It is only exaggerating a little to say that many authors would kill to see the shiny gold Newbery medallion on the cover of one of their books. Which is why it is surprising that the latest edition of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book not only forgoes the medal, but the claim as well: his 2009 Newbery win isn’t mentioned on the jacket – back or front – at all.
This edition is expressly for adults, says Jennifer Hart, associate publisher at William Morrow Paperbacks. “We know Neil’s adult fan base will come to this book so we are just giving them a package that will appeal to them,” Hart said. Morrow also repackaged Coraline, Gaiman’s first longer work for children, in a paperback edition aimed squarely at adult readers, although Coraline never won the Newbery.
“The original [Graveyard Book] cover really does scream ‘children’s,’ so it isn’t surprising,” said Jennifer Laughran, a bookseller at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, N.Y. And, she pointed out, it’s hardly unprecedented. “M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Adventures of Octavian Nothing was repackaged for adults here in the U.S.; the Harry Potter series has both kids’ and adult covers in the U.K.”
Those books, of course, had not won the big N, an honor that, for nearly a century, has been one of the few surefire ways for a book to see a hefty boost in sales. Are booksellers seeing evidence that readers agree with the sentiments expressed by Laura Miller in her recent Salon.com essay, in which she likened the Newbery (and the National Book Award finalists) to “the literary equivalent of spinach... a book that somebody else thinks you ought to read, whether you like it or not”? Maybe.
“I can definitely say that a Newbery Medal on the cover would not be a selling point [for adults] and if I were in marketing I would not put it on the cover,” said Leslie Reiner, owner of Inkwood Books in Tampa, Fla. “Covers sell books, and I think of The Book Thief and how the cover works for adult and teens.”
The stylish new cover for The Graveyard Book, designed by Gregg Kulick, “will look good on Halloween displays,” said Laughran, although she wouldn’t go so far as to predict it would produce a huge sales boost. “Any true Gaiman fan, of course, has already read this book.”