Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Tale of Two Covers, or, Which book would you be more likely to pick up in a bookstore … and why?

Okay, it’s reader participation time, for any of you who are game!

Quickly – before you read any further (no cheating!) – glance at these two book covers. If you had just enough time to take a look inside only one of them, which one would it be, and why? Hold that thought, and after you finish reading, tell us your answer in the “Comments” section. Your feedback will make for interesting market-research data!


And now, A Tale of Two Covers

 You might think that a book’s title would be the first, and easiest thing to write, but you’d be wrong, at least in my experience. The first Body Farm novel’s title, Carved in Bone, came fairly easily. Title number two, Flesh and Bone, was also fairly easy. But after that, they got tougher. If you’ve followed the series, you’ve probably noticed that all six of the prior novels have “bone” or “bones” in the title – a way of giving some continuity to the series, and also of underscoring the emphasis on forensic anthropology: bone-detective work. But sometimes that’s been a stretch, especially with novel #5, Bones of Betrayal, which included a subplot about World War II espionage and treachery. It was one of my favorite books in the series, but my least favorite title; it seemed clunky and labored, and I’ve wished countless times that I’d argued more forcefully for the title I wanted, which was Fallout. But at that point we were still committed to a “bone(s)” title, so I lost the argument.

Fast-forward three books, to novel #7. My working title for the book was The Bones of Avignon. Avignon, France, was the book’s setting, and I liked giving the city – a spectacular walled medieval city – title billing. But the people in Sales at HarperCollins were worried. Will people know where Avignon is, and why it’s important? Will people even know how to pronounce it? (It’s “ah-veen-YON,” BTW, in case your French is as bad as mine is…). So we kicked around other titles – dozens of other titles. Among them: The Keys to the Kingdom. The Power and the Glory. The Shroud Conspiracy. The Babylonian Captivity. The Babylonian Conspiracy. The Omega Project. The Second Coming. The Blood-Dimmed Tide. The Ceremony of Innocence. Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Slouching Towards Avignon. Crucified, Dead, and Buried. Our Daily Dead. There were problems with all of them: Too religious. Not religious enough (in view of the plot). Too obscure. Not exciting enough.

Finally we came up with The Inquisitor’s Key. “Inquisitor” seemed to suggest both religion and menace; “key” seemed to hint at a mystery that needed to be unlocked. Together (we hope!) the words are intriguing without giving much away. The cover art, I think, does a nice job of suggesting both the medieval religious backstory (thanks to the face framed by the oval of the key) and the modern-day setting of the main narrative (thanks to the glossy newness of the key). So that’s the skinny on the U.S. title and cover.

Meanwhile (such a handy word for storytellers, “meanwhile”!), work was proceeding apace on the British edition, which actually, for the first time ever, comes out shortly before the American edition. London is quite a bit closer to France, and to Avignon; the U.K. publisher felt reasonably confident that Brits would know where Avignon was, and wouldn’t be put off by the pronunciation. So although we offered the revised U.S. title, the U.K. publisher, Quercus (publisher of the year last year!) chose to stick with the original title, The Bones of Avignon. Their cover art took a more straightforward approach. It’s not really a spoiler to say that the main plot revolves around a momentous question:  Could the ancient skeleton found hidden in the Palace of the Popes actually be the bones of Jesus, as the inscription on the stone box seems to suggest? “Lead with your trumps” goes one time-honored piece of card-playing advice, and in their cover design, the Brits followed that advice in spades.

So, there you have it, A Tale of Two Covers.

But forget all that, and remember instead your initial, impulsive answer to the question at the top of the blog: Which of these two books would you pick up, and why? Please tell us; inquiring minds want to know!



45 comments:

  1. The cover - The Bones of Avignon -- because of the title AND the art.

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  2. I would prefer "Bones of Avignon" because if I'm in a bookstore simply scanning titles, I will go for something that sounds to me like a mystery or would have something to do with bones - I like forensic anthropology, or pathology or studies of that ilk and I would be drawn to the title. "Inquisitor's Key" might draw my attention, but it wouldn't likely be on my first pass of the titles.

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  3. On cover-art along, I'd pick up the The Inquisitor’s Key. I prefer the art and it clearly states it's a Body Farm novel.
    Honestly though, I'd pick up anything with your name on it.

    Interestingly enough though, I prefer the The Bones of Avignon title. I prefer it clear that it's still similar to the other Bones/BodyFarm novels and not a new departure from my fav novels.
    I'm not suggesting that you stick whole-heartedly to the specific words of bone or bones - just that the other title doesn't give me any idea of what to expect and the cover seems a little too religion for me.

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  4. Bones of Avignon would be my vote.

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  5. I would personally pick up the one with the key, mainly b/c it looks like a Jefferson Bass book right off, and b/c it looks more interesting to me. But I'm not everyone.

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  6. Key fits with previous art designs but I would buy both because I would be so happy to see new work!! Bones is going to fit with series. Cannot wait to read it by the way :)

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  7. The Inquisitor’s Key was the only one available on B.N. e-book store when I put in my odrder.

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    1. The Bones of Avignon is available only in the United Kingdom...

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  8. First and foremost, I would pick up any book with your names on it. Honestly though, I much prefer the "Inquisitor's Key" cover design however I prefer "The Bones of Avignon" title. The reason for that response is that even as a Christian, I do not prefer to read biblical books which was my initial thought. Had I not personally owned your entire collection of works, seeing the cover itself on a shelf would not urge me to take a closer look.

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    1. Okay, it goes without saying that if the book is clearly marked "JEFFERSON BASS" previous readers and fans like me will pick it up.

      Both titles are okay. "The Inquisitor's Key" title clearly sounds like a mystery, which would catch my attention. "The Bones of Avignon" combined with the key artwork would catch my interest, too. However, the cross artwork combined with the "Bones" title would look like a religious novel to me, and I'd be much less likely to pick it up.

      Tell your publishers how extremely annoying it is that they think Americans who read forensic anthropology novels are dumb. If one didn't know where Avignon is, what would be the big deal? I'm sure it's explained in the book. That wouldn't stop someone from buying it!

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  9. I do like the fact all of the books have the word Bone in the title. To be truthful, the name Jefferson Bass is what I saw firstbecause I love all of your books. However, I would think these were two different books and pick up The Bones of Avignon first because I would know it was similar to your other books. I would consider the fact The Inquisitor's Key may be about something not involving bones.

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  10. I'm not into books on religion... I do enjoy mystery... the Key wins. Chet Thornton

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  11. " The Bones of Avignon" because all of the other books have had bone in the title and this one should be no different. Also, it an intriguing title that needs further investigation.

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  12. I prefer bones of avign the cover gives it more intrigueing, mysterious look. It makes me want to grab it and read to see what's really going on inside of it. It gives the feeling that I have to find out what happens! Just to let you know I have enjoyed and collected all your books my daughter and I both read your books.

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  13. The Bones of Avignon ... The art work is a touch more ominous than the other. I also agree the title has the word bones in it and it somewhat identifies one of your books for me.

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  14. Use the title "The Bones of Avignon" (I think you need to keep bones in the title), but used the cover art from the "The Inquisitor's Key" and include the words "A Body Farm novel" on the cover. I think you should AVOID the "Could this really be the skeleton of Jesus Christ?" on the cover regardless of which cover or title you use. This will cause some Christians to potentially resist reading.

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  15. The Bones of Avignon--because it suggests another wonderful book from the Bones series. I would pick up the other cover simply because I enjoy reading your books and I am looking forward to your next release.

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  16. Definitely the Bones of Avignon, for the flow of the words and the beautiful artwork on the cover.

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  17. Your name is gonna sell the book to me. But looking at them, side by side, I would pick up "The Bones of Avignon" because of the continuity of the "bones" title theme. I also believe that "A Body Farm novel" should be included as usual. And that's it. The additional comments such as "could this be the skeleton of Jesus Christ" seem unnecessary.
    As a p.s. to the sales department - If I don't know a word or the place mentioned in the title but it is by my favorite author I will research it and still buy the book so don't worry so much about your bottom line.

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  18. Based on the "first glance" as you requested, and also pretending I had no idea it was a Jefferson Bass/Body Farm book, I would pick up the The Inquisitor's Key to read. The book art does look a tad more interesting. However, KNOWING it is a Jefferson Bass/Body Farm book I would want it to have the title The Bones of Avignon. Call it OCD, but it would really like it to match the other Body Farm books on my shelf. :)

    I'll admit too that I'm a little annoyed that the HarperCollins team didn't think us 'poor dumb Americans' would be able to handle the title. I lived in Germany for a few years, so I was able to visit many cities in France. But even if I had never step foot out of my own state, I would still stay loyal to the Body Farm series even if I was unaware of Avignon.

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  19. I like the cover art of the inquisitors key because it looks more intriguing and more like a Jefferson bass book, but I prefer the title bones of Avignon because it keeps with the "bone" theme and would sound more interesting to me as a Jefferson bass fan!

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  20. Didn't know where Avignon was, but I knew how to pronounce it ;)
    I, like others am sold on the author rather than title, but letting that slide by the wayside for a moment for some reason the "Inquisitor's Key" grabbed my attention first. The artwork seems to fit the book more. I feel that whilst a great title "the Bones of Avignon" the cover art puts me off. It doesn't look like a Jefferson Bass title. But this little Aussie who can't get enough of forensic anthro I'd probably read it if all it had was "Jefferson Bass" and or "A Body Farm Novel" and covered in a nondescript brown paper bag.

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  21. I would go for "The Inquisitor's Key" as that is more inline with the Bodyfarm books already released & will match the books in my bookcase. The image is more Bodyfarm imo

    Would love that cover to go with the other book title "the Bones of Avignon", to keep momentum in your books. All the books have had Bone(s) in them, why change that now..?

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  22. the bones one hands down..........it's what you do after all.

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  23. The Bones of Avignon title, because honestly how dumb does Harper Collins think we are to not be able to pronounce the title, and the Inquisitor's Key cover because it is more likely to grab my eye in a shelf lined with 30+ other books.

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  24. The Inquisitors Key. I look for Author, Jefferson Bass jumps out at me, and I like seeing Body Farm Novel written on it. I know what to expect when I see both, a good read.

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  25. I would be most likely to notice The Inquisitor's Key, I like both the title and the cover art. The Bones of Avignon looked like a religious book and I would immediately move on without reading the blurb, unless I read the author name, then I would absolutely have to have it. I did like the continuity of having Bones in the title of every book though and btw, Bones of Betrayal has been my favorite title thus far.

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  26. My vote is for The Bones of Avignon without a doubt. The cover artwork is better, and don't you have to keep having "bones" in the title?? Any title including bones is going to catch my interest. But as others have pointed out, your name is going to sell the book IMO....

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  27. My vote is for The Inquisitor's Key. I like the cover art and that it clearly states that it is a "Body Farm Novel." However, I do like the title "Bones of Avignon" and the traditions of using "bone" in the title. All in all, I'll read anything Jefferson Bass publishes no matter the title or cover art.

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  28. Both covers would catch my eye. The color of the Inquisitor's Key would stand out first, but the draw of the old door and peek inside would make me want to pick it up and read synopsis.

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  29. I like both the title and cover-art of the "Bones of Avignon" better, although I found find the cover-art for both books intriguing. And, frankly, I'd pick up any book with your names on it.

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  30. I like The Inquisitor's Key, the artwork screams Jefferson Bass so that is what would catch my attentionin quickly. I have had the pleasure to hear Dr. Bass speak twice, once while I was attending UT and once at King College with Jon Jefferson which was a preview of this new book, I remember listening about the Popes Palace and was intrigued by the story and was very eagerly waiting on it to come out but until I saw both covers I had forgotten about where it was taking place other than France. I love the books and would get either cover but the Key would grab me first.

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  31. I prefer The Bones Avignon but love the cover of The Inquisitor's Key. Anything with your name on it I will buy.

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  32. The KEYnnot the cross.

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  33. I would be way more likely to pick up The Inquisitor’s Key. The cover looks intriguing, it has your name on it nice and big and identifies itself as a Body Farm novel. I would be less likely to pick up the other cover, because I would probably think it was too religious. However, once I found your name on the book (if it managed to keep my attention long enough to notice the author), I would pick it up and at least read the description.

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  34. I like the cover for the Inquisitor's Key better but like the other title better. I not only know where Avignon is but had been there.....took the train there from Paris when living in the area. love that part of France.

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  35. I like "The Bones of Avignon" more because I've been to Avignon and toured the Palace of the Popes.

    I just finished "Bones of Betrayal," the first book of yours that I've read. I spent all day reading it; I couldn't put it down! You have a new fan!

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  36. Thanks so much to all who weighed in! Interesting that the votes were almost equally divided between the two covers (not counting those who wanted to mix & match, using one cover's artwork & the other cover's title). Fun -- and so many kind words to the effect "If it says 'Jefferson Bass,' I'll read it no matter what the title or artwork"; thanks, y'all!

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  37. Karen Christensen FreeMarch 4, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    I received an email from Amazon notifying me of the upcoming release of The Inquisitor's Key, so I've had a little time to consider that title. I like the artwork on that cover, but I also like the title Bones of Avignon. The only time I choose a book by its cover is when I don't know the author. I happen to know you, and like many others, would be interested in reading whatever you write!

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  38. Both names are great. I would have to choose The Inquisitor's Key, although I thought the cover was a bit more enticing on Bones of Avignon. I chose The Inquisitor's Key because the word "key" made me think, "I need to read this book to find out what information the key reveals by these wonderful authors."

    I know a publisher is going to fight for a name that is fairly easy to recognize by the readers and yet sets the book apart of all the others on the market. I am very loyal to authors and so I don't always look at a cover. I am currently reading books from a Kindle DX and a cover does not do a book any justice on the device (no color). I look for the author's name first and then pay attention to the name of the book. I do miss the brilliant covers of each book.

    Thanks for the link and realizing the best way to collect data is to simply ask your core audience.

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  39. Title-The Bones of Avignon
    Cover-the key
    Include "A Body Farm Novel" and Jefferson Bass

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  40. Anything Jefferson Bass!!!! But the key could unlock the body farm and to me is more of a mystery approach

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  41. I prefer the Bones of Avignon title AND artworl. The dark colors reflect the menace, the cross the religious theme and, of course, the city setting named and the series connection made very clear by the continued use of "bones". Alhough the keys played a part in the plt, they were minor, and the Inquisitor, although a major "player", was not the centrsl character. Absence of the word bones might lead one to think it was not part of the series.

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  42. Sorry, but I need to add one more commeny. I found it confusing to see the same book with 2 titles. This mihht not have been so much an issue when first released - one in the UK & the other stateside - but this long afterward both are available and CONFUSING! So, in future, please just have one title, even if differing cover art is used. P.S. I will read ANY Jefferson Bass body farm book.

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