marketing mysteries in Scandinavia

Uriah picked up on the Earth Times story mentioned previously here on channel SCF. As I looked at his jacket art illustrations, it struck me that part of what might be going on is a shift in marketing practices. Not too long ago I suspect the hard sell of authors as celebrities that is so common these days would have appeared unseemly to Scandinavians.  (There are lingering traces of that in Minnesota culture, as my college’s PR folks can attest; we’re bashful about our strengths and hesitant to call attention to them.) Some portion of the old guard’s ire may be an inarticulate discomfort with American-style book marketing, not just with young and attractive women writers who write massively popular books.

And that made me wonder how Sjowall and Walloo, authors of the Martin Beck series, would have felt if their names were huge on the cover, with glamor pics of the two of them on the back. They were committed socialists, critical of the inroads that capitalism was making into Swedish society; I doubt they’d stand for it. So Uriah checked it out and provides two illustrative covers.  Yup. Very different marketing styles.

Which seem to endure. Fortuitously enough, a new review of their classic, The Laughing Policeman, has just been posted at Euro Crime. Maxine Clarke calls it “another example of the controlled brilliance of this superb set of novels.” Originally published in the 1960s, they are being reissued by HarperPerennial – with covers that have the focus on story and series character similar to the old days.

Compare that to this cover image of the original 1967 Swedish edition, found at Abebooks. In both cases, the authors’ names are relatively small; the title larger. They both have a period look, but the original has the painterly, dramatic and slightly pulp artwork typical of the times.

In comparison, most contemporary Swedish writers seem to have their names ever-so-slightly larger than titles on current publications – as seen in this teeny-tiny thumbnail of a massively popular book – by a male author.

In general, the covers found at this Scandinavian bookseller’s site seem positively modest by US standards.

2 thoughts on “marketing mysteries in Scandinavia

  1. Interestingly, the covers of my UK paperback editions of Liza M’s Prime Time and Paradise are what I call “typical publishers’ covers of books from cold countries”, ie tasteful, moody, white/grey snowy theme with the odd tree. (I bought old second-hand copies of her other two translated books, but the two UK pbs I mention are new.) Stef Penney’s Tenderness of Wolves has a similar cover (Canada not Scandinavia). Ake Edwardsen, Kjell Ericksen, Asa Larsson, Camilla Lackberg (plus snowflakes) have all had similar treatment.

  2. Funny, I was just looking at the pile of ARCs that I’ve got for review, and I was noticing the authors’ names are not by and large … er, large. I think there must be a correlation of “copies sold” and font size for authors’ names. James Lee Burke’s books sell well, and his name is immense on his covers. There’s hardly room for artwork. But none of the books I just looked at are by bestselling authors.

    Stieg Larsson is just being introduced here; his name on his Knopf cover is not sized to fit his international sales. I guess only sales in the US pertain to font size.

    Though I like the idea of “books from cold countries” having a common graphic look :o)

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