Shin Kyung-sook Miscellania – Book Covers and Old Blighty

I feel the need to sum up responses to a post from a few days ago about bookcovers, titles and US and UK publishers. I noted that no matter how you looked at it, the UK version of Shin’s Please Look After (Insert Maternal Descriptor Here) had done puny business compared to the US version. Of course that wasn’t particularly serious, as the last line and the tag “just joking” indicated.

Still, it brought an interesting response from Paul Matthews at Paul Ajosshi, who unearthed the cover to be used on the upcoming UK paperback. Paul noted that he liked it better than any previous cover. So do I, for entirely craven reasons. Here’s the new cover:

UK Softcover of Shin Kyung-sook's "Please Look After Mother"

Pretty Darned Orientalized!

Which I showed to two Korean colleagues who immediately remarked, “looks Japanese.”

For comparison, here are the two other covers:

Two Covers of "Please Look After Mom" (or "Mother")

The Two Covers


I still believe the UK cover to have been chosen by monkeys employed in the phone-hacking division of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, and the US cover to have been a wiser choice.

As I look again, I think I may have insulted Murdoch’s monkeys; who in the world chose that font for the UK cover?

The reason I like the new (softcover) UK cover is precisely why the Koreans who looked at it immediately reacted that it was Japanese – because it is clearly orientalized.

I mean that as a good thing.  The English-reader who passes this cover on the way past the airport bookstore will immediately have context for it, and thus will be more likely to pick it up. The cover contains at least 3 obvious aspects/cliches from “asian” book covers – 1) Blossoms; 2) Woman’s face; 3) Woman’s face obscured, preferably by something fan-like (For more of a discussion of this  kind of treatment of Asian bookcovers please see Sociological Issues and Korean American Readings). And, you know what?  That stuff sells.

Finally, as to my hideous attack on the marketing skills of the UK (marketing skills which are in all wise superior to those of many countries, several of which have running water^^), I responded to the magnificently yclept Seamus Walsh:

Of course my entire post was bollocks (as you people say^^) as that last, super hard to see grey line indicates. In fact, I think the difference in country size has something to do with it, but mainly the US version was published far earlier and by the time the UK one came out, interested parties had already snapped it up, plus the US title was the de-facto title by that point, so anyone searching for it would end up on Amazon at the US version.

Still, interesting comparisons to be made, at least with regard to the covers.

3 thoughts on “Shin Kyung-sook Miscellania – Book Covers and Old Blighty

  1. I agree with you, but I think that you miss an important element in the book cover and that is important to its marketing.

    It is of a PRETTY woman’s face.

    Pictures of pretty ladies sell.

    Indeed, there are whole genres in publishing devoted just to pictures of p[retty women’s pictures.

    The British cover fails to take advantage of that fact.

    The US cover does, but not as much as this new cover.

  2. Well, I just want to be quite clear.

    It is not the case that a woman’s face adds marketability; it may actually harm if the face is not pretty.

Comments are closed.