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Which would YOU rather read?


Personally, I find the ARC cover more to my liking (and truer to the story), and the final art makes the book look like it’s about an angel who moonlights as a stripper. But then, I’m not a fourteen-year-old girl.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Really liked the ARC cover–especially the unnaturally long fingers–but fel the hardcover was pandering more to the paranormal romance crowd. Very deceptive, I think.

  2. Obviously you’re not a fourteen-year-old girl, Roger, but you were once a fourteen-year-old boy and might not have wanted to carry that finished book around in public. I don’t understand why anyone would deliberately make a YA cover that only girls might want to hold (and as a former fourteen-year-old girl I have objections even to that notion). This is not even the most extreme example of this perplexing marketing trend.

  3. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    But Elizabeth, publishers care more about total number of copies sold than they do about the genders of the readers. So if a sexy-angel cover can rope in 20,000 purchasers who are in the main female, that’s better than a lowkey, mysterious cover that might rope in half as many, regardless of gender. This is of course not taking into account the blowback from readers who discover that it’s NOT a sexy-angel book!

  4. Agreed, Roger, that this is the publisher’s goal, and it’s certainly the story that gets bandied about. But for me (Elizabeth “Show Me the Numbers” Fama) the key is that no one is doing any marketing studies to prove that your premise is true. It’s interesting to me that covers are so crucially important to sales, but no actual economic research is going into the study of what sells, and to whom. It sometimes seems that cover trends are all gut-instinct and sound bites that marketing and sales from multiple publishers pass to each other in a loop.

  5. I’ve always preferred the long-fingered, Lena cover to the other one, but I understand why they did the other one. As someone who wants as many books as possible to sell, however – both for myself, hopefully someday, and for Maureen, I suppose I’d go with the sexy angel too!

  6. As the author, I found the cover journey very interesting. They’re both beautifully executed. Each sets up different expectations. Should a cover be a promise to the reader? A clue to what they will find in the pages? I’d love to see some marketing research. It seems that the tide might be turning with some of the 2013 books—less girly covers.

  7. To Elizabeth Fama and the other commenters here, I appreciate the emotion and passion for books that is driving this conversation. We are all book lovers. I want to comment on a few things in particular. One, while I personally prefer the ARC cover, I do not think a boy is any more likely to carry that cover around than the 2nd one. Two, I think we much more often have the opposite problem from what you’re speculating about here–we, and other publishers, often work to make a jacket of a book that will be much more popular with girls than boys “Gender neutral.” The Hunger Games and Divergent, as two examples, are books with a girl heroine that do not feature that heroine on the cover, and I suspect these were deliberate “gender neutral” cover strategies. Three, publishers aren’t passing our hunches and gut instincts to each other, we are coming up with cover designs that we really like, and then, if it’s a book we want good retail sales for, taking that cover to the Barnes and Noble buyer. If the buyer says “I won’t take the book with that jacket” or “I need something that looks less like horror and more like sci fi” we take that feedback very seriously. I cannot speak to the book in question, but at Egmont USA, where I am publisher, we have completely redone jackets when Barnes and Noble asked us to because we had a book we were sure teens would like, and we wanted them to support it. (And I *usually* gave them the benefit of the doubt that they probably knew what they were talking about–after all, they have a stake in the book’s success, too.) And while B+N may not have done economic studies, they do have a lot of experience about what works in their stores. And since they are the only national chain, they have a great deal of influence with publishers. None of us love this process, believe me, but I hope it sheds a bit of light.

  8. My daughter read THE PECULIARS with its ARC cover and preferred it to the final cover. She said it reminded her of the Harry Potter covers, with details in the artwork revealing plot points the reader uncovers along the way. However, as a ten-year-old, she’s a little younger than the book’s target market. Perhaps the cover’s appeal to someone her age is why it was changed. The final cover is more mature and has undeniable shelf appeal.

  9. Thanks for this in-depth response, Elizabeth. Oh my gosh, I did NOT want to seem to be questioning the expertise, skill, and passion of the design departments. I’ve watched the incredible energy that goes into making covers, and the love for the actual books themselves by everyone involved. But being a numbers person, I’m advocating that the industry invest in some data gathering and quantitative analysis to try to answer some of the questions about how design interacts with marketing and reader perception. I genuinely think it’s missing in this business, and I’m not sure why it is, since there are so many dollars at stake and so many consultants in the world.

    I perk my ears up when you say, “I do not think a boy is any more likely to carry [the ARC] cover than the 2nd one,” (and even Mari’s comment, “The final cover has undeniable shelf appeal”) because that’s exactly the sort of question that might be answered through data or focus groups, rather than instinct. And if HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT had gender-neutral covers and did phenomenally well financially, wouldn’t that also work for other books that have elements of action, adventure, mystery, thrill, or horror? (I’ll add Marie Lu’s LEGEND cover to the mix). All of those designs, to me, had this message in common: “This book has action, not just romance.” But don’t take my word for it that that’s the message…ask teenage boys in a controlled research setting!

  10. I find the ARC cover more compelling because it looks different from other current YA covers. I suspect the fact that I’m not on the hunt for read-alikes puts me outside the target audience far more than my post-teen age.

  11. Elissa Gershowitz Elissa Gershowitz says:

    Weird goblin hands over sexy angel wings, no question.
    At least it’s not the jacket for My Book of Life by Angel. Now *that* would be inappropriate.

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