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Clandestine Cover

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Both the same book.

"Since a good sum of Wonderella's readers aren't "comic book fans" in the Green Lantern sense, I have dedicated the back of the book to Vino Vidi Vici: The On-the-go Guide to Wines. Flip it over when guests, dates or in-laws stop by and they'll be none the wiser (Don't worry, nobody actually reads coffee table books)."
Justin Pierce

You know that there are some books that people think you should not read, books where the simple act of reading them constitutes a hazard to life or liberty? But we're not talking about censorship.

No, this is a case of the book's very author deciding that reading his book in public is dangerous. The very people who put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) have decided that it is irresponsible to send you into the world with a copy of their works without some way to keep you safe. They like to give you the idea that you will need some kind of disguise for your book and so provide one in a sort of factory-installed Book and Switch.

You can pull this off with either a hardback or a paperback book, but the method varies. Hardback books are published with a reversible dust cover with an alternative title and cover image on the inside. A paperback has an alternate cover on the back of the book. In both cases, the alternate cover is usually something along an opposite line to the real cover.

Almost always Played for Laughs.

Compare Book Safe, which is when the cover is used to conceal something that isn't a book. Also compare Boss Button.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Scott Adams' The Joy of Work has the alternative cover "Company Loyalty: Your Key to Success."

  • In an amusing inversion of this, motivational speaker Larry Winget once revealed during a speech that he had created false book covers to slip around the (legit) novel he was reading so people would stop talking to him on flights. The false covers had titles such as "How To Sue The Person Sitting Next To You On An Airplane" and "Finding Love On An Airplane". And according to him, they work.

  • (the makers of the original Demotivators) used to sell a book instructing managers on how to use despair to motivate their employees. Due to the allegedly provocative contents, the cheapest edition came with the alternate cover Productivity and Ethics in the Workplace to scare away anyone from reading it. (More expensive editions came with a lock and key for the book.)
  • When the "Harry Potter" book series proved popular with adults, they were re-released with plain covers lacking the cartoonish drawings on the original editions, so that adults would not feel embarrassed about reading them in public. It doesn't seem to have been necessary, since the books became so popular that most people were not embarrassed to be seen with them.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
    • Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorised Autobigraphy has the alternative dust-jacket cover titled: The Luckiest Kids in the World! #1 The Pony Party by Loney M. Setnick.
    • And for the 10th book The Slippery Slope, one could receive a bonus cover that was titled NOT A Series of Unfortunate Events and other amendments like "NOT by the author Lemony Snicket" or quotes on the back saying things like "This book isn't by Lemony Snicket and isn't about the Baudelaires! I think it deserves a gold medal!"

  • One issue of MAD featured a "Newsweak" cover with an angry Nikita Khrushchev look-alike. Fake covers for the magazine (ostensibly so your teacher or boss doesn't catch you reading it) came out every couple years, spoofing popular magazines, school papers, and even a composition book

  • The first print edition of The Non-Adventures of Wonderella has a back cover designed to look like a coffee table book about wines.
  • Penny Arcade released a collected book titled "The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition"; removing the dust jacket changes the title to "Almost 12 Years of Bullshit". Amusingly, the title change can be seen as representing the cover art, which shows Gabe enthusiastically riding a unicorn under a rainbow, while Tycho sits on the back looking annoyed.

    Web Original 
  • Variant: When the last Harry Potter book was released, David Wong of the now-defunct challenged the people on his forum to come up with alternate covers for people who wanted to read the book but avoid being seen reading it. They work, too.