Bell Jar cover defended at Bookseller Design Conference

Bell Jar cover defended at Bookseller Design Conference

The publisher and art director behind the controversial repackage of Sylvia Plath's classic novel The Bell Jar have defended their work at The Bookseller Design Conference this morning (Monday 8th July).

Faber publisher Hannah Griffiths described some of the negative reactions, particularly that in the London Review of Books blog, as "horrid". She said: "People wanted to lock Plath in a cellar . . . There were a lot of people who didn't want her to appeal to a commercial market."

Art director Donna Payne said the new jacket had to appeal to consumers in a world where television is hugely influential, so the design brief listed TV's "Mad Men" as well as Rona Jaffe's The Best of Everything (Penguin Classics) and Paula McLain's The Paris Wife (Virago) as influences.

Payne said she wanted the cover to appeal to women over 35 who were fans of Caitlin Moran and Marian Keyes. She added that the jacket image inspiration is taken directly from the book, in a scene when main character Esther Greenwood is reapplying her makeup to make herself feel better, which some Plath fans "seem to have forgotten".

Payne also said that the cover of the upcoming Faber title Tampa by Alissa Nutting has attracted less attention than The Bell Jar, despite featuring a design referencing the vagina. "A vagina on the cover is less controversial than a compact mirror," she observed.

"Anyone here who has ever designed a cover, written a brief or attended a cover meeting knows that a cover that appeals to everyone's aesthetic is pretty much guaranteed to be a bland affair," Payne said.

Faber has sold 13,000 copies of The Bell Jar anniversary edition, according to the publisher.