Saturday, December 29, 2007

What's in Your Jacket?

While out picking up some OOP books, I found an old Random House Modern Library edition of Swinburne's poems, no copyright or pub date, but probably circa 1940's.*

I have to read Algernon in small doses, as he tends to howl in my head for days afterward, but I bought the book because I don't own a copy of this particular collection -- best described as everything he wrote that really pissed off the Victorian critics -- and it had an intact, largely undamaged cover jacket with it.

In the olden days of selling paperback-size hardcovers for ninety-five cents, Modern Library also did one more neat thing. They printed their complete title list on the inside of their cover jackets. I'm not kidding. The top line printed on the inside the cover jacket reads Which of these 316 outstanding books do you want to read? (great selling tag line) and the inside of the right end flap states This is a complete list of Modern Library books.

Today I'm not seeing publishers printing anything on the inside of cover jackets for hardcovers. Advertising generally ends up in the back of the mass market editions, which some readers find convenient and others find annoying. I mostly skip mm back page advertising, although I do read Harlequin's upcoming title lists and short synopses on the inside of back covers for Presents; that gives me a heads-up on titles by three authors I buy regularly.

I know some of the printing processes (metallicizing, embossing, plasticizing, etc.) involved with producing cover jackets today might make it difficult for publishers to take advantage of the inside of the front cover jacket. But if publishers would be willing to give up the fancy special effects stuff, their title lists (or the author's backlist, for that matter) could be printed on the inside of a cover jacket.

If you were going to use the inside of a cover jacket for some other purpose, what would you put on it? Or should we keep the inside blank?

*Added: I did a little research, and for once I nailed the date -- 1942, according to this ML collector's page.


  1. Anonymous9:39 AM

    Sounds punchy. I'll have to c if I can pick up a copy.


  2. Anonymous10:01 AM

    One obvious answer would be "Pictures of pretty girls", but I'm not sure on the marketing purposes for that one...

    Would I do use a dustcover on an upcoming book of my own, I would probably put a short story, a secret map or some such "extra material" on it. I like the idea of using the part of the cover not immediately shown. Maybe clues to be used on some sort of homepage, or something, to build buzz.

    I would also like to do something to help my readers commit random acts of kindness and sharing... Hmmm... You got me thinking!

    Now, I just have to finish my novel and have it come out in hardcover ;)

  3. Definitely the author's backlist, their website and blog details, and I like to read decent length bio notes (not just one or two lines).
    But also extra stuff about the book maybe - from the author - about how it was written, where the ideas came from, etc.
    Sometimes extra stuff about the story itself can be interesting - maps, background info.

  4. Maps and family trees seem to be the most popular things to put there.

  5. Hmm, not sure I would ever look at the inside of the dustcover for anything :D. It would be nice to find a secret competition there or something, but of course I wouldn't find it cos I never look! lol

  6. How about putting a puzzle there - like Suduko or a crossword puzzle. Then when people start doing them they have to buy the book because they've written in it!


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