My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead

20 Jun

Browse inside My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead on the Harper Collins US Website.

I’ve included these covers as examples the same book covered for different markets. Each cover uses the same text (Jeffrey Eugenides’ name boldly emblazoned somewhere, plus a plug for Nabokov and Munro to attract all the readerly types, and a subtitle of ‘great love stories’ to attract everyone else) but work with it in very different ways and to very different effect.

I’m personally a fan of the black, white and gold cover: it’s simple and striking (as I already mentioned in my Nineteen Eighty-four entry, I think the black and white plus one colour combo for book covers is a hard one to get wrong). It captures the whimsical yet slightly ominous nature of the book, which is a collection of love stories that are sad and happy and sometimes neither.

And then, they somehow managed to make what was a perfectly pretty cover putrid. OK, that might be strong language, but I am so not a fan of the purple, blue and gold edition (which I own and which upsets me. It’s even worse on crummy cardboard). I get that the whole colour thing is a matter of taste, and even culture (hence the different colours for different markets thing that a couple of the designers who came and spoke to us mentioned) but I just don’t think those three colours used work together at all.

The other two covers are ones I could take or leave. But, personal preference aside, I think that the image they give off is really interesting to consider. They’re all packaging exactly the same stories, but each cover gives quite a different message.

I feel like the one with the anatomical heart is very, well, anatomical. But I do think the soft colour use and the unobtrusive font help to moderate what could be an otherwise somewhat off-putting image. And I like the idea behind the image – that all the different authors are dealing with and analysing a different experience of the human heart. However, it’s an image you need to stop and look at to get the full meaning of, and I’m not sure if many people would do so. So, in terms of catching interest (which is what a book cover’s supposed to do, right?), I’m not one hundred percent convinced that this cover does its job.

The fourth cover with the paper heart is one I think delivers its message very quickly and effectively. To me it says: ‘scholarly book (maybe like something you’d be given to read in high school), well respected, probably written by someone well known and already read by lots of people’. Which isn’t hugely interesting, I’ll admit, but it isn’t intimidating or off-putting either.


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