Reading Rage: Why I Hate TV and Movie Tie-In Book Covers
I am a late adopter of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I actually bought it several years ago—long enough ago that I recently discovered I had actually purchased it at Borders—on recommendation from a friend, but I couldn’t really get into it. I finally decided to try it again on the way back from my honeymoon after my husband was glued to it for two days straight (yes, also during our recent honeymoon). I’ve recently started reading A Clash of Kings on my iPad because I didn’t want to wait for a hard copy to be delivered… and also, I couldn’t seem to find a paperback edition to match my edition of A Game of Thrones.
All I could find were either mass market paperbacks (my copy of A Game of Thrones isn’t mass market) or they’re ugly HBO tie-in editions with the red banner splashed across the top of the cover. I’ve always avoided any sort of tie-in edition out of principle, but never actually explored why tie-in editions make me feel squicky. After thinking on it for a while, I’ve come up with a few reasons why tie-in editions are pretty much the worst.
The original cover art is pretty much always better. TV show and movie tie-in covers almost inevitably end up as nothing more than posters for the show or movie. If I wanted a poster, I would buy one, but I don’t; I want a book. Here are a few in particular that annoy me:
The original cover artwork is just so iconic, and the tie-in cover is literally just a poster. I love me some Leo, but GTFO my book covers, plz.
Who knows what the original original book cover looked like (probably just plain bound leather, if there was a cover at all, I would imagine) but this is the first one I owned and I think it’s beautiful. Keira Knightley isn’t bad looking, but—much like with Leo—she doesn’t belong on the cover of my book.
Again with Keira Knightley and the not belonging on my book covers thing. I adored this book, but I don’t really think it would translate well into a movie—it seemed too introspective to me. (Has anyone seen it? Opinions?) The original cover just screams vulnerability, desperation, hopelessness—and the movie tie-in cover looks like…a poster. Sigh.
The TV show or movie suddenly becomes the book’s raison d’être. I mean, duh, why else would you read a book unless it was also a movie? Why would you read a book just to, you know, read a book? BECAUSE BOOKS ARE AWESOME, THAT’S WHY.
I hate the implication that just because this book is now a movie, that magically makes it worth reading. I think it cheapens the experience of reading, to an extent—it’s as if these new labels are screaming “You should read this book because it was good enough to be turned into a movie, the greatest and most wonderful of all media!” (I’m sure there are plenty of people who see movies this way, but I’m not one of them.) As if the goal of all authors is really to write a pre-screenplay, not a book to be valued on its own. As if other books not made into movies aren’t worthwhile.
The movie or show then becomes the primary media by which people will consume this author’s brainchild. That, to me, is so wrong. Movies and TV shows can only convey so much. Movies in particular are far more restricted than books: they often can’t adequately display a character’s inner turmoil the way words on a page can; they’re restricted in subject matter if they want anything more family-friendly than an R rating; they have to jam days or months or years into an easily-digestible, 2-hour timeframe. And yet, despite all these failings, the book is reduced to an advertising ploy for the movie. (I realize that the HBO series Game of Thrones addresses a lot of these issues, since it’s a series and not a movie. But look at the DVD sets for each season. Do you see any mention of the book or the author on the cover? No.)
A book’s most valuable quality, to me as a reader, is not how “movie-worthy” it is; while I’m grudgingly happy for the authors (because I love them and respect their work and want them to make lots of money and produce MORE wonderful books), I almost always hate when a book I like has been made into a movie. I hate even more when I read books that are practically written to BE movies (The Hunger Games series and the Divergent series both come to mind; though I did enjoy both series, at least until Allegiant killed the whole Divergent series for me, I was sort of annoyed at how much they read like movies). It’s disappointing to me that authors feel that, in order to be successful, they need to write a book that a) is easily made into a movie and b) that people will want to see as a movie.
(This is going to sound terrible, but) They appeal to the lowest common denominator. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little elitist and a bit of a hipster about my books. (If I wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t be doing this whole book blogging thing in the first place.) If it takes a major motion picture to motivate you to read a book, I’m pretty sure we won’t get along.
“Isn’t it always the goal to get more people reading, though?” Yes, yes, I hear you, and I agree. But I feel the same way about certain books becoming movies as one of my friends does when he hears a band that he “discovered” on the radio. It feels like they’re selling out to the masses. (I never said I was going to be rational about this.) It’s like how the first seasons of a show are always the best, until the rest of the world discovers it and then all the characters eventually just become caricatures of themselves. (Big Bang Theory, I’m looking at you.) Much like Sandy at the end of Grease, these books have changed their exterior so people will like them more.
I do realize that the impetus behind tie-in covers is marketing, and publishers wouldn’t sell them if they didn’t support their business and their authors. I get that. I really do. I want authors to be supported as much as the next bookslut, and if tie-in covers are going to do that, then so be it. I will just continue to support my favorite authors by buying their books before a tie-in cover has a chance to make a debut.
How do you feel about tie-in book covers?