Friday, January 12, 2007

Paperbacks, Bumpy and Shinny

Tobias Buckell also gives us some kudos. That makes the day go by with a smile.

It's a
good excuse to talk about why paperback back books look different then their hardcover littermates. Basically, a tremendous amount of paperback books are not bought in bookstores. They are bought in supermarkets, pharmacies, airports, or, as the ads say, "wherever books are sold." People don't often go to these places to seek out a particular book, they go there to buy toilet paper, aspirin, and to catch a plane. So, we need to grab someone's attention away from their primary task...being toilet paper, aspirin, and death defying air travel. Anything with a bit more glitz has a better chance at this. The type gets bigger, the quotes get more emphatic, and if it's a book we are really trying to push, the type gets, as Toby put it, bumpy and shinny...otherwise known as foiled and embossed. Occasionally we will even do what's called a die-cut. That's when you print two covers, the outer one with a little hole in it to reveal a detail of the inner cover. I find the popularity of die-cuts comes and goes, they are very costly and often get damaged in shipping.

Of course, we will occasionally do a more radical redesign and change all of the artwork. Typically this means we either missed the mark on the hardcover or we feel that the design was fine for a hardcover but simply cannot compete against other paperback books.

I should have been singing the praises of Tor's paperback team, Seth Lerner, Mass Market Art Director, and his assistant (and The Art Department reader/commentator) Pablo Defendini. They do an awesome job. Tor has been producing more and more paperback originals with the start of our paranormal romance line. Their job keeps getting harder and they keep rising the challenge. I'll make a point to show off some paperbacks soon.

Cover art by Todd Lockwood


kaolin fire said...

Very nifty to see the comparison like that. I'm learning my chops on e-books, and they're worse than paperbacks for needing to GRAB SOMEONE'S ATTENTION.

Tracy said...

who did the cover art?

Irene Gallo said...

Kaolin - The phrase that was always thrown at me was, "We gotta stop the shopping cart!" I guess we'll need a new adage for these internet days.

Tracy - Todd Lockwood. Thanks for the catch, I just updated the post to say so.

Tracy said...


Thanks. I never would have guessed that as being done by Todd. It has such a great Brandywine period feel of Pyle or Wyeth.

It is great to see something more besides the super slick stuff.



Nathan Long said...

Silly me. I never buy hardbacks, and so I tend to forget they exist. All this time I thought the covers you have been showing were paperback covers.

I didn't even realize there were different art directors for hardback and mass market. Doh!

Jack Ruttan said...

I wonder if the 1980s counts as the high point of laser-etched, die cut, double-covered (whatever you call it when there's another double-spread illustration inside the front cover), gimmicked to a fare-thee-well mass-market paperbacks?

Hope someone collected them, but I think they'll never be as well-loved as the pulps and PBs with good illustrators.

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