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04 February 2009 @ 07:33 pm
Spot the differences!  

Today What Was Lost arrived from the Book Depository, the UK edition with the original cover illustration. Many people seem to dislike it, but it happens to be my favourite of all the different covers I've seen. I can actually imagine Kate looking like that, something I can't with the girl in the American cover's photograph. Inside the American edition looks better though: nice font and chapter headings, and easy-on-the-eye spacing.

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Checking the books side by side I quickly noticed that not only the spelling had changed. Here is a paragraph from page 5 (both editions):

She realized that it was Wednesday and that she'd forgotten to buy that week's copy of the Beano from her usual newsagent. She had no choice but to go to the dingy kiosk in the centre to get it. Afterwards she stood and looked again at the True Detective magazines on the shelf. The woman on the front didn't look like a detective. She was wearing a trilby and raincoat... but nothing else. She looked like someone from a Two Ronnies sketch. Kate didn't like it.


She realized it was Wednesday and she'd forgotten to buy that week's copy of the Beano from her usual newsagent. She had no choice but to go to the dingy kiosk in the center to get it. Afterward she stood and looked again at a current True Detective magazine on the shelf. The woman on the front didn't look like a detective. She was wearing a fedora and a raincoat... but nothing else. She looked like someone from a Benny Hill sketch. Kate didn't like it.


As far as I can tell (I haven't checked beyond the first few pages — yet! I am curious now) the American editor has done a good job, but I'm still completely bemused by it. Is it common practice? Does it happen to all (beginning) authors? If so, are they notified? Do some publishers do it but not all? Does it depend on the target audience? (My copy contains a reading group guide, including questions for discussion.) Questions, questions...


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callmemadam: bookscallmemadam on February 4th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
I prefer the UK cover but probably only because it was the first I saw. I think if the cover illustration is meant to be Kate, she looks too old.

If I were American and anglophile, I would find the changes very irritating. OTOH I can see why the publishers would change the TV show. The Benny Hill Show is well known in the States and our dear two Ronnies aren't.

I'm always irritated to see that a book I'm reading has reading group questions at the back; I find it patronising. Snob.
Mnemosyne: thinking_lethe_ on February 4th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, to me Benny Hill is just as British as the two Ronnies, but he has obviously made it across the pond. (Now I'm wondering what it says in the Dutch translation, but I do believe the two Ronnies' shows were broadcast here too.)

I never before realized that (some) UK books are 'translated' for the US market (and probably vice versa), I find it quite interesting.

I do like the author's essay that is part of the reader's guide, it gives more background information than the biographical note, but I was surprised by the questions. I've never seen those outside school editions. As you say, it comes across as patronising (one reason why I'll never join a book group: I don't want reading to be like homework).
heartofdavid: bookshoppeheartofdavid on February 5th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
I wonder if it ever goes the other way - American writer adjusted for English readers? Doesn't surprise me though, as popular music is regularly "remixed" to make it more suitable for other markets, so why not books.

Can imagine there were at least a few American readers who thought, "Beano? There's a magazine about Beano in England?" *Here, Beano is an over the counter anti-gas product - don't know if they have it in England*

Ugh, I find those reading group questions sections very annoying, although some amusement can be found in how dumb some of the questions are. They're cropping up more and more though, and give the illusion that a book is longer than it actually is. Author essays/interviews, I do like those. However, I wish photos of authors were outlawed or at the least, put only on the inside of the back flap. Very off-putting to pick up a book, turn it over and have a big face staring at me.

Mnemosyne: smile!_lethe_ on February 6th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
Haha, I only know Beano as a comics magazine! Yes, a bit odd to find they adapted other things but not that name.
heartofdavid: hearttealeavesheartofdavid on February 5th, 2009 03:19 am (UTC)
Book covers for the same book differ for English language countries -Australia likely has a different cover. I'm not sure about Canada. The marketing strategies behind this would be interesting, for me, to know about. I think the English cover is much better than the American one - to me, the photo on the American cover looks like a guy, I would never have guessed that it is supposed to be a woman. And I hate the tendency with American books to have those "winner of..." or "a blah-blah-blah book club choice" blotches on them, totally ruins the cover. In this case, looks like a big blue pimple.

Here's an example, "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. First pic is the UK cover, then the US with blurb-pimple and dumb silhouettes. Thankfully, a friend sent me a copy of the UK version as a gift.

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Edited at 2009-02-05 06:04 pm (UTC)
Mnemosyne: thinking_lethe_ on February 6th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, I have seen at least 6 different covers for What Was Lost: UK, new UK, US, Canada, Australia, and a (ridiculously expensive) large-print version.

I had automatically assumed that photo was supposed to be Kate (although looking way too old), because she is the most important character, but you could be right about it being a guy, that would actually make more sense. There is a scene in the book the photo could be referring to (if it is turned 45° clockwise). Rather odd choice though, and too vague. It wouldn't mean anything to people who don't know the book, and even after reading I had no idea, I thought it was just one of those pointless covers.

I agree those 'pimples' look ugly. The British edition also has 'Winner of the Costa First Novel Award' and several other nominations on the cover, but less conspicuously.

I also prefer the UK Middlesex cover with the bulb (is it a crocus?), although I must say I don't mind the b&w US edition, especially the ships and the smoke. The ugly yellow pimple totally spoils it though.
heartofdavidheartofdavid on February 8th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
"Pointless cover", another good phrase to add to my vocabulary.

The boat and cityscape on the US cover make sense relative to the story, but this type of b&w montage-y shot is becoming very common (probably same publisher).

I have no idea what a crocus bulb looks like, could be. I had an impression it was some sort of onion, but then most plant bulbs look like onions to me. :P
Mnemosyne_lethe_ on February 8th, 2009 09:20 pm (UTC)
DEFinitely not an onion! Completely different flowers. :P

Found out just now that I should have said '90° clockwise'. Argh. Maths and me aren't good friends.