Back in the early 90s, as the new Marketing Director at Collins’ Educational division I was acutely aware of the public’s ‘brand recognition’ of Collins dictionaries and road atlases. It was a no-brainer to ‘extend the brand’ ie pinch it for the division’s catalogues and leaflets. You may well recall the distinctive Stemple Garamonde font in white lettering on a bright red band. At a stroke, an already respectable list acquired kudos and awareness. Since then the Collins brand has ‘evolved’ beyond all recognition – much to my chagrin - although it occasionally returns to that distinctive look.
For some reason I’ve never quite fathomed, fiction publishers are remarkably reticent about putting their logos on the front covers of their books. Yet they’re all aware of that small black and white flightless bird that lives in the Antarctic – Penguin, the most recognized brand in publishing. Take a look at your bookshelves and see how visibly it appears - and where.
However, there’s another publisher whose name is lodged in the public’s subconscious but not because of a logo. Mills and Boon may attract a snobbish response from more literary readers but they are a highly successful publisher who have ‘stuck to the knitting’. Their niche in romantic fiction for women is such that no one else dares try to compete. But when you’ve got that measure of success how do you expand?
M&B are part of a larger group – Harlequin – who, in recent years, have launched Mira books, a literary fiction imprint. And we have been pleased to feature several of their books – indeed, The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy appears in our latest issue.
Last year they extended this imprint into Mira Ink – books for young adults. And for 2012, Hannah Harrington is an American author of . . . wait for it . . . 22 who lives in Michigan and Saving June is her debut novel.
The proof I’ve read has the likely American cover which probably wouldn’t work in the UK. If you’ve ever seen US and UK versions of the same book you’ll know just how different they can be but what attracted me was the blurb, with eerie echoes of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. June has committed suicide 9 days before her high school graduation ceremony. Harper, June’s younger sister by two years, was the one who found her in the garage but the book starts at the wake with an urn on a mantelpiece and a family blown apart. What follows is a road trip to dispose of June’s ashes in the way that Harper thinks she would have wanted – which, almost inevitably, is without the knowledge of her mother or estranged father.
There are times when the dialogue should curl up at the end of the line, such is Ms Harrington’s ability to catch that annoying uplift that teenagers have adopted. But that’s being picky because this author has genuinely caught what it’s like to be a teenager these days. Existing relationships develop and new ones shift and change. Just as Mantelpiece gives you an insight into the horrors of losing a family member so does June in an equally affecting way. I’m not sure exactly when it’s to be published but I’d love to hear of groups who read both and the discussions that ensued because there’s much fertile ground here.
As a side note I loved Jake’s commitment to Mix CDs – those compilations I still put together that can never be emulated by a record company, unless it’s one of those soundtracks where the music is integral to the film. True Romance and The Sopranos spring to mind. Even better to find at the end of the book the track listings for three of them. Much ‘old hippy’ stuff which I rate makes me think of downloading the tracks I don’t have to see how the whole CD would play through.
So top marks to Mira and to Mira Ink for venturing into an already crowded marketplace. I’d dearly love to bring you Saving June as a featured book in a future issue but just in case it doesn’t work out do add it to your list to check out. Believe me it’s well worth it.
We may well – through our sister magazine, tBkmag – get involved in trialling the UK cover with its ‘target market’. And if we do I’ll urge them to put their logo on the front cover as a badge of quality.