All in a Cover

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a phrase that librarians, parents, and others caution young readers with. I’ve always taken issue with that phrase because, for me, the cover is an introduction to what I will be reading, a reminder of the world I will be jumping into every time I turn a page. Thus, from my point of view, the cover is an important part of the reading process, and a degree of judgment seems only natural. A good cover draws readers into the story before they have even cracked the spine. PG cover 72dpi 220px

The goal of the publisher is to create a cover that both attracts readers and provides a window into what the book contains. Some artistic license may be involved in conveying the essence of what readers can expect to experience. Even though there is a photograph of Laura Ingalls with her hair loose down her back, when we released the cover image for Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, a “hair controversy” ensued. In general, some readers claimed, the real Laura Ingalls would have worn her hair up, but when I look at the artist’s rendition on the cover of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, I am immediately transported to the wind-swept West and the beginnings of an American writer’s journey.

The cover does a great job of what it should do: catch the reader’s eye and engage the reader’s mind. As Nancy Aguilera wrote on this website, “I imagine Laura walking away . . . with her bonnet on and hair braided, under Ma’s watchful eyes, and then as soon as she’s out of sight she takes off her bonnet and shakes out her hair, enjoying the feel of theCover- By the Shores of Silver Lake warm prairie breezes blowing through her beautiful thick hair while she sits gazing at Silver Lake.” According to an Amazon reviewer, “The cover is beautiful, and not only does it look so much like teenage Laura, it also fits really well with the Garth Williams illustrations we are all familiar with.”

Deb Hosey White, in her blog on Goodreads, goes further: “If ever there was a book that felt special when I first held it in my hands and began turning the pages, this is the book.” The reader’s experience should begin from the moment they see and pick up the book, and that is what the Pioneer Girl Project production team aimed to do in creating this cover and the book it encloses. Based on the overwhelmingly positive comments and industry reviews, I would say they have succeeded. The New York Times Book Review even featured the cover along with their best sellers lists in the Sunday, April 12, print edition.NYTimes 4-12-15-1

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography is a scholarly book (in fact, it has been called the encyclopedia on all things Wilder), but it is also the story of a woman’s childhood and adolescent experiences, and the watercolor painting by artist Judy Thompson illustrates this combination wonderfully well.

Jennifer McIntyre

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“Not-So-Little Sales on the Prairie”: Pioneer Girl is still available; More Books to Come

Pubweekly sales chart

The week-to-week unit sales of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography are analyzed by Publishers Weekly.

Now in its fourth week on the New York Times Best Sellers list, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, continues to defy expectations. As the industry news source, Publishers Weekly, stated in its story “Not-So-Little Sales on the Prairie,” on March 30, transactions numbered close to 40,000 out of the 75,000 units printed, and the book remains on top-selling lists throughout the nation.

Moreover, bookstores report that this popular item continues to drive people to their stores. The customers who especially appreciate Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography?—those who prefer the physical book. “It’s this huge beautiful book, and it’s so much fun to spend time with and to hold,” said Sundance Books and Music employee Stephanie Lauer to Reno News & Review reporter D. Brian Burghart earlier this month. Never staying out of the limelight for long, the book appears in news articles weekly, links to which can be found on the Pioneer Girl Project Media Coverage page.

Copies of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography from the third printing continue to be available to individuals through the South Dakota Historical Society Press, as well as at retail locations throughout the United States. Distributors, online book sellers, and book stores will receive more books from a fourth and a fifth print run, totaling 50,000 copies, that will be shipped at the end of April and beginning of May.

Jennifer McIntyre

The Universal Appeal of Pioneer Girl

Readers who have followed this blog will not be surprised by the groundswell of enthusiasm that Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography has generated around the world. But every once in a while, the phenomenon expresses itself in a way that surprises even the staff here at the Pioneer Girl Project. For example:

Strolling into the office on Monday morning, we found tear sheets from two publications, both of which featured Pioneer Girl. Were they:

A. The Los Angeles Times and The Guardian
B. The Columbus Dispatch and Entertainment Weekly
C. The Christian Science Monitor and Foreword Reviews
D. The Wall Street Journal and The National Enquirer

The answer is D. That’s right, folks, D. We read them on the same day. Strange bedfellows, no? In fact, we had already known that a write-up in the Journal was coming, but the Enquirer made us grin with amusement. Wilder’s book appears on a page with Barbara Walters, Nicolas Cage, and Carrie Underwood. That’s pretty A-list company for an author who has been dead for nearly sixty years.

strange bedfellows

The fact is, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s appeal, both as a fiction writer and a historical figure, is broad and long-lasting. Indeed, all of the news outlets listed above have featured Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography in the last six months, along with leading online and broadcast media like NPR, BBC, Slate, and a fantastic review by Wendy McClure, author of The Wilder Life, on Refinery 29.

So keep your eyes open – you never know when Pioneer Girl may receive notice in a publication near you.

Rodger Hartley