Today (3 July 2012) Little, Brown released the cover of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, along with a page count, a correction to the name of one of the characters, and a synopsis (Hawk at Mugglenet, Catherine at The Leaky Cauldron, Sims at Hypable). The official page count is 512 pages. The name of the only character we know about so far is actually Barry Fairbrother. (The original press release referred to him as Barry Fairweather.) The synopsis is almost identical to the one released previously, but I’ll post it here again anyway. It reads as follows:
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 façade 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?
The image on the cover confused me at first, but then I realized that it looks like a ballot, with a mark in a box for the candidate the person is voting for. After spending many years looking at the covers of the Harry Potter book and associating them with J. K. Rowing’s writing, it feels odd to have a cover that looks so different from those ones, but that attachment to previous books should not be the basis a prejudgment on this one. I do wonder, however, if some publishers think that having a single image on a book cover makes it seem more appropriate for adults. I remember that Bloomsbury released the Harry Potter books with two different covers, one for adults and one for children, and the adult covers seem to all feature one item.
The announcement correcting Barry Fairbrother’s name made me think of the fascinating and weird details about the printing histories of various works (e.g. differences between editions, famous printing errors). One of the most famous examples is a reprint of the Bible which was published in 1631 which advised readers to commit adultery due to an error which removed the word not from Exodus 20:14. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Cardboard Box (one of the stories in the canon of Sherlock Holmes) is printed in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes in most UK editions and in His Last Bow in most US editions due to controversy surrounding the story when it was first published, which necessitated a republication. I wonder if, many years from now, the erroneous press release will be an item of trivia. I can imagine a footnote in the future, in some special annotated edition, stating, “In the original press release announcing The Casual Vacancy, Barry Fairbrother was erroneously referred to as Barry Fairweather. It is still possible to find articles, fan site pages, and blog entries from April 2012 to June 2012 referring to a character named ‘Barry Fairweather’ in The Casual Vacancy.” In addition to this, another fact which I find amusing is that we fans had already begun analyzing Barry’s name (in addition to noticing that Barry rhymes with Harry), and now we’ve learned that his name is different from what we thought it was.
There are always funny little surprises — such is fandom, such is life.
I found the image via Hypable (see reference #3), and they note that they found it on Amazon.
 Hawk, Keith. Cover art for J. K. Rowling’s new book ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is released. Posted on 3 July 2012 at MuggleNet. Retrieved on 3 July 2012 from http://www.mugglenet.com/app/news/show/5811.
 Catherine. Cover Art of “The Casual Vacancy” Revealed. Posted on 3 July 2012 at The Leaky Cauldron. Retrieved on 3 July 2012 from http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2012/7/3/cover-art-of-the-casual-vacancy.
 Sims, Andrew. J. K. Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ book cover art released! Posted on 3 July 2012 at Hypable. Retrieved on 3 July 2012 from http://www.hypable.com/2012/07/03/j-k-rowlings-the-casual-vacancy-book-cover-released/.
 The cover release for THE CASUAL VACANCY by J. K. Rowling. Posted on 3 July 2012 at Little, Brown Book Group. Retrieved on 3 July 2012 from http://www.littlebrown.co.uk/TheCasualVacancyCover.
 The Casual Vacancy: Little, Brown and Company release the cover for The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, along with updated cover copy, details of the audio reader, and confirmed page count. Posted on 3 July 2012 at Hachette Book Group. Retrieved on 3 July 2012 from http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/littlebrown/feature-vacancy.html.
 “The story’s place”. The Adventure of the Cardboard Box. Wikipedia entry. Retrieved on 3 July 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventure_of_the_Cardboard_Box#The_story.27s_place.