Cover Love: September Edition

September 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm (General) (, , , , , , , , )

I realized last month that I rather like analyzing the covers, so here we go again!

This one is a recent cover reveal (within the last week, I believe), and the farthest out as far as wait time goes. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth (the sequel to this May’s breakout debut Divergent) comes out May 2012 and holy cow what a cover. Along the bottom, we still have the cityscape of Chicago, where our story takes place, but the background coloration is completely different. The first book was a mottled blue grey, like a cloud drenched sky before a storm. Despite that ominous undertone, though, the colors were fairly soft, which made the brilliant flames of the Dauntless symbol stand out all the more. Here, we see a much more sickly cast, the grey-green, tinged with yellow, of clouds gathering for a tornado. Ever seen those clouds in person before? Once you do, you never forget it. It makes the sky look diseased, and it certainly doesn’t give us hope that our friends are going to have an easy ride. And then, set against all this, is the Amity symbol of a tree. Look at the tree, though. To create that spiral shape, it looks as if a strong wind (tornado, anyone?) is actually bending the branches and tearing the leaves away in a circle. Now look closer, at the coloration- closest to the branches, at the top and slightly to the left of the center, the leaves are brown, like they’re dying, and as you cross the circle, the brown encroaches. What does all this add up to? Tris may find that Amity is not sufficient shelter against the myriad dangers tearing apart her world.

I’ve been waiting for this next one since last year. It’s up all over the place at work, it’s all over the internet, and it’s killing me to wait the whole week and change until it’s released. I’m speaking, of course, of Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan, the next installment in the Heroes of Olympus series.

We’ve left behind the rather playful cover of the first book. We don’t have three friends riding bareback on a metal dragon. The stakes are higher and our hero is on his own- both in the story and on the cover. Percy is a creature of water, but somehow we’ve always associated (or maybe this is just me) him with with warmer waters. This may be partly due to the ongoing image of Poseidon as a beach bum in a deep sea fishing swivel chair. Poseidon, I’m thinking, is more than passing fond of Jimmy Buffett. The ice represents a number of things. Obviously, it’s a new setting, someplace completely different, alien to Percy’s experiences (whatever little he may remember of them). It’s cold and harsh, and it’s a strident example of danger. He’s not on a glacier, he’s bursting through a frozen lake. LOTS of dangers available through that. Even the coloration is stark. From the bright teal and gold of the first book, we have very stark gradations of white against a stormy background, deep grey-blues like thunderclouds gathering (unintentional theme, I promise). We know Percy’s older, and we know he’s a fighter, but I think he’s about to prove himself in a completely different arena, one that will require him to take those fighting skills to a whole new level. This one is an SOS for 4 October 2011, so not too long now, however much it may drive me crazy.

I’m normally not a huge fan of the close up model shoots of the face on covers- I personally find them very off putting, like I’m picking up a fashion rag rather than a book- but this is one that actually worked for me.

The colors here are both bright and soft, almost luminous. The girl, clearly lovely, is further softened by (sorry for repeating the word so much) soft focus through the lens. It isn’t so much that she’s blurred as she doesn’t have any sharp edges, like the brightest burst of illumination before the shadows draw crystallized lines. What that light does is draw our eyes to a central point: namely, the butterfly wings that spread across her face like a mask. The colors here are richer- blue and edges of gold instead of the pinks and purples that edge the image. It isn’t just that it’s a mask- intriguing and symbolic of itself- but that it’s a butterfly. Butterflies are extremely rich in symbolism, through many, many cultures, and no matter where you are in the world a butterfly stands for roughly the same ideas. Grace, ephemerality, and reinvention. Or, if you like, reincarnation. The image is a little surreal, the way the wings seem to grow from her rather than simply being placed against her skin, so it gives us the idea that this isn’t quite our world. If we take that assumption, it makes me very curious to know the more literal ways this girl might represent the butterfly she bears. If you’re curious as well, you’ve got a little bit of a wait: Incarnate, by Jodi Meadows, comes out 31 January 2012.

Up next, we have perhaps one of the best uses of color I’ve seen in a long time.

Color, especially in stark contrasts, is one of the first things that draws our eye to a book. It’s the automatic response that makes us reach for the bright colors as children and what makes us notice- right away, without any thought or effort, the one person in a room of dark suits wearing a red silk dress. Brenna Yovanoff’s upcoming The Space Between, out 15 November 2011, does this perfectly. The deep red, mottled with even deeper tones that speak of black, is faintly ominous, deeper than blood, like an ember of rage burning far too long. But red is also the color of passion, not just of anger but of love and lust, and under its shadow, we see a girl reclining. Her immediate background, though, is not that red- it’s cold steel, empty and passionless and sterile. It’s formed into elegant, beautiful designs, full of grace and luxury, but for all that beauty, it isn’t welcoming. It feels like a prison, and the way the girl lies across the steel divan, the drape of her arm, her hair over the edge, even the way she slightly tucks her face into that outstretched arm as she looks out at the viewer, reinforces that. This is a girl who is caught between that coldness and that passion- in whatever form it might take- caught very literally in a space between.

My psych prof once told me that the way someone analyzes something reveals as much about the person doing the analysis as it does about the item being analyzed. This next one might bear that out.

I have a thing for falling. Or flying. Maybe floating. Most of all I love that sensation somewhere between where you're not really sure which it is. Right in that moment, caught in that endless potential of a thousand directions, everything seems simultaneously possible and impossible, the perfect paradox. Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey, out 8 December 2011 gives us that paradox, but then it gives us more: where the girl’s dress should continue on, we get a sense of disintegration. As it goes from the bodice to the skirts, the fabric gives away to something organic- leaves or flower petals, I’m not sure- and it’s equally uncertain whether that material is dried or dead. (The difference between a dead flower and a dried flower, after all, is both striking and significant). It’s a haunting image, a lingering one, but not knowing whether she’s floating or falling…it’s the kind of thing that makes you curious. We don’t get any hints from her background, either, a textured and somewhat uneven grey that could be any number of substances. The cover leaves you guessing, but it also gives you enough detail (a little hard to see in the pictures) to draw you in.

Like before, feel free to weigh in with the covers you really like! What draws you in when you’re in a store, or makes you curious to read more? On the flip side- what really irritates you in covers? What turns you off?

Until next time~
Cheers!

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A Bit About Jargon: Pre-Orders

September 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Industry, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

You know you want it.

It’s that book you’ve been waiting a whole year for- maybe even two or three years. More if you’re a Jordan or Martin fan. It’s that book you scour the internet for, squealing over a cover reveal, searching for teasers and any words the author might release about it. You look for the contests so you can get it early. You have it marked and circled in really bright colors on your calendar. You’ve requested the release day off of work so you can run out, buy it, and just start reading it then and there.

So have you pre-ordered it yet?

You’d be stunned at how many people would answer no.

The thing is, if you really want the book, you should pre-order it, and here’s why:

You have nothing to lose by putting your name down for one. Now, if you’re looking at e-books or if you’re doing it online, that’s different. Obviously there’s money down for that one, and if you get the first few pages and it sucks, e-books aren’t returnable. But if you’re doing it in a store, there’s no money down. There is absolutely no obligation to buy, so you’re risking nothing by having one set aside for you. What that does is guarantees that there’ll be a copy for you if you want it.

For small- to mid-release titles, not all bookstores are going to receive copies in quantity, or even at all. There’s a finite amount of shelf space at a bookstore, so not every title gets to be represented. Sad, but true. If you don’t have us bring it in, we may not be getting it.

For most new releases, publishers send us between three and eight copies, depending on whether or not it’s got extra displays or promotions. Think about that, though: if there are three to eight people in your area who want that book as badly as you do but don’t have to worry about class or work and can get either get to the bookstore right away or send someone else for them, then you don’t get your copy. *sad face* Then you have to order it anyway, but you don’t get it when you were actually wanting it.

For larger releases, we generally get a certain number of books above our pre-orders. There’s a whole equation for it tucked away somewhere but the warehouse considers pre-orders to be an accurate indiation of how many people in our area want the book.

Now me? I live in an area where, for some reason or another, people refuse to pre-order. I don’t know what it is, but everyone just assumes that the book will be there if they want it, regardless of what the title is. They want the books, but they won’t pre-order it.

That results in little things like the Breaking Dawn fiasco.

We were required to have a midnight release party for it, and we were told fairly early on that the number of books we received would be strictly dependant upon the number of pre-orders we got. We busted our butts trying to get those pre-orders, but most people didn’t want to put their name down. They said they’d just come and get it that day, despite our warnings that we wouldn’t be getting that many books above our pre-orders. Despite multiple warnings, even. By the night of the release, we had 45 pre-orders. I think the buyer pitied us because he sent us 130 books.

Then we had 97 people show up for the party.

We were completely sold out of the book by four o’clock that afternoon, as was EVERY OTHER PLACE IN TOWN, because we all got quantity based off our pre-orders. We had to struggle to get more books in, but people STILL wouldn’t put their names down, so as soon as we got them in they sold to other people. This went on for WEEKS (to be fair, it was complicated by the fact that this was a buyer-managed title so we had to beg to get quantities above what their equations told us we should get).

October 4th, we’re going to have a crush of parents in to pick up Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune, and the kids whose parents have to work during the day will come crowding in at night. We’ve got less than 20 pre-orders and one of those is mine. The buyer knows this is a huge title, they’re going to send us quite a bit, but what about two days from now, when Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath comes out?

If we’re slated to get a certain amount (like in the case of Goliath, about 8) and our pre-order numbers don’t break past a certain percentage, they don’t send us any extra, meaning the pre-orders actually come out of those numbers. If we’ve got three pre-orders, there are five left out in the wild.

Really reduces your chances of getting that copy when you want it.

Pre-ordering through a store costs nothing. You do not pay to reserve the title. We take your name and phone number, and when it comes it we set one aside with your name on it. Release day, we give you a call or email as a courtesy reminder that the book is in. Then, you can come get it or not. Found it somewhere else? That’s fine. Got it as a gift? That’s fine too. Come in and read the first chapter and realize the book is going to dash all your hopes and dreams, and you will actually shrivel and die a little inside if you read the rest of it? You don’t have to buy it.

I like to try new authors, and because I read YA, there are a TON of debut authors. It’s a gamble, trying a new author. You don’t know if you’re going to like the style or the characters, and with debuts, a bookstore may or may not be stocking them without a publisher push. It sucks, but there it is; buyers have to manage a finite amount of display space, so they do their best to tailor to what’s known to sell in each store. So I put in a pre-order. When it comes in, I flip through the first chapter or two and see if I’m caught. Do I like the writing? Do the characters interet me? Does the story intrigue me? If the answers are yes, I buy the book. If the answers are no, I simply have the hold cancelled and it goes out on the shelf.

No money changes hands unless I actually decide to buy it.

Don’t miss out on your chance to get a book when you want it because of a pre-order. It costs nothing, and it takes less than a minute to give us your information to hold it for you. You can even pre-order multiple titles at a time, and we’ll let you know as each comes in (I do my orders a month at a time and just flip through them as they arrive, and I can buy or not buy as I choose).

On November 1st, when Ally Condie’s Crossed comes out, or on December 6th when Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince comes out, do you really want to be one of those people without a book because you didn’t put your name down?

Please, please, as a bookseller I am BEGGING you: if you want a book, take the two seconds to put in a pre-order. You literally have nothing to lose.

But you have a lot to gain- specifically, a guarantee of the book on release day or whenever you want to go pick it up.

Just to satisfy a curiosity, what books are you looking forward to in the next few months? (And are you going to pre-order them?)

Until next time~
Cheers!

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