Thursday, February 28, 2013

Changing book covers and collectors angst

I was intrigued today when Twitter erupted into outrage after another long time series launched a new set of covers starting with the last book.  In a world of closing book stores and worries over hardcover book sales it has become common to change the look of a series for marketing purposes.  Much has been said over the past couple of years, as this has become more and more common practice.  Avid collectors, those who like a pretty matching series on their shelves (like me) hate it, some could care less, and some are so vehemently against this practice they apparently stop buying the series in "protest", and one librarian on twitter mentioned she found it challenging because students didn't recognize the books as being part of a series.

Although I can't imagine punishing an author whose work you enjoy by vetoing their books, I think the uproar on Twitter indicates there's a problem with this type of re-merchandising.  And in a world where publishers and book sellers are looking for new ways to become profitable, it seems like it would be a small leap to come up with a soluble solution to this problem.  Victoria Schwab (The Near Witch, and The Archived) suggested reversible covers, with the new on one side, and the old on the other.  I suggested downloadable covers, ones you could go have professionally printed to recover your precious hardcover, and others had thoughts on maybe saving the re-branding for paperback series or the option of different covers when you buy your book.

Obviously there could be a myriad of issues with each of these suggestions, since none of us actually work in the marketing departments in publishing (some of which were pointed out by Alexandra Bracken, author of The Darkest Minds, who does work on both sides of the pub world), however it seems like an intriguing, and unexplored area that has income potential.  Both magazines and comics have been making extra money off of collectors for years with collectable covers.  Granted hard cover books are somewhat more expensive then single issue comics or magazines, but the industry is full of the same type of avid collectors (as this entire argument highlights!), so it can't be impossible to make money off of such a venture.

What I especially wonder, is if some kind of special collectors solution can't be worked out with book stores.  Look at series' like Cassandra Clare's who now regularly has a whole variety of special editions that are negotiated with specific book sellers, and which cause a stir among fans who want one of each of them, and go to great lengths to purchase a copy from each of the sellers.  Imagine if independent book stores could be the unique sellers of short run alternate cover options for books?  With some kind of negotiated deal between publishers and bookstores where the publisher designs the covers and the book store prints and stocks them according to pre-order or popularity?  Can you imagine the furor from fandoms if an author could tweet photos of a variety of covers, each uniquely available at a particular independent book store?

As an avid lover of books, libraries and book stores, I love the idea of co-operative solutions that would help to save all of them.  Nothing makes me sadder then when I hear about the waves of book store closures, library cuts in funding and publishing houses that are either merging or folding.  My house is full of shelves and shelves of books, and it was my personal agenda growing up to eventually have a library in my house.  I can't imagine a world without book stores, libraries and physical books. So this is my challenge to you, readers, publishers, booksellers, lets find a way to work together for success, if you hate the rebranding of your beloved books, then instead of raging about it, lets brain storm solutions.

As readers, what would you spend money on if given the option, when it comes to covers for your books?


  1. I know which new covers you are talking about.. I am really annoyed because they changed it when two books are already out.. I mean, I am NOT going to waste money and buy the two books again.. I feel that buying cover jackets separately will make ALL readers happy, new and old. I know I would be. I do hope that the publishing companies and their marketing teams are aware of this problem and they think of ways to fix it.

    great post!
    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

  2. I would spend money on the reversible covers as well as different covers being sold at different bookstores because I also wanted to create a library in my house, and that will be considerably harder if bookstores keep closing their doors. Maybe as a way of drawing readers into the problem, there could also be cover design contests, to give the fans a chance to design the covers of their favorite series.

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