book cover panel at the London Book Fair. Why do these books want to look alike?
When the audience posed this question, Antonia Pelari, rights director of Scholastic, did not hesitate:
As a publisher you would be mad not to put a book out there with a black and red cover. We did do a black, red and white cover (Shiver) and we did do very well.Antonia pointed towards market research in which they asked book buyers what influenced their purchase of a book. Was it a review? A poster? A blog? Inevitably the answer was: "I saw it in a bookshop".
But what about all those books for teenagers with headless girls? If covers are supposed to help a book stand out, why make them all look alike? In 2008 I blogged about the trend for headless girls. Here is a sampling of covers (by some mighty fine authors, I might add) that
Patrick Insole, art director for Walker Books, replied:
In the UK, we are genre-led. I've been responsible for a few closely cropped heads myself. Publishers want to do whatever the publishing conventions in the genre are at the time ... From (the point of view of the publisher) there is a demand for it. When booksellers (tell us), yes it’s just like the one that sold lots and lots of copies. Could (your cover) be a bit more like that one?But the product doesn't stand out ... why can't publishers try to be different? To this, Insole said ruefully, "It's scary!"
It depends on the willingness of the bookseller to take a chance on a new look. It’s quite hard to take a risk like (designing) a cover that's not like anything in its genre. You might do if you’re bold enough and you put enough effort into the marketing. (But) all too often you try someting different and it just vanishes. Then you have to rejacket it to look like everything else.Adds Antonia:
We do take risks sometimes. But risks cost. So you have to be very sure of what you are doing.