Like My Jacket? Paperback versus Hardback

This month marks the publication of the beautiful paperback edition of Lauren Grodstein’s critically acclaimed novel A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, an Algonquin staff favorite. Lauren’s suburban tragedy charts a father’s fall from grace as he struggles to save his family, his reputation, and ultimately himself. Trust me, it’s a book that will grab you from the get-go–check out the excerpt below for yourself. We’ve got two copies available for giveaway. Just leave a comment here or on our Facebook fan page to enter!

Recently, I had the pleasure of grabbing a drink with Lauren and several other Algonquin staff members in New York City. We chatted about the usual topics: top advances in the industry, James Franco’s “Three’s Company” multi-media project, favorite independent bookstores in major cities. Eventually, we got around to talking about the paperback edition of A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY.

“How do you feel about the cover?” Lauren asked us.

“For the paperback?” Kathy Pories, her editor, responded. “I’m bananas about it. Why?”

“Well,” Lauren said. “I love it. I honestly do. But I also loved the hardcover as well. I mean, you’ve got two entirely different angles here. On one hand, there’s the doctor, wading out alone into the ocean, completely overwhelmed and—“

“In over his head?” I interjected.

“Exactly,” Lauren said. “But on the other hand, for the paperback, you’ve got the next door neighbor’s alluring daughter, her face practically screaming sex with that seductive glossy mouth and eyelash-batting eyes…”

And she was precisely right. Both covers—which all of us at Algonquin love—perfectly convey the message of her suspenseful and evocative story.

Lauren’s question got me thinking. Do other authors typically like their paperback covers more than their hardback ones? What about people in the publishing industry–do they tend to favor paperback redesigns? Are readers more inclined to pick up a book (let’s pretend price isn’t a factor here) if the new cover is more appealing?

I posted the question on Twitter and heard back from another of my favorite authors I worked with, Jon Clinch. “Finn‘s cover got changed for the paperback,” he wrote. “Although the new design probably stands out better on the shelf, I think it lacks the gravity of the original.”


When I was employed at Random House, I worked on David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, one of my favorite authors as well as one of my favorite books. The hardback jacket looked like this; the paperback cover looks like this. I have to say, I’m a much bigger fan of the hardback jacket.

I once met with an author who told me that the one thing she fought for in her contract was control over the book jacket. (Granted this was nearly fifteen years ago, so I’m not sure if this is even an option for the vast majority of authors today.) I love that instead of holding out for more money, she fought for control over how her book was presented, and over how her story’s emotional content was depicted in the cover art. I guess you’ve got to choose your own battles, right?

–Megan Fishmann, Publicist

13 Comments On This Post:

November 17, 2010
10:48 am
Emily Dybwad says...

Whoever said don’t judge a book by it’s cover was wrong. We should and we do. Because aesthetics are important. It reminded me of a Seth Godin blog about book covers. The cover sells the book – because it sells the story and then word of mouth sells the book!

November 17, 2010
12:04 pm
nomadreader (Carrie) says...

I love the paperback cover of Lauren’s book too, and I’d love to enter to win a copy. I really enjoyed this post!

November 17, 2010
12:10 pm
Jim Carmn says...

Jacket images are a critical aspect of book design; authors should have as much input as possible. But I also think it’s fascinating when paper & cloth covers differ (and also enjoy seeing foreign edition differences).

November 17, 2010
12:17 pm
Janel says...

Interesting post about the different covers. I admit that the book cover sometimes is the reason I decide to read a book.

November 17, 2010
12:48 pm
Susan says...

I have to admit-I prefer the elegance of the hardback copy. I would be more inclined to pick it up as opposed to the sexed up paperback cover. It is certainly an eye catcher but on first glance I am not sure I would see it as a serious read. Both are well done-it is just a personal preference. Either way-now I want to read it!

November 17, 2010
12:52 pm
E.A. Schuman says...

Can’t resist saying that we do judge a book by its cover. I vote for thoughtful design and copy that stays true to the meaning of the book. I also think that the type of paper stock matters — a paperback book signals elegant with the right weight and feel of paper.

November 17, 2010
1:13 pm
Jane says...

I found the article about hardcover vs. paperback fascinating. Guess marketing is half the battle,even in selling books!

November 17, 2010
1:29 pm
Teresa says...

I have to admit I do judge a book by its cover. In this case, I prefer the hardback cover.

November 17, 2010
1:33 pm
Heather says...

Unless I am looking for a specific title or author, the book cover is what nudges me to pick up a book. I understand why it is done, but my pet peeve is when a book that has been made into a feature film uses scenes from the film on the cover. When I see that I always think of the phrase ‘dumbing down’.

November 17, 2010
1:39 pm
Jon says...

I would love to win a copy of this book. I have heard many great things about it. I do prefer the hardcover jacket. Thanks for the contest.

November 17, 2010
2:25 pm
Nancy says...

Interesting. I think I like the hardcover jacket best because the paperback looks too similar to several others I’ve seen recently. Red lips are everywhere since True Blood! With that in mind, I probably pick up the paperback just out of curiosity.

November 17, 2010
4:08 pm
Ruthie B says...

I ALWAYS judge a book by it’s cover! I think it makes or breaks it.

November 17, 2010
9:45 pm
Jade Poteat says...

I would love to win a copy of this book. It looks intriguing!

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