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Perfection

Just now on Twitter I came across possibly the most perfect line of copy I’ve ever seen:  the revamped cover from Atheneum/S&S Children’s of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret contains the tagline “Growing up is tough. Period.”

Atheneum, I salute you!

“Growing up is tough. Period.”

If you’re not familiar with the book you probably weren’t a preteen girl post 1970 and you also might not know that this, perhaps the most perfect book I read in all of elementary school, is about a girl trying to figure out her religious identity while facing the many struggles of puberty.  (I read it young enough that it was my first introduction to what was coming my way, and I remember having to ask a lot of questions, including interrupting a roomful of people to loudly ask my mother what a sanitary napkin was.)  The copy is coy enough to not offend, except perhaps those who already try to get the book banned for being honest about complicated things, and you can hardly market to that crowd.  It cleverly alludes to the contents for those of us who grew up with it and might need to go snag some Judy Blumes on the way home to re-read this weekend or give to any preteens we know.  And it’s smart since it gets people talking—when I googled it to find the cover image, I saw that the sites that covered it when the new editions were revealed all acknowledged it.

Writing any kind of marketing copy is hard.  As agents, we have to draft it for our pitches to publishers when trying to sell books, and as rights director I often have to write it for foreign or audio submissions (either because it’s too early for publisher-generated copy or because different markets will need a different approach).  It’s one of the toughest things about a query letter or a sales pitch.

So when it’s just right, well, I think we should all give kudos where they are due.  Congratulations, Atheneum, because that’s a stroke of genius.

Ever seen any book copy that made you sit back and take notice?  Share the brilliance with the rest of us below, please!

6 Responses to Perfection

  1. Joelle says:

    This is perfect. I saw an ad the other day with the perfect tag line and now I can’t remember it, but same idea.

    I’m forty-six and I must’ve read this book when I was about ten or eleven. I remember liking it but also it totally mystified me on so many levels – the first actually being the religious side of it because I lived in Portland, OR and not only didn’t I know any Jewish or Catholic people, I don’t remember anyone ever discussing religion at all so I couldn’t see what the big deal was.

    Do you know if Judy Blume updated this at all? There were a few technical things that were already out of date when I read it (belts for those sanitary napkins you mentioned!).

    I recently read FOREVER, which I must’ve read half a dozen times at least growing up and was truly amazed by how well it stood the test of time. She’s an incredibly good writer, is Judy! If this were England, she’d be Dame Judy by now for sure.

    • Lauren says:

      I don’t know if the text was fully updated for this edition, but I know one of the posts I skimmed about the new cover mentioned that the belted sanitary napkins had already been changed in a previous edition. That was still in it in the late 80s when I read–and I’ll be honest, I’m still a little confused by it. I’m torn about whether it’s better for the book to feel relevant to our time or remain the same but feel like a relic of another time. On the one hand, readers should be able to relate to things that don’t precisely reflect their reality, but on the other, when I look back at that, I do think it was somewhat distancing. That’s a fairly minor update, I suppose, but it’s clearly a memorable detail, since we both remember it! I wonder how Judy Blume herself feels about it.

      • Joelle says:

        I don’t mind the updates in this case because it reads a contemporary novel in most respects and also, with the new cover, that’s how they’re marketing it. If I read a book from the seventies or eighties and there’s a lot of current events in it, then I expect it to keep all things like this and let me just be transported to the time. But in the case of these, I think it’s more confusing to leave those little things because the book’s time period feels like now and there aren’t any outside indicators that lead me elsewhere. Does that make sense?

        But if I’m reading a book where everyone’s wearing long underwear with skirts and listening to Boy George and Wham and shoulder pads are everywhere and politics creep into the story then updating it seems like you’re losing something.

        I recently read one of Blume’s Fudge books and they’d updated it from records to CDs. That made sense to me.

        • Lauren says:

          Yeah, totally makes sense. I lean that way. Though it’s funny to think that some relics will be left, at least temporarily, that are neither the original nor current–like CDs in a Fudge book, nowadays. I wonder how many kids read those who’ve never heard music played off a CD. There have to be some by now, right? The children of early adopters, at least.

  2. Tracy Wright says:

    “Growing up is tough. Period.” What a great tagline. I received ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET for Christmas in the 70’s when I was 11. I loved it! I read it numerous times, and shared it with all my girl friends. We had to keep it a secret from the boys, though, giggle, giggle. I read every Judy Blume book I could get my hands on, after that. You could probably say that Judy Blume is the author who turned me on to books. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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