Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cover Art for Michael Lewis's Panic

Though I haven’t read Michael Lewis’s new book about the financial crisis, nor do I plan to, I am interested in the way the book is being marketed here in the US v. the UK. Well, to be more specific, the difference in covers between the two countries is always interesting to me. I often wonder why a distributor publishing in both places wouldn’t just use the same cover art, or buy it from their counterpart, but I am sure that there are marketing textbooks addressing this very topic that I have yet to read.

In the instance of Panic, I find the US cover (shown first) to be a little deceptive. Lewis is probably best known for his book Liar’s Poker, which concerns his time at Solomon Brothers and the financial crisis that occurred in the late 1980s. By so prominently placing his name on the cover, the publisher severely downplays the fact that this book is nothing but a collection of previously published pieces on the economy, which were compiled by Lewis. Though the words ‘Edited By’ do appear, their size and placement above the ‘Best-Selling Author’ line downplay the importance given to its meaning. In fact, though I had seen images of the cover several times, I was unaware that t
he book is a compilation until I saw the UK cover.

As is immediately apparent, the ‘Edited By’ line is stressed here in the same way it was downplayed on
the US version. This would help a browser recognize that the book isn’t a sole work by Lewis, but something else that might warrant closer examination. I also like the prominent reference to the similarly themed Liar’s Poker. However, Lewis has had more recent success in the US with Moneyball, an examination of the search for undervalued talent by the Oakland A’s, so the more generic ‘Best-Selling’ author tag on there opens it up to fans of both books. I doubt that Moneyball was much of a hit in foreign markets.

While the shredded dollar bill on the US cover is a nice conceit, the coupling with the red word balloon
that looks like a price sticker doesn’t convey a sense of panic to me. The different shades of red on the UK edition do however serve to illustrate the chaos indicative of a panicky state. The font choice also helps serve this idea, where the conservative font on the US edition does the opposite, at least in my opinion.

This analysis doesn’t address the broader marketing strategy for the book both domestically and in England, but I do feel that cover imagery is first and foremost a marketing tool and should be evaluated that way. Without reading the book but only flipping through it, it seems obvious to me that the UK edition’s cover art more adequately reflects the content than its US counterpart, both in theme and literal content. Your opinions?

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