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Remembering what happened in a series. A question about jacket copy. We recommend What We See When We Read and Cover, both by Peter Mendelsund.
Angela from Wisconsin asks how to complete the details in a book series fresh in your mind when there is often a year or more in between books. My trick is to first check out the book’s Wikipedia page, as the book synopsis can be quite detailed, and can be enough to refresh your memory. If you’re trying to remember what happened in the books of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, you should definitely check out A Wiki of Ice and Fire, which includes book synopses, and more detailed synopses for each chapter. An app, called The World of Ice and Fire, lets you view all information about the books and characters, only up to as far as you’ve read.
Many authors are experts at weaving in, as you read the new book, what you need to know from the previous books. And some series don’t have to be read in order so some books will hint at what has happened before that give background to the characters. In comics and graphic novels, there is sometimes a page along the lines of “The Story So Far…” and that’s something that I love to see, and it makes it so much easier to jump right into the story.
Audiobook of the week (11:10)
The Giver by Lois Lowry, narrated by Ron Rifkin, is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.
Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.
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A Jacket Copy Question (13:41)
Jane emailed us a question about jacket copy, the descriptions of the story that grace book jackets. She wondered who writes it, does the author have any say in what it says, why does it sometimes give away too much. These are questions that neither Ann nor I could answer so we contacted some of our editor friends. We got several responses and it’s clear that there are no single answers for any of these questions. What we did find out is that the copy is meant to introduce the reader to the book and to give a sense of the story as well as the writing style and what the book evokes. The copy can be written by the editor, or someone in the marketing department. Sometimes even the pitch the agent wrote captures the book so perfectly that it will be used as jacket copy. And, if the author doesn’t have a hand in the writing of it, they certainly see it and can give their approval.
Regarding spoilers, one of the editors we contacted acknowledged the balancing act that must be struck. Do you describe a key event that happens 50 pages in? It’s a key part of the story, but is it a spoiler?
Finally, we learned that jacket copy is often changed from hardcover to paperback, and, very rarely, when a hardcover is reprinted.
Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read, Both by the Same Author (26:33)
Peter Mendelsund is the Associate Art Director for Alfred A. Knopf, and he has just released two books.
Ann recommends What We See When We Read, a fully illustrated look at how we visualize images while reading. He explores the way an author can describe a character even when he’s not actually describing them, along with many other examinations of the path between word, eye, brain, and our perceived image.
Cover is Peter’s oversized, full-color, hardcover that looks at his design work for book jackets, as well as his process. The book includes many failed ideas for famous books such as Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and All That Is by James Salter. He describes his creative process in detail and the book also features essays from authors, sharing their thoughts on Peter’s designs for their book.