Story of a Book Cover

Having a book translated into foreign languages is probably the most thrilling experience for a writer, the times that make me feel most like an “author”. What a privilege, to be read by people from cultures very different from my own–always tantalizing to imagine what they think of this world I’ve created, Los Angeles in 1980, the punk era, the sensibilities and values. And the book covers too reflect the flavor and taste  of those countries.

Paint it Black began almost simultaneously in English and Dutch. Here’s the big, beautiful American hardbound.

pib hbd US.jpegPublisher, Little Brown and Co.

This cover surprised me–I assumed it would be BLACK!. In the UK Virago published it in two smaller formats–the tiny mass market one is adorable.

The Dutch version is also a stunner– Portret in Zwart. Such a cool title — wish I’d thought of it.  The Dutch publisher, De Bezije Bij, is a venerable and interesting house, founded during the resistance in occupied Holland.

pib dutch portret in zwart.jpeg

Many of the foreign editions used the white cover.  Here, the German hardbound version flips the image to the left and uses a green spine is –publisher, Lubbe Bastei.

pib german.jpeg

The Italians go for modernist–the cover has  cutouts, which become the diagonal-cut flap. Publisher is Il Saggiatore, Milan.

italian pib.jpg

Sweden made this beautiful swath of black. “Saknaden”–it means “Missing.”

pib swedish.jpeg Bokförlaget Forum, publisher.

The Israelis used the leather door into the grandfather’s study for their moody book cover suggestive of the madness in that household. Publisher, Modan.

PIB israel.jpg

I love the Romanian punk cover, including the character of Ming, which features in the book.  A little reprise of the girl’s back from white Oleander…

pib romanian.jpg

The Lithuanians took it in a different direction–also the girl’s back… but a more 60s graphic look.

pib lithuanian.jpgpublisher, Versus Aureus.

The Polish Paint It Black has a flap that folds out to show the entire image. It also goes with blue instead of white.  Publisher, Bertelsmann, Warsaw.

pib poland.jpg

When the paperback came out in the US, I was happy when it was decided to use the photo from the Dutch version, lightened and reddened, melded to the text design of the white book.

pib pbk US.jpegBack Bay Books, publisher.

pib turkish.jpg The Turkish version uses the same cover. Pegasus Yayincilik, publisher.

The Serbian translation, publisher Laguna, used a similar type and tone in the photo, but did a back:


The Australian version keeps the art but turns the red type to white. (don’t know why WordPress keeps inking in weird black marks in the white, but you get the idea).

pib aus.gif

And the Dutch paperback went with a somber black and white:

pib dutch paper.jpg

What’s next?  A movie tie in cover? French? Russian?  Fingers crossed!

When I have more time, I’ll compile the White Oleanders and Kicks.

10 Responses to “Story of a Book Cover”

  1. Tres cool!

  2. Antonette DeVito Says:

    Tres cool, love. Hope to see you soon. Hugs!

    Toni DeVito


  3. I especially like the Israeli and Lithuanian interpretations; all of them esthetically pleasing.

  4. Oddly enough, in terms of my own writing, I never even thought beyond having ONE cover, much less several. And every cover presented for Paint It Black is brilliant. So many wonderful visions for your story.

  5. non parlo inglese.mi ha incuriosito il tuo blog.Penso tu sia una donna eccezionale.Molto in gamba

  6. Wicked cool post!

  7. (don’t know why WordPress keeps inking in weird black marks in the white, but you get the idea).

    It’s because that graphic is actually a transparent GIF, which is allowing the black background of the main content column to show through the see-through parts of the text. If you can find a JPEG version of that cover you won’t have the issue, or try converting it in a graphics program.

  8. ozlem Says:

    Dear Janet, How can I start? I am a Turkish girl. A daughter of divorced parents; a lawyer mother, a control freak father… When I read the story of Astrid, I was 15, an age when they were already divorced and I already discovered utter freedom. Astrid was an only child, Scorpio too. I caught many similarities between us, and she thaught me that being alone is completely OK. There is so much freedom about being alone and not depending on others about anything. Understanding this helped me to ”cultivate” my soul by reading and travelling and by standing up alone, I slowly learnt to build healthier relationships. Years later I met a Danish boy at my University. And had very intense relationship about a year(an erasmus student). .He was artistic,talented and taught me so much about not being materialistic. I discovered dark streets of Istanbul.He took many pictures and taught me how to. He cared about street people, he was interested in lives of ‘others’ like street people,beggars, prostitutes. He bought clothes for a beggar for instance or shared his rice with a transexual.. Had my first foreign food with him. I learnt to care for humans from him…But he had to leave after a year and When he left,I felt like he died and I would never see him again. And strangely, he never wrote me after a few e-mails.I was too proud to write him after he responed my last mail coldly. I learnt that he got married with a ‘white’ rich Swedish and had a kid…And years passed, they got divorced and he found me on facebook (he told me he hated facebook, starbucks, anything that serves to capitalism and would rather sit on a razor than to have one-but years apparently changed him-and his haircut.He looked like Hitler on facebook.)And I was reading about Michael…
    Dear Janet, I believe that there is some kind of connection between us, like you know me.Like we know each other. My point is, please keep on writing, anything. Poems, novels, short stories… It nourishes my soul. You are a great writer who inspires me. Best Regards, Özlem

    • Thank you so much Ozlem! I’m amazed at how my books have echoed your experiences… Always super exciting to hear from readers in other countries.I am so sorry it’s taken me this long to get back to my blog, I’ve been finishing up my next novel, The Revolution of Marina M. So appreciate your taking the time to write to me. Hope you like the new one! It comes out in November. All best wishes, Janet

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