Are UK book covers and words for “Mom” unmarketable compared to those of the US?^^

Yesterday, while chasing down various things about Shin Kyung-sook and Please Look After Mom, I suddenly wondered if the publication of two versions (US and UK) was splitting the Amazon rating of the book. I took a look and discovered that not only was the UK version having little impact on the US one, it was in fact having about no impact on anything at all. The first ranking below is the ranking for the UK volume, the second for the US one.  This comparison is evidence that the US is substantially more internationally literate than the UK, or that something else went wrong along the way (I will leave that decision to my readers).

Amazon Rating for "Please Look After Mother"

Amazon Rating for UK's "Please Look After Mother"

 

Success

So what else could have gone wrong along the way? The only initial difference I noticed was the “mom” which sounds folksy and friendly, versus the “mother” which sounds Victorian and threatening. Imagine how terrible it would have been if the jinxed UK editors had gone to the even more bizarre UK locution, “mum?”

But there are other differences as well, if one looks at the covers:

Note attractive cover and "look inside" arrow

Note rococo style & satanic backwards shadows

The UK cover lacks any individual people, settling for cutouts, features a lower border that looks like an acid-trip in a rose-lattice, and a line-drawing style straight from an 18th century drawing-room.

I’m sure there’s more.

But, dear reader, I leave it to you – is the success in English of the US version evidence of more interest in translated literature in the United States, or worse book design and vocabulary in the UK?^^

Or is there, perhaps, a more statistical explanation? ;-p

4 thoughts on “Are UK book covers and words for “Mom” unmarketable compared to those of the US?^^

  1. I think Oprah touting it as one of the 18 books to watch for in April 2011 in her magazine probably had a little influence on its success.

    To me “Please Look After Mom”, “Please Look After Mother” and “Please Look After Mum” are all despicable titles. I’d happily shove a “my”, “your” or “our” in between the fourth and fifth words and leave it at that.

    As for rankings I’d take a look at the different versions to see a rather different picture. The original hardback (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Please-Look-After-Mother-Kyung-sook/dp/0297860739/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309320208&sr=8-1) is actually ranked 9,918 on Amazon bestsellers as of today as opposed to the Perfect Paperback edition (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Please-Look-After-Mother-Kyung-sook/dp/0297860747/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1309320208&sr=8-4) which ranks 1,077,899 at the moment. Slight discrepancy? Only a few hundred thousand or so…

    The UK Kindle version (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Please-Look-After-Mother-ebook/dp/B004TNKMTI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1309320208&sr=8-3) ranks 5,111. Not American levels of popularity, but not too shabby.

    Moving onto covers… Have you seen the latest UK paperback release cover (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Please-Look-After-Mother-Kyung-sook/dp/0753828189/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1309320208&sr=8-2)? Much more aesthetically pleasing than either previous cover. I’d take this one over the rather cold American cover or the previous satanic shadow filled UK release.

    Get your facts straight KTLIT or I may be forced to go Kim Jong-il on your arse! And by that I mean using military force and threats of nuclear attack on your buttocks!

  2. I think you’re missing out the biggest factor completely: There just aren’t that many Koreans in the UK. Now, I’m not saying that this book is only likely to be read by people of Korean decent, but the tiny tiny population of Koreans in the UK in comparison with the US means that the general UK population has very little awareness of Korea. You’d be very hard pushed to find, for example, someone who know what kimchi or Korean bbq is, let alone someone in the UK who has eaten it. Most people’s knowledge doesn’t go beyond the odd footballer or two, North Korea and Samsung and Hyundai.

    The percentage of Korean Americans among the total US population is probably more similar to, say, the percentage of British Nigerians among the total UK population. The British Korean population will be a fraction of that again. So I’m not sure it’s really possible to compare the impact of Koreans on popular culture in Britain to America. In America there is the largest ethnic Korean population outside of East Asia. There are Korea towns, Korean American celebrities, sports people, people know about Korean food etc etc. I would say that this will have a far bigger impact on the number of people willing to buy this book in the US over the UK than the cover art.

    “So what else could have gone wrong along the way? The only initial difference I noticed was the “mom” which sounds folksy and friendly, versus the “mother” which sounds Victorian and threatening. Imagine how terrible it would have been if the jinxed UK editors had gone to the even more bizarre UK locution, “mum?””

    I agree with you that the “mother” in the UK title sounds less appealing, but really, I have to take issue with you calling the UK spelling and pronounciation of “mum” “bizarre.” That’s genuinely how we speak and write the word – it’s directly equivalent to North Americans writing “mom.” So what exactly would have been “terrible” if the UK editors would have opted for the standard British English for the UK version? Trust me, if the UK version retained the “mom” that would have been the worst possible option.

    Of the covers you’ve shown here, I completely agree that the US one is more appealing. But I do also like the latest British one that Paul above me posted a link to.

  3. In the UK but went to considerable lengths to buy the American cover. Think they could have done a better translation of the title. I’m told “entrust” is closer to the meaning?

  4. Pingback: Shin Kyung-sook’s 엄마를 부탁해 in Portuguese « Korea on my mind

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