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Monday, July 9, 2012

Muggle Monday (21): The Casual Vacancy - Boring on Purpose?

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I post a quote, a video, or a significant piece of news from the Harry Potter franchise. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this meme: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.


This week, I'm featuring J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy - the cover of which was revealed this past week. The reveal got me thinking about the marketing of the book - the choice of title, cover, and blurb - are they supposed to be boring on purpose?

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Published: September 27, 2012
Pages: 512


When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?


All three aspects (the title, the cover, and the blurb) - three things that marketing teams usually try to make as intriguing as possible so as to entice people to pick up the book - are all very simplistic and lacking any interest. This of course strikes me as odd and leads me to believe that "boring" may very well be what they're going for here - at least on the surface. The simple bicoloured cover. A title with the words "casual" and "vacancy" - neither of which evoke excitement (and J.K. Rowling's works are no strangers to being renamed in the hopes of inciting more interest in readers; after all, Scholastic decided to change the original name of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to Sorcerer's Stone knowing that the title would entice kids more readily). And the blurb promises conflict, even war, but it's the boring, small town, regular problems variety. Not the stuff of Hollywood movies.

But if I know Jo, I know there is something more to The Casual Vacancy, under the surface of the apparent modesty of the title, cover, and blurb. After all, we all know she knows how to write a story in which a seemingly normal and lacklustre environment is in actuality hiding secrets so enigmatic and grand that they can't not make for an excellent story.

What do you think? Do you think that the seeming monotony of The Casual Vacancy is purposeful, a device for lulling us into a false sense of apathy, only to be revealed that there is something much more to this small town conflict? And do you have any interest in reading The Casual Vacancy when it is released September 27, 2012? I would love to know what you think in the comments!

36 comments :

  1. Jo is well know for her protectiveness of her forthcoming books. Perhaps this was a way to release a cover without giving too much of the good stuff away. So, yes, I think you may well be right!

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    1. Yeah, maybe. Though I generally don't think authors have much of a say about that kind of stuff. But maybe it's the publisher's doing.

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  2. I don't know what to think, honestly. Based just on the cover and on the blurb, I wouldn't be very convinced to read it. That being said, it is written by J.K Rowling, so it should be good. I mean, I wasn't exactly sure I'd like Tales Of Beedle the Bard and I ended up loving them. Maybe it was done on purpose, sort of like "true fans" will read it, reducing the chances of too many people being disappointed?

    I will give it a try though, as I'm curious what goes on in that book. I do hope I like it though :P

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    1. Hmm, interesting thought. I would imagine they want to appeal to as many people as possible though. And sell as many books as possible, in other words. I'm with you though: if it's written by Jo, I am sure to love it.

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  3. Perhaps they are trying to tone down the anticipation for Jo's book. With the success of Harry Potter series and the readership of Jo, they want to make it appear "safe".

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    1. Could be. I just can't reconcile that with the publisher who surely wants to make as much money as possible.

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  4. If I was judging the book on the blurb alone (knowing nothing of the author) I would pass it over. Though it does sound like an episode of Midsomer Murders, which I love.
    It does seem rather dull though - but I'm sure it will be good!

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    1. Heh, yeah it sounds boring... but surely Jo has a trick up her sleeve. Never heard of Midsomer Murders before - sounds fun!

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  5. Yeah the cover is very blah. I think the marketing team doesn't need to work too hard since all of us who LOVED the Harry Potter books will read this book no matter what it looks like.

    Kathryn @ Clean Teen Fiction

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    1. True. It still seems to me that there must be a purpose behind all this blandness besides just laziness on the publisher's part though.

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  6. I was startled by how much the cover ISN'T striking. But, I think it'll still attract enough readers, if only because JKR's name is on it.

    However, all I can think of when I see it is ketchup and mustard.

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    1. Hah! It definitely reminds me of McDonald's.

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  7. It's a brave move for the author of one of the most popular book series of all time to write a small-town story about... local council elections. Quite frankly I can't think of anything I'd be less inclined to read - but because I know she's a damn good storyteller, I'll give it a go nonetheless. And I reckon she/the marketting people are keeping very quiet about this story to make people think, "There MUST be more to this story than they're letting on." (It's working on me, even while I can see what they're up to.)

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    1. Yeah definitely. As boring as it all sounds, I can't help but think that there MUST be more to it and thus I am strangely intrigued even though it's so boring. I would read anything by Jo, honestly, so I am for sure going to be reading this.

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  8. I've been wondering the same thing. It all seems too bland for a JK Rowling book - the cover, the blurb, the title. The story has got to be better than they're making it sound, especially since Rowling is a talented author.

    I'm going to read it just because I'm a fan of her writing (especially when it comes to characters). Hopefully The Casual Vacancy will be incredible!

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    1. Yeah, I would read it either way - whether it sounded interesting or not. Because I know I really will find it interesting no matter how they are choosing to sell it.

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  9. Hmm!! It really does seemed designed to underwhelm which is why I'm curious about it. I just hope the book actually DOESN'T underwhelm when it's actually out.

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    1. Me too. Although in my case at least, I know I won't be underwhelmed. I can't imagine being underwhelmed by anything written by her.

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  10. I wouldn't think about this book twice if it weren't by JK Rowling, but it is so I will definitely be reading it when it comes out.

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    1. It's not something I would naturally be drawn too, I agree (but who would be?!).

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  11. Hmm, I never thought of it this way. I mean I was never pressed about the cover to be honest, I thought it was fine. It looks literary to me and I imagine that is what they are going for.

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    1. I did get the feeling that they weren't going for flashy when they designed this cover. I think literary may be the right word.

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  12. The cover isn't impressive but I know I'll be reading this book when it comes out as, like you, I got faith Jo will come up with a great story!

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    1. She will never let me down. Not truly.

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  13. I know right? I don't know what they're trying to accomplish, but even boring covers can be much prettier than.. whatever this is O_O I'll still read it of course, but it's so ugly! *sobs*

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    1. Heh, you know, I actually don't think it's ugly. I think I can appreciate what they were going for anyways.

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  14. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah, there is definitely some type of marketing genius behind this one that is not immediately obvious. The fact that it's so simple and boring does stop it from being talked about though, so that is something big.

    As of right now, I can say I have no real interest in reading this one, but I am curious about what Jo fans will think of it. We shall see soon.

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    1. That's true, it's being talked about tons, so it isn't to make people discredit the book. I'm curious how it'll be seen and reviewed too, by Jo-fans and non-Jo-fans alike.

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  15. If it wasn't for J.K. Rowling's name, I'd probably completely ignore this one because that cover is just so dull. I actually think the blurb sounds a little interesting but I'm on the fence about reading this one. I know it's J.K. Rowling but just because an author has written one good series, it doesn't automatically mean I'll love all their other works. I'm going to wait for the reviews to pour in before giving this one a try.

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    1. I get that. Probably a safe decision. In my case, I know I really will love anything she ever writes, even if I probably won't love anything like I loved HP, so I'm hoping to read it as soon as possible.

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  16. Yeah, it's not really a book you buy because it'll pretty up the bookshelf. ha. I really don't know what they're trying to do, but just the fact that it says 'J.K. Rowling' will ensure that it sells, even though the cover is lame and the price is set pretty high.

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    1. Yeah, I know it will be a big seller no matter how pretty the cover is. Just seems like they're trying to keep s on our toes or something.

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  17. I thought the cover was a fake when I first saw it! I couldn't believe it could be the real thing because it was so... plain. I will definitely still be reading it because I have so much faith in JK Rowling as a storyteller. I can't help but be excited with what new place she'll take me to :)

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

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    1. I think I was expecting something more like her HP covers and that was where I was surprised. To go from an exciting, spoilery cover, to such a plain, enigmatic one was odd.

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  18. I thought the same thing. BORING! I hope this is just like the cover for now and there will be a better cover later...cause the pub departments are always changing covers. But really? However, we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, right? Can't wait to read it though!

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    1. I wouldn't actually mind if they never changed it... so long as I know they have a specific purpose for said boring cover and it suits it.

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