Well Played, Avon!

Two weeks ago, I had a signing at Posman’s Books in Grand Central Station, and as I chatted with Stacey Agdern, the romance expert there, I noticed something really interesting on the shelves. Posman’s has a small romance section, but for its size, it’s amazingly diverse and well-stocked – mostly thank to Stacey, who is kickass as a bookseller and as a romance advocate. Because of the smallness of the section, most of the books were displayed spine-out, and this is where I noticed that Avon was doing something REALLY cool. Have a look. (NB: I apologize for the somewhat lame quality of some of the pics.)

The image of the cover takes up 3/4ths of the spine, and is bigger than the name OR title. SO smart. It really stands out!

See how Lavinia Kent’s titles pretty much jump off the shelf and grab you? Look at how much of the spine is taken up by cover art.

Close up of Kent title spines. The image is really HUGE compared to the neighboring book spines.

The image is almost 3/4ths of the spine – and it’s REALLY eye catching when you look at a lineup of book spines, isn’t it? I think that is SO smart. Especially when you compare to the display of book spines on a huge shelf FULL of romance.

Some spines have a small postage-stamp sized picture of the cover.

Some spines, like Julie James’ books on the left, have a small slightly-bigger-than-a-postage-stamp image of the cover. But Avon is making part of the cover image the dominant part of the spine—which to me was very eye-catching, such as with the Samantha James book, pictured here.

Marjorie Liu's covers - not as big of an image on the spine but bigger than her old publisher's version of the books.

Sometimes it’s not always half or 3/4ths, but the increased image size, as with Marjorie Liu’s Avon books, is still appealing to look at. Compare the Avon books (pink insignia at the top) to one of her older Dorchester titles (no pink insignia at the top of the spine) on the shelf here.

Eloisa James' more recent books also have HUGE spine images vs. her older books with smaller square images

This shot also highlights the difference – on the right are the older books, and on the left are the Eloisa James books with the majority of the spine being used for the art. Now, I’m definitely one of those readers who remembers the art more than the title (sorry, librarians of the world, I am indeed *that patron*) so this helps me immeasurably.

I remember from photography classes that discussed composition of images that faces, and skin as well, draw the eye more than anything else (which is why, as an aside, one should not necessarily have format portraits taken in short sleeves, as the face and the upper arm compete for viewer attention). Since so many romance covers feature faces and skin (ahem), to feature so much of of both on the spine is great reader-discovery strategy. With the art featuring people often larger than the words on the spine, these books stand out in a HUGE way.

I think this is SO smart, especially since shelf space, if you even have a bookstore to shop in to begin with, is dwindling. The limited real estate of the spine is being used with a much more effective style here, and I have to say, mad props to you, Avon. Way to stand out.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sally says:

    Pictures of romance novels. My kind of eye candy. *o*

    I really, really, really like how the cover image in the spine of Lavinia Kent’s books blend in with the background.

    I don’t much like the spines of Eloisa James’ books for that reason. It’s too cluttery, IMO.

  2. 2
    Leslie in Maine says:

    I think the “spine as cover” is agreat idea. I also like titles that are printed across, not lenghtwise, on the spine. I find myself turning my head to read titles and that can make for a sore neck after a morning browsing the shelves.

  3. 3
    Pamala says:

    That’s so very cool.

      Thanks for highlighting the great job that Avon marketing has done, Sarah.  Adding the artwork to the spine makes good use of the shelf space because really, ALL the books can’t be on an end cap or feature table.  This way, the folks browsing the shelves, still get to see all of the pertinent information along with the visuals designed to entice a sale.  It’s a excellent way for all of the Avon authors to get as much in-store exposure as possible. 


  4. 4
    KZoeT says:

    I love the spines on Lavinia Kent’s books for both the great artwork and the horizontal title/text. I’m with @Leslie In Maine: turning my head to read titles can be a pain (literally) in the neck.

    Great job, Avon!

  5. 5
    Keri Ford says:

    that’s really cool. The spines remind me of bookmarks!

  6. 6

    This is also good because it’s the author’s name the jumps out and “owns” most of the real estate, not the title of the book. As we book lovers know, mostly it’s the author we look for, title second. Very clever, Avon. Some might say ingenious…(typed with a Dr Evil accent).

  7. 7
    kkw says:

    I don’t much care for it.  I don’t mind a torrid cover, but I definitely want a spine that’s as plain as possible.  It makes me want to browse, to pull out the books and discover their secrets.  Having it all displayed on the spine makes it too easy somehow.  I’m sure this is a minority opinion, however, and that it’ll be a good move for Avon financially.

  8. 8
    Chelsea says:

    The Eloisa James ones really jump out at me. That would at the very least get me to pick the book up at read the back. Great strategy.

  9. 9
    narcissa says:

    It certainly makes the spines stand out.  However it makes me less likely to purchase the books.  Its one thing to have them stand out on a bookstore shelf, its quite another for them to stand out on my shelf at home.  For the very reason I don’t want to look at a couple embracing on a cover of a book I don’t want them on the spine either.

    That said I do appreciate the name horizonal like that so you can read the name without tilting your head.

  10. 10
    Lavinia Kent says:

    I do love the Avon art department.  Getting my cover art is always my favorite moment.


  11. 11
    Diane Sallans says:

    I think that’s a really great idea!

  12. 12
    Tan says:

    I know this is a minority opinion but I really dislike having cover art on the spine because it makes it another thing for me to want to hide when I take the book out.  I was super happy when the covers shifted to less explicit pictures or went with those lovely looking setbacks so it was easy for me to read them in public without getting the raised eyebrow.

  13. 13
    DiDi says:

    I enjoy the art on the spines.  Having a ereader i miss cover art!

  14. 14
    Lynne Silver says:

    I LOVE that Avon is starting to write the authors name so shoppers don’t have to turn their head sideways. Leslie is right. I often need a neck massage after book shopping!
    And,in Lavinia’s case, the story inside her book cover is as beautiful as the cover.

  15. 15
    Anne says:

    I like reading the names the right way, but I could really do without the semi-naked people on the spines for when I put them in my book shelf at home.

  16. 16
    ev says:

    If I remember from something I was reading when I was still at Border’s, the reason for the spine art was what you mentioned in the beginning of your article- that the small amount of space allotted means that they had to find a way to grab reader’s attention. They started cutting down on the space to face out books and this was the way they “fought back”. Someone in marketing should have gotten a big raise for it too!!

  17. 17
    infinitieh says:

    Love artwork on the spines!  Since I frequently buy books solely for the cover art, having a bit of the art on the spine helps a lot.  I, too, remember books by their covers (big drawback of ebooks), so having the artwork on the spine would let me know whether I have read the book without my having to pull the book out at all.

  18. 18
    Sazbah says:

    This is such a clever idea, even large romance section (my closest bookstore has an ENORMOUS romance section). Because they’re all mass market, and all candy colours, so many of the books just blend into each other. And I’m with you: I remember artwork (sometimes not even the author’s name :S)

  19. 19
    Kwana says:

    You are so right. What a good idea this was to whoever thought it up. Thanks for this post.

  20. 20
    R.J. says:

    I have noticed that I diaproportionately pick up an Avon book when I just do a quick browse through the romance section for something new to read.  This is probably because the covers jump out, but also, many of my favorite authors are published by Avon, so yhat might influence it, too.

  21. 21
    Cialina says:

    So true. They definitely stand out a lot more. Bravo to Avon.

  22. 22
    roserita says:

    But when everyone starts to do it (and they will), will it still be as effective?

  23. 23
    Kati R says:

    I’m a girl who judges a book by its spine. :)

  24. 24
    Karen H says:

    I don’t “frequently buy solely for the cover art,” like infinitieh – I only buy books for the cover art.  I have way too many books already and if there’s no special cover art to make it a keeper (I don’t re-read so that’s not why I buy), I just get the book from the library or the used book store where it doesn’t cost so much and I can trade it in later.  I’m very happy to see the cover art on the spine as it’s very appealing.  And since Avon frequently uses the great cover artists, such as Jon Paul and Jim Griffin, it’s especially a treat. Now if they would only always give credit to the cover artist on the copyright page or back of the book (sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t).

  25. 25
    EbonyMcKenna says:

    Funny how I hadn’t noticed this until you pointed it out. I’m looking at my bookshelf and sure enough, the Avon romances have the spine full of illustrative goodness.

    With all my Anna Cambell’s lined up, the pics on the spine get bigger and bigger with each new book and . . . is it the same male model each time??? I’ve only just noticed!

  26. 26
    Lostshadows says:

    I’m in the minority. Yeah it’ll get your attention if the surrounding spines are mainly text, but in a group they look kinda cluttered.

    Also, the titles are being squished down to nothing. Even with the better orientation, it’ll make scanning lower shelves harder.

  27. 27
    Mina Lobo says:

    Dig the horizontal title on the spine, even can enjoy some artwork, only I don’t care for the standard clinchy-bad-mullet-dude-generic-heroine art.

  28. 28
    Freya says:

    “Two weeks ago, I had a signing at Posman’s Books in Grand Central Station, and as I chatted with Stacey Agdern, the romance expert there, I noticed something really interesting on the shelves. Posman’s has a small romance section, but for its size, it’s amazingly diverse and well-stocked – mostly thank to Stacey, who is kickass as a bookseller and as a romance advocate”

    In the spring of 2007 I went on a holiday to New York. One of the highlights was my (almost an hour long) conversation with Stacey Agdern in Posman’s Books. She knew so much and was very helpful. And even though the romance section was small it was huge in comparison to what you find the Dutch bookstores.

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