I am writing you as a lover of books, no, an ambassador of books. As an inventory manager at a large independent book store, I assure you, I care for books like very few Americans do. I spend a lot of time every day thinking about books, shelving them in my head the way you fit Tetris blocks mentally after having played for hours before bed. Things like humidity pain me not because of the state of my hair, but the state of paperback covers curling when they are face-out on the shelves. But at least these covers revert to their prior state of flatness when shelved spine-out and pressed between their literary brethren.
Not so is the case for a damaged die-cut jacket.
Publishers, I come to you hoping that you will understand that books with die-cut details in the jacket or cover, however cute or funny or exciting to look at, stand no chance on a shelf not maintained and guarded by an ex-member of the FBI's bomb squad, treating each with the delicacy and precision he would treat a live wire. Inevitably, these seemingly simple jackets will be shelved too close and too hastily next to another book by a customer - or even a distracted, busy member of the staff - and the material that creates the cute little hole(s) will start to tear backward. The tome has begun its descent into book purgatory.
One tiny tear is never where it ends. Even books with just one simple cut in the cover wind up with their covers tattered beyond recognition, and remain lonely on the shelves where they cannot, will not sell until marked down and banished to the clearance aisle. And nobody wants a damaged book. Much like Rudolph's Island of Misfit Toys, the damaged books in this aisle can stay there for years before anyone even gives them a sidelong glance.
So here's the thing, Publishers. If you want your books to look beautiful and pristine on the shelves of my book store, stop making books with die-cut covers. Especially books for kids and teens, as these are folks who often times haven't figured out the proper care and keeping of a perfect-bound masterpiece. And even the young ones who do love their books as much as I do have no control over the four year old who comes into the store behind them just thinks it's fun to pull book after book from the shelves, throwing them to the floor, just to see how much damage they can accomplish before Momma notices. Kids will be kids, after all.
I understand that you want your books to be the most intriguing, cutting-edge items customers can see. But if you want your books to be seen at all, for the love of all things literary, make that cutting edge a little less literal.
With All Due Respect,
Ambassador of the Books
EDIT: Below is a picture of Sarah Dessen's latest book. I haven't read it, and have no opinion on the book itself. But I thought maybe this post needed an example photo. Here you have it:
1 week ago