Judging a book by it’s cover

Yen Press, license holder of the Spice & Wolf light novel series in the US, has recently released the cover art that they’ll be using on the first volume of the English release this December (left). I think it’s safe to say that among the fans of Spice & Wolf, the cover is seen as very much undesirable, others have phrased it more harshly than I.

The decision is based on a stigma in the US where cartoons are for kids and a book with a cartoon girl on the front would not attract the interest and audience desired. With a cartoon girl on the front, the book would appear to be marketed towards a younger audience, the content of the book however is aimed at an older audience. The disconnect between the cover and content would yield poor sales and they would likely not make the return on their investment that they desire. I can understand this, investing money into a franchise from one culture and trying to market it to a different culture can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean I have to like their choice.

One comment I read mentioned a very important observation I’d over looked, what’s the reader going to think after purchasing the book, opening it up and seeing the original artwork inside by Jū Ayakura? The difference between the cover and Jū Ayakura’s artwork is so vast, will the reader think they’ve been had? I think I might have thought that if I didn’t already know better.

Yen Press knowing that fans of the series would likely find the new cover unappealing they’ve decided to offer a slip cover to replace the new cover (right). However this slip cover only comes as a ‘gift’ in their December Magazine, which will mean one would be required to buy that in addition to the novel. Business wise this seems like a sound plan, get a bit of extra revenue and perhaps increase interest in their magazine. But even this better cover doesn’t feel quite right, the original cover on the Japanese release has monochrome text across Horo’s chest. The replacement cover in Yen Press’ Magazine has a vibrant yellow/orange text that doesn’t blend well at all with the artwork behind it.

My personal thought on the replacement cover, Yen Press should have made it double sided, one side would have their fancy yellow/orange vibrant English text, and the other the original Japanese cover. This might of course cause other issues when using the Japanese cover, such as people assuming I can read Japanese, which I can’t, but I can deal with  that.

Covers aside, I’m excited about the upcoming release and will still be purchasing the Spice & Wolf light novel series in it’s English release. Doing so with hopes that in the future, it will become popular enough that they  no longer need to make these sort of stylistic changes for future volumes, as well as future series.



  1. Matt says:

    You forgot to mention the fact that even on the fan slip cover, they forgot to add the tagline “Merchant Meats Spicy Wolf”. I’m really angry about that. I mean, why did they not add it on the SLIP COVER? They kept everything else!

    I hope they add it back when they print it.

    • Aka says:

      You’re quite right! I didn’t even notice! On the slip cover there would be no harm at all adding it back in. I can understand their leaving it out on the new cover due to it’s potential engrish interpretations and how an American audience may interpret that. But the slip cover is supposed to be for the fans!

  2. Guy says:

    Well, the font and size really are ungainly, and ill-fitting for the manga-esque cover. I don’t think they’re wrong to begin with, but it should’ve been shrunk.

    As for the cover they are selling it with… well, it’s the sort of cover that can call to two groups of people, and honestly, the books I’m going to name are too similar as it is: Those who like strong girl action with some fantasy, ala Kushiel, and those who are looking for pulp girl novels, the romance and, well, written soap opera style dime novels.
    (Kushiel and many of the actually young women with powers in their lives, such as the Anita Blakes series tend to become too purple prose, because they find out that’s what really sells).

    Is there enough romance and plotting in Spice and Wolf? If so, it may work out. They should’ve considered releasing both covers, and marketing each version on a different shelf. Like some books have different covers, and are on both the Sci-fi/fantasy and the YA shelf).

    Overall, the cover on the left is also gorgeous, if the tail seems totally superfluous.

  3. Dee says:

    what i feel most of the fans are forgetting is that Yen Press is owned by a larger publishing corporation who’s marketing team has no knowledge about the manga world at all. The people who make the final decision in the end is the very same marketing team and not Yen Press. When a company decides to invest in a book and publish it, of course they will try to appeal to a audience which will make them more money. And to the fans who are stating that there should be 2 different covers, stop to reconsider why a company will pay money to print 2 different versions. I feel alot of the fans are one sided and being too harsh on Yen.

    • Aka says:

      I can understand the marketing teams decision to produce a new cover for the novel, it makes sense. But their choice is rather poor given the content. The illustration on the front bears no resemblance to the illustrations within, nor does it fit well with the descriptions within.

      With those thoughts in mind, I do not think fans are being one sided or harsh. But you do point out that there’s a higher power hovering over Yen Press.

  4. Mike says:

    Dee – Little, Brown did two editions of ‘The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’ – one with the teen-girl American cover, and one with the original Japanese cover, and have done the same with the sequel, so it’s not as if the idea is unprecedented. That said, Yen apparently want to do things very, very differently.

    To put this all in some kind of perspective, imagine that someone had made an edition of Neal Stephenson’s _Cryptonomicon_, with a busty Amy Shaftoe wearing a skintight wetsuit in a mildly provocative, Lara Croft-esque pose on the cover, and I think – once your head stops exploding – you’ll get an idea where some of the critics are coming from…

    • Aka says:

      I think one of the key differences between the two series is popularity. Spice and Wolf while an excellent series, does not share the same level of popularity as Suzumiya Haruhi. As such, the ROI for Haruhi would be much higher from the start, and attracting a new bigger audience wouldn’t necessarily be required.

      That said, I like the dual cover idea, I just don’t think it makes sense financially, and I appreciate that they did at least think about offering the original cover, even if it does require the purchase of another item.

      I just can’t help but feel that they’re milking the fans for that extra cash, since they’re the only ones who are likely going to care about the cover.

      • Mike says:

        …or perhaps *perceived* popularity? I get the impression that while the first Haruhi novel, at least, sold well *for a light novel*, it might not have met Little, Brown’s expectations.

        Remember, too, that the first season of Spice and Wolf comes out in North America on DVD at the end of December, basically coincident with the first light novel from Yen Press, so the franchise will hopefully pick up more fans than those who’ve only seen fansubbed episodes online. (The cover of the DVD? Illustrated Japanese Holo, surrounded by apples.)

        What I personally would really like to see before ruling out incompetence and insanity on Yen Press’ part is the final cover for the back cover – the front cover is very eye-catching, albeit highly misleading; if the back cover copy makes it at least somewhat clear what the book is actually about, the whole thing might still have a chance of being successful (gross embarrassment by owners at carrying around what looks like a furry porn anthology not withstanding); if not, well…

        • Aka says:

          I like the chosen cover for Spice and Wolf on DVD, as well as the price I see on Amazon.com of $45 for the entire first season.

          But again Yen Press’ cover seems to conflict with the series, as the DVDs have a proper cover and the light novel has an entirely unrelated cover.

          Slightly off topic, you wouldn’t know if they’re offering Spice and Wolf on Blu-ray would you?

          Also, lol @ furry porn anthology

          • Mike says:

            I haven’t heard anything about a Region 1 Blu-ray release, no, and I’d be a bit surprised if there was one – in large part because Spice and Wolf is basically an untested media property in the English-speaking world.

            Also, from what I’ve seen, the Japanese Blu-ray release of season 1 wasn’t considered to have picture quality that was appreciably better than the DVD release, so whether there’s actually anything to be gained by waiting for a release that presumably would use the same master video source is debatable…

          • Aka says:

            I do recall seeing the Japanese Blurays as being rather poor 1080p material, but I thought it still looked better than the DVDs.

            But my PS3 seems to upscale DVDs in a respectable manner anyway.

            I hope when S&WII comes around they release it on Bluray though, it seems quite decent in some respects. And hopefully they fix up the TV releases QUALITY issues. Occassionally Horo looked quite… off.

  5. Mike says:

    Um, folks? Something I just realized – the Yen Press volume of Spice and Wolf is 5×7.5 inches (Width x Height). That means the “slip cover” with the original artwork will be ~7.5 x 15 or so inches.

    Yen+ is 7-1/8 by 10 inches.

    How, exactly, are they going to fit that in there?

    Absolutely brilliant, I must say.

    • Aka says:

      Perhaps the slip cover will stick out a bit from the magazine? That could introduce some easy damage to the slip cover I suppose. Or perhaps the one issue of Yen+ will be slightly taller than usual?

      Interesting though, knowing the measurements.

  6. Quazacolt says:

    wow, didn’t knew yen press would be doing such things. initially im planning to acquire the entire novels set to get to know more about the storyline. even more so when there are books/chapters being left out of the anime. (for example, book 4 is missing from 2nd season.)

    with this im kinda having second thoughts. The cover art to me is actually quite, irrelevant. However, considering the lack of “knowledge”/care towards the series, i am having doubts to its translations. direct translations tend to lose its “true meanings” and/or the emotions/feelings the book is trying to convey (no more animations, all just all of texts) and from the way the cover is showing, its highly probable that it may be heading in that direction.

    on another note, i am interested to see that girl “uncensored”. out of curiousity 😛

    • Aka says:

      I hope you’re wrong about that, I hope the translation is done well, I’d hate to have meanings changed or misrepresented due to a lack of care. They’ve had plenty of time to translate though, surely they wouldn’t have done a poor job on it?

      Would be interesting to see the girl ‘uncensored’ as you say, how well does she resemble Horo in reality? 😀

      • Quazacolt says:

        i hope i’m wrong too. despite yen press shitty marketing on the manga/novel art cover, and the furry porn ordeal, id still want to get it.

        Then again, official licensed materials have a good track record of providing sub par subs/translations. If you’ve had original licensed anime you’d know very VERY well. worse if the publisher themselves doesn’t care for the series which is rather obvious in this case for spice and wolf novels D:

        as for the cover girl, instead of how much she resembles Horo, its more towards random naked girl ftw 😛

        • Mike says:

          “…official licensed materials have a good track record of providing sub par subs/translations. If you’ve had original licensed anime you’d know very VERY well.”

          I wouldn’t say they *all* have a track record of “sub par” translation; rather, I’d say there are a couple companies who are persistent offenders, and a lot of fans who blow any change whatsoever way, way out of proportion. “OMG, OMG, tehy changed a couple of untranslatable Japanese jokes in _Azumanga Daioh_, teh whole thing sux!!!1111”, et cetera. The OVAs of Gunsmith Cats is a good example – the “accurate” translation of the Japanese dialogue, translated into English, would make Mae sound like a bipolar housemaid. (And Holo/Horo is nothing when you learn that female protagonist Rally Vincent’s name should, according to the purists, actually be Larry Vincent!)

          There’s nothing inherently sacrosanct about the original material, after all, and minor editing for localization is a common practice in the publishing industry – a lot of American novels published in the UK get “Britishized”, and vice-versa, and those countries theoretically use the same language! Trying to translate a language like Japanese accurately is several orders of magnitude more challenging, and probably more of an art than a science.

          For what it’s worth, fansubs and fan translations are rarely any more accurate, on the whole – just look at Toradora!, for example, where no two subbing groups can agree on the lyrics to the OP and ED, or Bakemonogatari, where at least one group’s subs read like they were machine-translated by people who don’t understand the slightest bit of either English *or* Japanese…

  7. Majestix says:

    *looks at girl* Likes.
    *saw teeth* O_O

    In any case, I’m curious as how they’re handling it, so I’m buying it anyway, and I’ll go on some forums to rant about it if I don’t like it. ^_^

  8. […] would be using for their US release of Spice & Wolf Volume 1. I like many disliked this cover, a lot. Yen Press anticipating this reaction by those who already know and like the franchise, decided to […]