On the last page of this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review is a rather enlightening article on the branding of best-selling American authors. The piece examines the exhaustive process publishers go through to design the books of celebrity authors. Everyone seems to have a hand in the creation of the all-important cover: publishers, art directors, marketing teams, sometimes even the authors themselves.
Meanwhile, in France, American-born Jonathan Littell’s fictional World War II memoir Les Bienveillantes won the coveted 2006 Prix Goncourt and rested atop the French best-seller list throughout France’s rentrée literaire, or literary season. The novel won with a cover devoid of eye-catching imagery, in line with the French preference for substance over style when it comes to book covers. See for yourselves:
Once Les Bienveillantes hits American shelves it will undoubtedly do so with a shiny cover and big, bold print. But in France, a book cover is just a book cover, and the subtlety of packaging allows what’s inside to speak for itself.