"My debut novel The Silver Linings Playbook is largely about delusional optimism and mental health. Philadelphia Eagles football is somewhat mentioned. By the end of the book, it’s a love story.
"A specialist was hired to create the original and ultimately unused cover. It featured two stacks of cartoon clouds—each a different color of the rainbow—on a white background. It was eye-catching, classy, hip, and utterly beautiful.
"But a concern was that it looked too feminine.
"The colorful stacks of clouds were replaced with a kelly-green football helmet on a white background (left).
"A life-long Eagles fan, I liked the new cover. I worried that it might turn off women readers, but, at this point, the decision had already been made.
"AIGA, the professional association for design, named the new cover one of the 2008’s top 50. http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/5050-recent It’s beautiful, iconic, and I have a blown-up copy of it framed prominently in my office. I love it. But it has been the source of endless second-guessing.
"So many times—at signings, events, parties—people ask me about my 'football book.' I say, 'It’s not really a football book,' and then I try to give an accurate pitch. 'Then why does it have a football helmet on the cover?' people ask.
"The comments typically made by women are even more devastating. 'Because of the cover, I would have never picked this book off the shelf, but a good friend convinced me that it wasn’t a football book. I hate football, but I loved your novel.' I have heard this so many times it has become painful. Some bookstores even shelved The Silver Linings Playbook in the sports section.
"With a different gender-neutral cover, TSLP is now doing very well in the UK—a place where most people could care less about American football. The book was recently selected for Britain’s The TV Book Club, and things are looking up for Pat Peoples abroad.
"The US paperback will feature the UK cover (left), and I am very hopeful for that release, on April 27, 2010.
"I have come to believe that we might have done better in the US with the original hardback cover that was so colorful, and I have spent many nights torturing myself with the what-if question. Perhaps football-loving men would not have purchased a colorful cloud-adorned book, but more women might have, and I receive far more fan e-mail from women.
"Also, the hardback jacket for The Silver Linings Playbook was printed on non-glossy white paper that got smudged easily. Many of the copies I ordered directly from my publisher arrived dirty, so my wife and I would spend hours cleaning the jackets with erasers before I did events. My mom used to go around to the local Barnes & Nobles erasing the smudges, because her friends were refusing to buy the ‘dirty’ copies. his is the life of a debut fiction writer. You do what you can.
"As an author you have little control over these things, but they directly impact your sales. Covers matter. A lot.
"To end on a positive note, in spite of the green helmet cover, rock star librarian Nancy Pearl—who is not an Eagles fan—selected The Silver Linings Playbook for one of 'Summer’s Best Books' on NPR. She was intrigued by the world of Eagles football, so who knows if the cover actually helped to secure that endorsement?
"It’s mostly a guessing game in the end."
I totally see Matthew's point about "the football book" -- and I agree that the paperback cover is probably more true to the story. Both are great covers though.
What do you guys think of the covers?
Melissa Walker is the author of four Young Adult novels, including the Violet trilogy and Lovestruck Summer. She is co-creator of the popular teen newsletter I Heart Daily, and her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is melissacwalker.com.