMillan, and Simon & Schuster), too often the people making decisions about packaging are unfamiliar with the book or the author’s work—and therefore also unfamiliar with the author’s audience, who are the people the cover needs to attract. I have even been told anecdotes by wearily amused art directors about book covers being directed by senior people in the corporate hierarchy who don’t read books and who have no art or design background whatsoever, but who, for one reason or another, want cover control. To give just one example of how truly absurd the process can get, one art director at a major house told me that for a year or two, most of that company’s major releases had red covers because the Chief Financial Officer’s girlfriend liked red, and he wanted to make her happy.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, depending on just how small a small press is, art direction may be in the hands of one person who is also editor, marketer, publisher, and business manager. This can go well if that person is brilliant at art direction—and badly if he’s not.

Link to the rest at Diabolical Plots

One Assumption

12 August 2014

From author J. Steven York:

One assumption people make of traditional publishing is that they’ll “get it right.” Unlike those stinky indie books, they’ll be well edited, well designed, and well produced. When you sign a contract with a major publisher giving away 90% of your book, you do so with the assurance that it will be well handled from there on. Your publisher will mind all the details, and would never, NEVER screw up in a way that would harm you.

Or so you’d think. But years of being around the publishing industry have shown me otherwise. Books that were sabotaged in production by departing employees, books with the wrong author name on the cover, books with huge copy-editing problems. titles that have been “fixed” in production to change their meanings, One letter typesetting errors that end up changing the entire meaning of ending of the book, terrible and inappropriate covers, it goes on and on.

But surely these things are aberrations, right?

. . . .

One [publisher mistake I saw recently] is the sort of thing you’d think editors would routinely check for: two books with the same title. To be honest, this happens all the time, and it isn’t a big deal. Titles can’t be copyrighted, and clever ones tend to get repeated by accident all the time. But when the books are in the same genre, and come out in mass-market at the same time, from major publishing houses, and both from best-selling authors (one a New York Times lister), you’d think somebody would have noticed, and at least rescheduled one of the books. But no, here was have two true crime books with the same title on the shelf right next to each other.

. . . .

Then we have New York Times best-selling author, Jeffrey Archer, and a book so badly reprinted it’s unreadable. The cover is on upside down, and the pages are in backwards as well. You can’t even read it from the back, as left and right pages are swapped as well. This book won’t be sold, or if it’s sold, it will be returned. In either case it will be “stripped,” counted as a return, and charged against the author’s royalties, even though the return is no fault of their own.

Of course, this could be an isolated production error, but we checked, and all the copies on the shelf were bound the same way. How many were shipped misprinted? Probably more than we saw here. Probably at least dozens. But it could be hundreds. Or thousands.

But, if a major publisher ships one of your books with a huge production error that makes it nearly unreadable and tanks sales, surely they’ll take some corrective action, right? They’ll slot a reprint of the book into their schedule, or at least take into consideration that the low sales aren’t your fault in considering your next contract, right?

Uh, no, you’re screwed. At least, of all the horror stories I’ve heard, I can’t think of any where the publisher came back and made it good. The book, and the author, were generally tossed aside like a wormy apple.

. . . .


Link to the rest at J. Steven York and thanks to Kris for the tip.

Here’s a link to Jeffrey Archer’s book where, if you Look Inside the trade paperback, you’ll notice the publisher couldn’t be bothered using the book that’s for sale. The first thing you see is a different cover with a lame excuse.

Penguin Marketing

8 August 2014

From the Penguin Books Facebook Page:

Celebrating 50 years of Roald Dahl’s groundbreaking #CharlieandtheChocolateFactory, we’d like to share a new edition with you. Publishing for the first time as a Penguin Modern Classic, this design is in recognition of the book’s extraordinary cultural impact and is one of the few children’s books to be featured in the Penguin Modern Classics list.

This new image for CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life, ready for Charlie’s debut amongst the adult titles in the Penguin Modern Classics series.

. . . .


Link to the rest at Penguin Books Facebook Page and thanks to Amy for the tip.

This kind of marketing genius is what you little self-pub authors can never hope to equal.

For comparison, here’s an earlier version:



PG first saw the new cover on a non-Penguin site and thought it must be a spoof.

He predicts the expression on the child model will creep out more than a few girls and boys. And adults.

Is PG the only one who is reminded of JonBenét Ramsey when he looks at that cover?

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