So I’m gearing up for the paperback release of The Department of Lost and Found, which basically doesn’t mean that much since most of the promotional push goes to the hardcover release, but one thing that will catch readers’ eyes is that I have an entirely different cover for this version of the book. At first, I was aghast. Now, I’ve changed my tune a bit. Here’s why and how the changes came about.
When the hardcover jacket (at right) was created, I was asked for my input and thoughts, and I was tremendously grateful for that. I sent over a list of books whose covers I admired, and savvy detectives might notice that as a result, The Department hardcover is a near exact blend of the covers of The Myth of You and Me and The Dive From Clausen’s Pier. The process was somewhat collaborative (from what I understand, not all writers receive this privilege), and we all declared this cover both stunning and marketable. And to me, it was. The rub was this: it was marketable, at least according to the folks at HarperCollins in hindsight, to a very specific demographic, namely, my demographic: urban, willing to pay for hardcovers, well-heeled, etc, (no wonder I loved it!) and missed the boat for a lot of readers for whom the words inside might resonate but for whom the cover did not.
Hrmph. That’s what I thought when they sent me the image of the paperback cover. (Well, I thought a lot of other things, but they’re not printable right now.)
With time, however, I’ve come not only to accept the new cover, but I’ve even come to like it…
as much as I’m going to like a cover that I probably wouldn’t grab from the shelf. Book marketing is a tricky thing – I’ve blogged about this in the past – no one is quite sure what will sell a book…and if the marketing department thinks that this image, which in my mind is very evocative of a Jodi Picoult book and which is certainly good company to keep, will do the trick, then it’s a-okay with me. Cover art, as we all know, can make or break a book. So publishers try to best match the jacket image with the demographic they’re aiming for (obviously). In this case, they want to reach moms in the Midwest and book club readers and a whole slew of folks who felt alienated by the other image. The same holds true for foreign versions: I’m certain, for example, that The Department will have a different cover in Germany, while the folks in New Zealand, who evidently have similar sensibilities as US readers, will get the trade-paperback image that you’re seeing here.
Look, as a writer, I’ve come to realize that I can only control so much. The best thing I can do is accept that there are people out there who are trying to do right by me, namely, the team at my publisher, and if it’s putting out this cover so that the words inside the book reach more people, well, that’s the whole point of this thing anyway, isn’t it? The cover might have changed but the words inside haven’t, and if this image is going to get people to sink into the novel with gusto, then, hey, I not only like the new cover, I love it.