I try to keep it positive here on Mysterious Matters, except for the occasional potshots at writers and books who can well weather any small bits of criticism from my pen. However, today I am here to take to task publishers who make terrible mistakes on their book jackets, and jacket designers who should know better.
Look at these two covers. One is a book by David Mark, who is absolutely one of my favorite among the newer crime novelists, and whose books I've gushed about here before. The other is by Scandinavian crime writer Arne Dahl, whom I haven't read yet (though this book is in my pile):
What do these cover designs have in common? Both look as if they have been remaindered, due to those slashes through the type.
When you buy former best-sellers at a great price, often in Barnes & Noble but now increasingly on Amazon, you will usually see what is called a "remainder mark" somewhere at the top or bottom of the book. The remainder mark is usually made with permanent ink, often in red or black. Often it is a slash mark, though sometimes it is a large dot. The remainder mark indicates that the book has been remaindered--in other words, too many copies have been printed to justify the ultimate level of sales.
There is no shame in being remaindered, as it happens to many great writers. The more copies of a book you print, the better your unit cost, and the higher your profit if you sell out your print run--so publishers have bizarre incentives to produce more books than they think they can sell. When the warehouse gets cleaned out, Barnes & Noble (or other outlets like Edward R. Hamilton) get the books at insanely low prices, sometimes paying only a few cents per pound. (Yes, remainders can be sold by the pound.) These books then get shipped out to off-price outlets and other unexpected places. I bought a terrific Joyce Carol Oates book for $3 at a local Staples, a Robert Harris book for $1 at a dollar store, and a Mary Higgins Clark at Barnes & Noble for (I think) $4.98.
So, even though there's no shame in being remaindered, I wouldn't say you necessarily want to advertise that fact; and you CERTAINLY do not want people looking at a book jacket to think the book is so bad that someone has slashed through it. This kind of slashing is happening as part of jacket design way too much lately, so I hereby use my bully pulpit to say: PLEASE STOP.
However, for every rule there's an exception. Here are two versions of the jacket/cover for Renee Knight's Disclaimer, which I read about a year ago and loved.
The original U.S. hardcover's on the left. I thought this was a particularly effective use of the strikethrough technique, because it's clear that was what the book designer intended. Placing the words "A novel" within the redacted material was a design coup, so all due props go to the jacket designer, Milan Bozic. The softcover version on the right has a good tagline, with a generically spooky image, but it doesn't grab me as much as the jacket on the left. Both covers are wrecked by reference to that goddamned Gone Girl, of which I am sick unto death, but I can't blame the publisher for trying to sell some books.
By the way, when I finished Disclaimer in bed one night, I turned to my wife and said, "Wow." Check it out if it seems like your kind of book, and if you're sick to death of Gone Girl, too, don't let the comparison put you off.