Why UK Publisher Riverrun Created 4 Book Covers for Kate Reed Petty’s Debut Novel “True Story”


While the US and UK editions of the new books often have different covers, one rarely has four mini-covers. This is exactly what happened with the UK edition of the first novel True story through Kate reed small, to be published by river, an imprint of Quercus; Viking will release the US version. Both editions will be released on August 4, 2020 and the covers have been designed independently of each other by the respective country’s publisher.

The UK cover shows four different possible covers, all sharing a space, while the US cover features a single image and a quote from The idiot The blurb by author Elif Batuman reading “Stunning, turning the page, impossible to put in place”.

The final UK version features each of the four surprisingly different covers working together, the layout as if four books were arranged on a table. Looking at them while ignoring the cover text would lead you to think the books were four different titles, one featuring a neatly styled prom queen holding flowers against a pale blue background, the other featuring a styled image. horror of a spooky house, another a car outside a well-lit building with a 1950s vibe, and the last a striking image of a woman in a white shirt against an off-white background. The title and author’s name appear on each in different fonts.

In addition to the unusual approach to cover art, riverrun printed 2,000 galleys, known as proofs in the UK and ARC (read-ahead copies) in the US; for a normal literary start, they print 200 or less. In the United States, Viking printed 3,000 galleys. These are traditionally sent to the press and booksellers to create an early buzz for a title.

For the UK cover, Bethan Ferguson, marketing director for Quercus, Riverrun and MacLehose Press, said the imprint considered “conventional options,” but went with all four covers due to the nature of the text. “True story is a brilliant, genre-defying novel about rape, memory, and the nature of truth; we wanted the cover to honor and convey that, ”Ferguson told me. “This book deserved a bolder approach to the cover design. It just felt like we picked something that showed it was a book playing with the idea of ​​who can tell the story and how. That’s what’s really special about this book, and so that’s what we wanted for the cover. I’ve never seen this approach before and think it’s very fresh and different.

Ferguson said the process of designing the four covers “came easily” and didn’t require a lot of tweaking, but figuring out how to present them “to make sure that each of them was successful but didn’t beat themselves up. against each other ”was more difficult. “The four covers weren’t meant to appeal to different readers, but rather to be representative of the different ways Kate tells the story,” Ferguson said. She noted that as the first copies were sent out, “people were drawn to different covers, often asking specifically for one of them.”

Ferguson believes the four-cover approach has increased interest in True story, claiming that it “had a real impact. We have been inundated with requests from the entire book industry, from other publishers to the media and bookstores.

For her part, Petty is satisfied with the approaches of both editors. “True story is a very different beast than most books, and I wasn’t sure a designer would find a way to visualize it, but Riverrun and Viking both came up with distinct, striking and very clever approaches, ”he said. she said in an interview.

Petty also said: “It has been fun and fascinating watching people react to the different options for the UK galleys. By asking for the first copies, everyone had an immediate connection with one cover or another. I think this is a testament to the visceral connections we all have with our favorite genres. “

Petty pointed out the different versions of the novel’s text offered by the UK cover and how they reflected the content of the book. “The UK coverage is so crisp in the way it recreates genre conventions while emphasizing their weirdness,” she noted. “It also sets the reader’s expectations, letting you know that this novel is ‘not going to turn out the way you expect,’ in the words of Alice Lovett, the main character.”

Petty also highlighted how gender plays a role in how books are categorized in the minds of readers, and how the British Four Covers concept challenges a simplistic view of the book’s target audience. “I have a soft spot for the prom queen’s light blue blanket, in part because of its juiciness. Twin peaks atmosphere, but also because I feel so protective of her, ”said Petty. “I heard a couple of people crinkle their noses at the blue blanket, which to me sounds a bit like a knee-jerk reaction to any form of coded storytelling like ‘for women.’

She compared this reaction to the response to the periwinkle covers of Elena Ferrante’s best-selling Neapolitan novels, published by Europa Editions. “The publisher and author have consciously chosen these covers, as a sly wink reminding readers that these genius books are brought to life by a feminine melodrama that is generally dismissed as non-literary. But a lot of reviewers didn’t get the nod and just thought the covers were bad, ”Petty said.

Judgment on covers and genres was part of what inspired Petty’s creative process. “In writing True story, I was thinking of the stigma attached to ‘female fiction’ as opposed to more traditionally macho genres. I want to open people’s eyes to the value and seriousness of the stories behind blue covers.


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