authorthoughts: ernie cline & ready player one

What do you get when you cross big bold colors, 80’s retro typefaces and 8-bit graphics?

You get the kinda face of a YA cover that’s a little hard to ignore: Ready Player One by Ernie Cline.

When I first saw this cover, I initially thought to myself, “Man, I think I love this because I’m a nerd.” And that “C” looks like PAC Man, no? I’ve been a fan of this hardcover’s jacket design ever since it came out back in 2011, but today’s post also welcomes its newest sibling to the publishing world, out (in the US) in paperback today.

Talk about taking the original design and running with it, eh? And even better, the awesome Ernie Cline is here today to cover chat with me. Please give a warm welcome to Ernie!

TCG: Most people who read TCG are well-aware that authors have little or no say when it comes to designing their covers. Was this the same case for you when it came to Ready Player One?

EC: I was given a great deal of input in selecting the cover. They showed me several designs and even let me veto a few that I didn’t like. I was very happy with the whole process.

For me, RPO’s hardcover is distinct for different reasons: its color and PAC Man-like type are definitely the first that come to mind. This particular cover doesn’t feel gender-specific either – it doesn’t scream “PLEASE READ ME NERDS!” nor does it feel like the kind of cover that only sophisticates read whilst sipping their hipster beer. What kind of audience did you feel the cover should speak to?

I love the hardcover design, because the design and color remind me of the cover of Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, one of my favorite books. Along with the title, the 80s style font and the tiny 8-bit avatar leaping for the key hint at the plot in an alluring way. Both I and my publisher wanted a cover that would appeal to all sorts of readers and not just science fiction fans, and think the hardcover design does that really well.

Let’s discuss the awesomeness that is the animated paperback cover. I’ll go first. It is fan-freakin-tastic. I’ve not seen any animated paperback covers before, and I hope this one sets the bar, really really high. The paperback cover also takes the hardcover design and adds a wonderfully illustrated dimension to it – is this a scene from the novel?

Yes, it’s an illustration that depicts the hero, Wade Watts, climbing through “the stacks,” the sprawling vertical trailer park he lives in. I love the way the animated cover first draws the stacks as a low-res 8-bit video game graphic, then repaints it with higher-resolution 16-bit video game graphics, then repaints it again as a photo realistic image. So great!

There are currently 12 designs for RPO on your website. Which one’s your favorite, and why?

I can’t pick just one. My top two favorites are probably the UK trade paperback cover and the cover of the Norwegian foreign edition. Both of them are just amazing.

The YA cover world isn’t exactly made up of a ton of different types of covers. The pool’s actually pretty shallow. Many of these designs fall into the Sad Girl in a Pretty Dress trope, unfortunately. Clearly RPO is on the opposite end of the cover spectrum (gender-neutral, awesome, etc). Have you heard any feedback from your readers regarding its cover?

Not too many people have singled out the hardcover design as their favorite, or mentioned that it was gender neutral. A lot of people tell me they prefer the black UK cover design, which was also the cover of the Advanced Reader’s Edition. That’s one of my favorites, too, so I don’t mind.

When you’re browsing the bookshelves at the store or library (or online), what kind of cover catches your eye?

I like covers with interesting typographical designs that make the title pop out at you in an interesting way. I also love movie posters, and I love book covers that accomplish the same thing the best movie posters do – hook you into the story with just the title and a few subtle images.

I really love looking at movie posters, too. I definitely dig the recent wave of minimalist redesigns. What are your favorite movie posters?

My favorite movie posters are: Say Anything, Big Trouble in Little China, Star Wars

Clearly we’re meant to be best friends. Similar tastes in movie posters means best friendship, right? I’ve never heard of anyone even mentioning Big Trouble in Little China outside of my own family. And I love that movie.

What are three of your favorite covers?

My three favorite covers have to be the original covers for the Lord of the Rings trilogy – all original watercolors by Tolkien himself. I remember contstantly flipping to look at these covers as I read through the trilogy for the first time, and they’re still my favorites.

Thanks so much for stopping by the blog, Ernie! I hope everyone geeked out over his interview as much as I did!

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8 thoughts on “authorthoughts: ernie cline & ready player one

  1. AH! So glad you had the author on your blog! I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book! the only thing that would have made this interview even more spectacular is if he had mentioned Wil Wheaton! (the narrator for the audio version). I’m more of a fan of the hardcover myself but I’m glad to know it’s now in PB because I’m going to buy my own copy.

    • My nerd heart exploded when he agreed to an interview! I’d originally heard about the audiobook from you, and Hubs has checked out the audiobook from the library, too.

      The PB cover is great, I’m going to get a copy, too!

  2. I agree with Sarah. And I also love the original Tolkien covers.
    I loved the hardback cover of Ready Player One, but at least the paperback is an improvement, rather than a setback as some paperback covers have been.

  3. Pingback: Random Bits | Me and My Books

  4. This is such an awesome interview! It seems like I’ve been seeing this book EVERYWHERE lately which I take as the universe’s sign to tell me to pick up this book. I agree, I really like how gender neutral this is and not like your typical ‘YA cover’. Mainly because I dislike a majority of the YA covers. What a great, insightful interview. 🙂

  5. It may be worth mentioning that while a lot of people are grouping this as YA, it was classified by the publisher as and marketed as adult fiction, which might have a lot to do with the design.

    • You’re right. I’ve noticed novels with YA MCs that are marketed to adults tend to have the “non-YA look” (another example: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). I hate to use those quote marks, but…spade = spade.

  6. Pingback: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Random House | Kreative Feed

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