Books with Fan Art: Including the Audience in the Design

For as long as there have been popular books, there have been reprints and special editions of those books. Redesigning a cover for a new edition of a book can have many purposes: it can be to draw in a new audience, to market the book better in a new country, to advertise its upcoming movie, to celebrate its publication anniversary, and so on. Readers often buy multiple editions of their favorite books, some to read and some to display proudly. Reprinting is common in any literary genre, but a new trend has emerged in Young Adult fiction, partly thanks to the internet: the inclusion of fan-made artwork in a book’s special or collector’s edition.

Authors and publishers have been making use of social media to market their books for a long time, and in some pretty smart and creative ways. A lot of these posts are made with the aim of engagement in mind—there’s no better way to get many people to see a post than to invite the audience to interact with it. YA authors in particular have proven the importance of audience engagement, and many of the most popular YA authors share fan-made works on their own pages. This, along with thanking fans for reading and buying their books, helps create a rapport between the author and the audience where the fans are acknowledged for their role in the success of their favorite books.

It’s a logical next step that publishers would further the audience engagement by redesigning special editions to include the fans, and in many cases, these special editions have sold very well; the collector’s edition of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen with original fan art has sold 17,798 copies so far, while the collector’s edition of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give with its own fan art has sold 132,943 copies so far (sales information from NPD DecisionKey as of 4/20/20). Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone has five special editions: Reaper, Burner, Lighter, Connector, and Seer editions, each printed with new covers and fan art. None of these special editions appear on the NPD database, so we cannot know how well they have sold so far. However, given that Henry Holt and Co. decided to do five separate reprints of one title, all announced together, they were clearly very confident that these editions would sell well. These special editions are often priced higher, and may have limited runs.

These books aren’t being bought solely by the artists whose works are chosen to be included in the new editions; the market for these special editions is demonstrably larger. Fans are willing to pay higher prices, even on books they might already own in an older edition, because the collaborative process between fan base and publisher or author is unique and rewarding even if it is not between the individuals involved. These collector’s editions are seen as a win for the community: we as fans have loved something so much that we get our own version of it which specifically acknowledges what we bring to the work. It behooves authors and publishers to build a dialogic relationship between them and the audience. By allowing fans to become a part of the creative process, publishers are widening their pool of inspiration while rewarding loyal fans, and together we can create something new.

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