Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Book Cover Face-Off: United States vs. France

As an author, I always notice book covers, partly out of professional interest and partly out of curiosity. I imagine the work that went into it and guess why they made certain choices with images, font, etc.

Book Cover Face-Off: United States vs. France

As a reader, I spend much less time looking at a book's cover. You've got about 2 seconds to impress me before I'm out of there. I receive 4 daily emails with ebook recommendations and I don't have time to read the descriptions for each one. I scroll through the email and if a book cover catches my eye, I'll read more about the book. With all the info out there (and how many more important things I have to do, like drool over brownie recipes on Pinterest) I just can't devote more time than that.

I'm not alone. According to this article, shoppers only spend 8 seconds looking at a book's cover. Which means now more than ever, with 800 new books entering the US market every day and 115 in France, a book cover really needs to stand out.

Unfortunately, France didn't get the memo.

Book Covers for Top 6 Books in US and France

Compare these two lists on Amazon for the category "Most Wished For":

United States: Overall, these covers are good. Flash Boys could benefit from a different font treatment and the Divergent series is hard to judge since the image is small, though you can see the stand-alone Divergent book cover is quite nice.

France: Yawn. I wouldn't pick up a single one of these in a book store.

Book Covers for the Same Book in Both Markets

Now compare a few American book covers that have been changed for the French market:

Confessions of a Shopaholic (US)

Confessions of a Shopaholic (FR)
Confessions of a Shopaholic: Not that the US version is a perfect 10, but the French one is worse. Why change it if you're not going to make it better?

A Clockwork Orange (US)

A Clockwork Orange (FR)
A Clockwork Orange: The French cover is a tame, boring version of the original. It's not like the original is shocking or offensive. Why change?

Catch-22 (US)

Catch-22 (FR)
Catch-22: This doesn't even come close. Not to mention that the Catch-22 cover is a classic! Say it with me now: why change?

The US-to-France cover conversion has to do partly with international rights, which in my brief research (see above note about spending too much time on Pinterest) seems to vary by publisher. But it also is an intentional choice to appeal to the markets' differing tastes. It's mind boggling to me why anyone would prefer these boring French covers to the American covers.

So what's going on?

Boggle no more! Author Adria J. Cimino has uncovered the reason:
"There are some French publishing houses and collections that feature illustrated covers similar to those found in the U.S., but they don't represent an overwhelming majority.

As I looked at the sea of plain book covers at the recent Paris Book Fair, I knew there had to be a reason for packaging the written word in such a way. Covers in white, ecru, pale yellow or even red. Decorated only with the titles and names of authors and publishers.

So I decided to do a bit of research. First stop: Les Editions de Minuit..." Read More
Hop over to Adria's blog to read the rest of her post. You'll be surprised to find out the reason French covers are so plain, at least to American and British eyes. It's more logical than you would think... so check it out!

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Escape to Paris

Vicki Lesage, Author