Different Iterations of the Same Book for Different Markets
The modus operandi of a publishing house had always been unfamiliar to me. Although I used to ponder on the fact that why same books are available in different covers, I paid little heed to the name and specifications of the publisher. Interestingly, it wasn’t until lately, when I got my hands on ‘Back to Work’ by Bill Clinton when I started to seriously pursue the answers to the various questions brewing inside my mind related to its publisher.
Firstly, talking about the book, Clinton in ‘Back to Work’ talks about the need of a smart government for a strong economy in the contemporary times. The fact and figures that he provides might be already known to most of the readers, yet Clinton succeeds in developing a writing style that is not only remarkable in expression but also instils a sense of responsibility among its readers. By highlighting the interdependent challenges of 21st century, Clinton tries to convince his readers on why to aspire for a stable government which can be achieved through a robust collaboration of government and private sector.
Belonging to the Democrat Party, one may find Clinton being biased towards the Republicans; however, through his astute judgement and firsthand experience, he is able to accentuate his viewpoint for he strongly abhors the anti-government narrative and insists on making America great again. Most sections of the book take the form of a ‘policy memorandum’ and advocate a variety of trade, regulatory, energy and fiscal strategies along with proposals.
The best feature of the book is the way its pages are designed. One cannot overlook the meticulous design of the pages, some of which are uneven from the edges while the rest are neatly cut. The idea of playing with the pages fascinated me a lot; this was for the first time that I came across a book whose shape of pages too had a story to tell. For after a thorough read, what I felt was the pages that talked about the problems in America were uneven ones while the pages which had prescriptions to those problems were finely trimmed.
After two weeks of finishing ‘Back to Work’, I came across the same book in a local bookstore but to my surprise all the pages were neatly cut. And so I instinctively looked for the page with the details regarding the publishers and publishing house and so what I found was very much interesting.
The book that I had with me of Clinton was the first edition, a signed copy. It was printed in 2011 by Alfred A Knopf, New York. Meanwhile, the book which I saw at the bookstore was published by Arrow Books in 2012. Although both publishers are the imprints of Penguin Random House, the diversity amidst their design is simply too much. I remember when I first saw this book, what intrigued me the most was the design of its pages which grabbed my attention and made me pick it up right away. And so, such is the ability of publishers who can make a huge difference in the way a book is welcomed or abandoned.
Chiefly, a publishing house itself is broken down into several imprints which typically have a defining character or mission. Many imprints publish only one type (or one format) of books. For example, Fireside (Simon & Schuster) publishes inspirational books and HarperPerennial (HarperCollins) publishes paperbacks. The Penguin Group (the company) has one imprint called The Penguin Press that publishes hardcover fiction and nonfiction.
Just in case you’re thinking that a hardcover and a paperback are almost same i-e cover of a book then for your clarity, let me mention; paperback book, as its name implies, has a soft card or a thick paper cover over the pages. This type of covering is less heavy but prone to folding, bending, and wrinkles with use and over time; hardcover books are characterised with a thick and rigid covering. This covering allows protection for the pages and makes the book durable and usable for a long time. Oftentimes, a hardcover book has a dust jacket, a leather or calfskin as a book covering to protect it from wear and tear.
These specifications related to publishers may seem unimportant for an average reader who’s more concerned with reading a book rather than ruminating over who published it, but for those interested in book publishing (authors, literary agents, bloggers etc) it’s significant to understand the way publishers work.
Strikingly, different publishers (while designing different covers of the same book) consider different demographic scenarios, cultural taste and market, before developing different iterations followed by a process of fine-tuning. When a book is published in different markets, the covers may change as well.
One jacket designer, Stuart Bache, says, “The gulf between British and US design has narrowed in recent years, especially in literary fiction. Traditionally, US design tended towards literal interpretation, driven by the complexity of the US market: the image that motivates readers in southern California to pick up a copy of a book is likely to be different to what appeals to readers in South Carolina. As a result, US jackets have tended to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and that does not make for good design.”
So can we say that publishers regularly change book covers to attract book buyers? Is it based on a sound marketing strategy? Like I have seen at least three different iterations of ‘Sophie’s World’ by Jostein Gaarder, which can be designed keeping in mind three different kinds of audience. Or with technology on the go, it can be said that Kindle and Ebook versions too require to be designed in a different way.
So if you plan to publish your book, keep in mind that you may create a divide among your readers through your writing and view but you surely have the margin to cheer them all through your thought through iterations of the same book!