Former Echo Park resident Brando Skyhorse made his national literary debut last year with the publication of his first novel, “The Madonnas of Echo Park.” The book, which features Mexican-American and immigrant residents of Echo Park, picked up some favorable reviews and was selected by Oprah’s magazine as one of the “10 Terrific Reads of 2010.” But the book never won a wide following, with hardcover sales of 5,000 books falling below expectations. But the publisher blames the book cover – not its contents – for the disappointing sales, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.
The cover, which features the book title set against an outline of a brick wall, purple jacaranda blossoms and a silhouette of Madonna, did not please anyone, according to the WSJ story:
Various parties—including the author, the sales department and chain buyers— couldn’t agree on an image. In an effort to please everybody, the jacket went through 41 versions. The final design was intended to appeal to the broadest possible readership, says publisher Martha Levin, whose imprint is a unit of CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster Inc. But as a result of all the compromising, she believes, “we may not have reached any constituency.” “I saw this as a book directed at women,” she says, but a respected colleague argued that “there would be a big male audience who would feel excluded by a jacket that was too female oriented.”
The publisher has commissioned yet another cover for a paperback version of “Madonnas of Echo Park” scheduled to go on sale later this month. The new cover, which went through 31 redesigns, was created to appeal directly to female readers. The cover was also cleansed of “any graphic images that let on that the book is set in Los Angeles in hopes of giving it national appeal,” according to the story.
Perhaps in addition to a new cover, the publisher of “Madonnas of Echo Park” might want to consider having Skyhorse, who has appeared at book readings in New York and Pasadena, read the book in Echo Park. Maybe that will stimulate some local sales.
Cover image from Simon & Schuster website