His-and-Her Cover Shots


From The Record (August 2, 1992)

by Laurnece Chollet

A good book jacket will catch your eye, but Douglas Coupland's latest novel, "Shampoo Planet" (Pocket, $20), takes that concept a step further. It offers two different covers: one "male," the other "female."

The male version boasts a neatly groomed male head with black hair, photographed from the eyebrows up; the female offers the same shot of a female head, with light auburn hair.

Pocket is planning to put both covers side by side in bookstores when "Shampoo" goes on sale next week.

"We are appealing to a very sophisticated, hip buyer, and I think they'll pick that up," said Barbara Buck, vice president and art director for Pocket. "Doug is an incredibly original writer, and this cover mirrors that."

Coupland, 30, made a huge splash with his first novel, "Generation X," which chronicles the lives of people in their 20s.

"Shampoo" looks at "Global Teens," the kids who grew up on MTV during the Reagan years and now face a lifetime of burgeoning information systems, dwindling opportunities, and lots of hair-care products.

"Hair is your document," says Tyler Johnson, the 20-year-old MTV child and protagonist of "Shampoo." "What's on top of your head says what's inside your head."

Publishers have issued different colored covers before to lure buyers -- "Generation X," for example, was marketed in Day-Glo orange and electronic blue-green versions.

But "Shampoo" appears to be the first time a major publisher has used gender-specific marketing -- in essence, a book for men and a book for women -- to reach a broader audience.

Buck, however, says Pocket was not trying to target men or women but to interest potential buyers in general, no matter their sex.

"It's a really clever cover, and we were just trying to give people a reason to take a second look at the book," Buck said. "We've never done anything like this before, and we have no idea what it's going to do. . . . I think it's going to be really interesting to see which [cover] sells more."

The surprises, however, don't end on the cover. The author's photo on the inside of the back jacket shows Coupland sitting among odd geometric shapes on the bare wood floor of his Vancouver apartment, reading a book. You can't see his face.

"It's the first time I've ever received an author's photograph of himself that doesn't even show his face," Buck said. "But's that's Doug. He's an original, from beginning to end."