Pub Rants

Cover Tweaks for HOTEL ON THE CORNER

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STATUS: Blogging next week might be erratic but I’ll try and hop on to give you the scoop from all my meetings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CARUSO by Paul Potts

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of sharing the cover for Jamie Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, which releases on January 29, 2009.

Often AREs go out with a plain cover (sometimes blue paper) but RH did the galleys with the actual color cover. Lots of AREs were mailed out for early reviews, feedback, bookseller comments, etc. Now based on that feedback, Random House decided to do a few tweaks. Now I find the whole cover process fascinating so I thought you readers might as well.

For HOTEL, RH decided that the maroon filigree was a bit too heavy and de-emphasized the title. They wanted the title to be more prominent and in bigger font.

So, here’s the original cover.

Here’s the final cover with the tweak.

55 Responses

  1. Deaf Brown Trash Punk said:

    i really like BOTH covers, but the 1st cover feels a little more South Asian cos of the twirls and the dark red color, lol. the 2nd cover feels more Westernized.

    sounds weird, huh? but thats just me

  2. DebraLSchubert said:

    I have done marketing and design for a living for over twelve years, and I much prefer the first cover. The maroon border is quite beautiful and different, and drew my eyes in to read the title, and then down to the people walking with umbrellas. Very intriguing. But, then again, different preferences are what makes the world go ’round! Good luck with the book. It looks quite interesting.

  3. Lehcarjt said:

    I actually like the first one better. It has ‘pop’ whereas the second is much more bland. And in the first, the light colors of the couple seem highlighted (and more intense) because the red is so dark. This gives it a much more romantic feel than the second cover.

    Still, both are beautiful. Best wishes for the author. I’m looking forward to this coming out.

  4. Ray Rhamey said:

    What does the acronym “ARE” stand for? I’m familiar with ARC for Advance Review Copy, but haven’t seen ARE.

    Thanks for all you do.


  5. jnantz said:

    The title/subject matter still doesn’t suit me, personally, but I remember when you posted that initial cover page.

    I hated it. Know why?

    Bingo. It looks MUCH cleaner and more interesting now. I still wouldn’t pick it up for me, but I might at least reach for it to check the jacket copy and see if my wife might like it now.

    I know that seems a silly difference, but it is what it is. Much better now.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Hey Kristin,

    I’m a longtime reader, and occasional commenter, but figured I’d weigh in, since my background is in graphic design.

    Either cover is really lovely, and I get RH’s point in removing the filigree to emphasize the title, but I really miss the subtle flourishes in the bottom corners and the more saturated color in the old version. The bigger, bolder title works well, but I think the pendulum swung a little too far in muting the imagery.

    Oh well, either way, it’s a really attractive cover, and I’m looking forward to reading the book! Congratulations to you and Jamie!

  7. beth said:

    Wow…I am clearly not destined to design book covers. I like the original MUCH better! But it seems that whenever any editor/agent posts something like this, I always make the opposite decision of the pros. Clearly, I should stick with the inside of the book instead of the outside.

  8. Anonymous said:

    I loved the original cover… but I love love love this one! Would definitely pick up just beacause it’s so beautiful.

    Congrats Jamie!!

  9. Nancy D'Inzillo said:

    While I like the filigree, from a marketing perspective I think they made the right choice. The title is much more apparent this way, and is more likely to catch a reader’s eye from the bookshelves. (I’m a grad student earning my MA in Publishing right now, so I find this fascinating too.) Thanks for the insider view.

  10. Heather said:

    The final cover definitely looks better. Kristin, can you give us some insight as how the cover of books are designed? Who actually does the design? Do they read the book before they do so? Does the author ever have any say? Thanks!

  11. Polenth said:

    In some ways it’s a pity, as the maroon flowers looked good. But I can see why they wanted the title to stand out. It does fade into the background in the first one.

  12. Pepper Smith said:

    I like the second one better. The first one feels top-heavy with all that dark color on top, and I really didn’t notice the title because the filigree was a bit overpowering. The second is much cleaner.

  13. Chris Bates said:

    I like both, although I can see the reasoning behind #2.

    I also like the fence touch-up in the second – far less busy.

  14. Deb said:

    The filigree in the original cover gave it something special, IMO. The second cover is more bland. At least they kept some of the filigree’s theme in the white element to the right of the title.

    Goes to show there’s no way to please everybody.

  15. Anthony said:

    Excellent use of space on the revised version. From a flow perspective, your eye goes from the top-left corner, to the top-right (catching the title), then to the bottom-right and travels to the bottom-left (catching the author’s name).

    A vast improvement over the older version. The designer/design team seemed almost too enamored with their artistic flare, and subscribed to the “less is more” theory based on the feedback for the revision. The look is clean with both an emphasis on title/author and the art of the cover itself.

    Someone earned his or her paycheck! Thanks for posting the two.

  16. NaeNaeSmiles said:

    I really loved the first cover. It had that nostalgic feel which actually emphasized the title. If I saw the two titles in a bookstore, the muted colors would not immediately grab my eyes. Still, the second is still sweet for what it is. Thanks Kristin!

  17. Theo Lynne said:

    As another reader whose background is in Graphic Design, I have to say that I like the first cover better as well. I agree that the red of the filigree is overpowering the title, I don’t think that it should have been lost altogether. The filigree’s color could have been tweaked and the font of the title made a little heavier and it would have solved the problem.

    The second cover isn’t bad, I’m glad that they still used scroll work as a design element, but to be honest, the first would have caught my eye and made me turn the book over and the second reminds me of something I may watch on Lifetime, which is fine, but not something I’d pick up.

    That being said, from what’s been discussed of the book in your previous posts I’m actually really looking forward to it!

    Thank you for posting these cover evolutions, it’s something that fascinates me as well and I love seeing how things have evolved. As someone who is always learning, I find this sort of post invaluable in my GD.

  18. Anonymous said:

    Anon 1:25 really nailed my opinion on the matter, too. I think the muted colors go a little too far, and I largely prefer the font in the first one. The second is a bit too…sweet, to take a word from the title. I miss the form and placement of the first filigree. 🙁

  19. Kristin Laughtin said:

    While I think the filigree on the first cover a lot, I think it does distract from the title. Maybe even making it a few shades lighter would have helped. But overall, I agree that the title needed to be emphasized, and the second cover better accomplishes that purpose.

  20. Marian said:

    I like the second cover. It seems less… busy… and as other have pointed out, with the flowers gone, there’s much more emphasis on the title.

    Thanks for these posts, by the way – it’s great to have an insight into how much thought and work goes into designing the best possible cover for a book.

  21. Kate Messner said:

    Love the final cover!

    Confession time: I actually snagged the old one off of Jamie’s blog so I could talk this book up to some NYS English teachers in my historical fiction workshop last month. They’re really looking forward to this one- and so am I!

  22. GEORGIAM said:

    I prefer the first one, and it is most definitely because of the brighter colors. I can understand why they would want the title to be more eye catching, but they could have probably accomplished that in other ways…I really do think that the title isn’t the very first thing that attracts someone when browsing, even if it seems to be. Besides, everyone will read the title of a book, even if it doesn’t “scream” to him from miles away.

  23. Anonymous said:

    When I saw the first cover I thought, “Wow, I’d like to read that book,” and when I saw the second cover I thought, “That’s not a book for me,” and I’m a guy. The first cover is the best. I’ll probably buy it because of you and the blog, but otherwise I would have considered the first and not even touched the second.

  24. Haste yee back ;-) said:

    No, No, and Hell NO! I like, and would use, the first cover…

    In every design something has to win. Otherwise you have stasis – a feeling of no movement. Visual movement is GOOD! The filigree wins, draws your eye in and lo and behold you read the Title… Then your eye lazily and with pleasure takes in the picture below. IMHO…

    Now, you can criticize my sense of design, or lack thereof, at…

    Haste yee back 😉

  25. Anonymous said:

    Yep, RH made the right decision for the right reasons. If you close your eyes, all you see is the filigree and not the title. Not wild about the titling on the new cover, but I think it’ll stick with the customers better.

  26. Ruth said:

    I like the cover much better – that was my immediate reaction. Looking at it again, I’m not so sure why, since I do prefer the more saturated look and the title font of the first cover (although not the filigree, which I feel overpowers the whole cover a bit). The second cover does look a lot blander. But also, on first glance, just more attractive.

    In my humble opinion. 🙂

  27. green_knight said:

    For me, most of the first cover works better – the saturation, the solour scheme, the way the eye travels, the overall feel of it.

    The point about the title is a valid one – it’s a very long title and needs to go somewhere.

    I think the second cover is overcorrecting, though – some of the feel of the title is lost – it appears altogether more modern and loses, well, the romanticism.

    If keeping the layout, I would have opted for a more elegant font, but I think I would also have added some of the ornamentation into the top corners.

  28. karen wester newton said:

    I agree the the first cover looks vaguely Asian, and if the story is not at all Asian I think it hurts the book to have a misleading cover. The best cover is the one that sells the most books AND makes people feel like they got the book they expected to get.

  29. Anonymous said:

    From a marketing perspective, the original cover is more ‘beautiful’ but the second does the job better in emphasizing the title. However, the second cover appears more ‘washed out’ than the first…just a bit more color (perhaps in the flowers)would have given it more ‘punch’ in my opinion.

  30. Alison R. said:

    huh. i really, really loved the first cover. i would pick it up in a bookstore, but i wouldn’t bother with the second version.

    coming up with book covers is certainly an interesting process!

  31. Suzanne said:

    The original cover caught my eye, because of the maroon filigree…it gave the cover a vintage look.

    The second cover is less ‘arresting’ to the eye, but still beautiful.

  32. Tish Cohen said:

    I actually LOVE both covers and would pick up the book either way if I knew nothing about it and saw it on the shelf. But since I know a bit about it and am wildly excited to read it, I’ll be buying it regardless!

  33. Elizabeth Stark said:

    I love the new cover. (The old was nice, too.) I am a reader, writer and editor, not a graphic artist, but I can really picture the stack of books on a table in front of the store, the display in the window. I think it is important to consider the way the image will play in its context, not just on the screen. I think the simplicity of the second allows the reader to come away with a more concrete sense of the story–or a suggestion of it, anyway. Most importantly, though, will be Jamie’s talent and the story that’s inside. Anyone who wouldn’t read a book because of its cover (isn’t there an old proverb there?), probably wouldn’t read it in the first place.

  34. Starstruck said:

    I’ve always wondered why they put “a novel” on books, as though it could possibly be something else. “A kitchen sink” maybe?

    Count me as someone who prefers the second one. A bit less colourful, yes, but the shadows aren’t nearly as dark, and the title stands out much more. The flower filigree is kept just enough to have the feel of an old wallpaper pattern.

  35. Linnea said:

    Interesting to see both. The second cover lets the title pop but I love the filigree on the first. If it was toned down a bit but still there you’d retain more of the oriental feel, although the lacy white of the tree leaves on the right helps some. Can’t please all the people all the time, though, so you have to go with your gut.

  36. Sue said:

    I like the first– As somebody else pointed out, it has a vintage quality to it- and I’m all about vintage.

    Both are nice, but the first one stands out more (IMO)

    Love the title too!

  37. Andrea Blythe said:

    Interesting. As a reader, I am more drawn to the cover with the maroon. I’m instantly drawn to that one. Though both covers are beautiful and the title itself is certainly enough to catch my interest.

  38. Madeleine said:

    I feel ashamed of myself. I’m the kind of person who adores book covers, and I never noticed the two copies of “Bittersweet” that I read looked different. I originally read my friend’s old ARE copy and then bought my own to be signed. I never noticed they were different, but, then again, I never looked at them side by side.

    I prefer the old cover, actually, I love the maroon design. But the white’s pretty, too… I suppose I like both.