Book covers are a primary selling point for books, so it’s no surprise that publishers want to get them right. They also play a major role in whether or not I buy a book as I have a lot of opinions on cover design.
To the eternal frustration of bookworms, covers are sometimes changed. This might be from hardback to paperback, or midway through a series. Some are lovely, but others are dreadful. Here are five cover changes I loved, and five I hated.
Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.
Cover Changes I Liked:
1. UK BLOODWITCH
I loved Susan Dennard’s BLOODWITCH (and the rest of the series), but this cover is a massive OUCH. It wasn’t ever supposed to see the light of day, but was accidentally released to amazon – hence the massive DRAFT stuck across the title. It was quickly taken down, so not many saw it (this is taken from a screenshot, so apologies for the terrible quality). However, I’m relieved we were spared this cover as it is, frankly, dreadful.
Not only does it look frighteningly similar to the other (not great) UK Witchlands hardback (now out of print), but also it’s BLUE. Blue is my favourite colour by far, but I cannot understand why someone would think that the primary colour for a book called BLOODWITCH should be anything other than red.
Luckily, we ended up with the same illustration as the US hardback (right), just with a MUCH fancier title script to match all the other UK books.
It’s red and black, which is far more fitting. Plus, the moment is clearly drawn from the book (you’ll work it out when you reach the scene, but it’s a spoilers moment). I can’t work out where the swirling water tunnel is a reference too. Plus the main character looks the right age in this version (you’ll have to take my word for it that Aeduan looks 40 in the above).
2. New US Fire and Thorns Series
I don’t mind the UK covers of Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns series (left). Sure, they’re a little cliche, with a woman staring mysteriously out of the book with world elements around her (and also look Arabian-inspired rather than Iberian!) However, the composition is nice, as are the colours which pop vibrantly from the page. It sets the stage for an adventure in a desert land.
The same cannot be said for the original US covers (below right). The best descriptor I can think up is plain ick.
Nothing about it catches the eye. The colours are dull and indistinct, with the title almost lost in the brownish-grey haze. The middle is nothing short of weird. I know it’s meant to be Elisa’s face in a godstone, but it’s plain odd.
The leafy border also doesn’t fit the book. Sure, there’s a section in a jungle, but that does not conjure up the sense of jungle. It looks like a typical English forest I might walk through. Plus, most of the book is set in the desert or scrublands around it, so it doesn’t invoke the world.
However, with the upcoming release of a sequel to the original trilogy (so excited!), the US publisher has re-released the series with gorgeous new covers (left). My UK copies are falling apart, so I’ve bought the US set to replace them, and there is no better word than stunning for these new covers.
The rose with its thorns and the blue godstones are central elements to the plot and world. Plus the spiky thorns carry into the title font. The colours are distinct and the contrast really catches the eye.
3. Frances Hardinge’s UK covers
I saw these books as they were originally coming out (right), and shied away from them in my school library. They are so dull and monochromatic – and most of them are grey. I like black covers, but not grey ones as it makes me think the story will be boring and/or depressing.
On top of this, I find the originals very cheap looking, like they were hurriedly slapped together. I know now that publishers agonise over covers, but back then the visually poor quality cover made me think the inside would be terrible as not much work had been put into the wrapper.
At YALC last year, they had all the new UK covers lined up on the Macmillan stand, and my friends exclaimed over the books – as did the publicist. Between them, they persuaded me to pick up a copy (on the TBR still, oops) mainly because of their praise, but the eye-catching covers helped.
The new covers are a cohesive style so it’s clear that they were all written by the same person. They’re also very colourful, which conjures an idea of magic that shapes the world.
4. VICIOUS, UK cover
The original UK cover for VICIOUS isn’t one I disliked, it’s just that I prefer the newer edition.
The original (right) is very early 2010s in style, all dark thriller with its blood spatters, block colours, and fractured silhouettes. It captures the mood perfectly. It was also the book that kicked off her black, red and white colour scheme, which is very nice for overall brand cohesiveness. It’s very deliberate and in your face, but lacks an obvious genre. It could be a crime section thriller.
However, the new UK cover (left) feels more refined because it has a cleaner design. While there is as much space taken up in both designs, this one is set out in such a way that it feels more minimalist. There are fewer layers of colour piled on top of one another (e.g. the blood), with space between the elements instead.
The bones and knives are add an extra edge of unease. To me, it evokes the subtler menace in the text and matches the VENGEFUL cover, which was given this more modern style.
However, I like both of these designs more than the original US cover(right). The colours aren’t separate enough. Yes, this is my common complaint, but I find high contrast images much more eye catching as I can pull the elements out with ease.
That balcony contrasts to the very indistinct city beyond. Maybe it’s better when seen in person, but it’s a ruddy red that makes me think of 1930s America for some reason – industrial poverty alongside obscene wealth.
5. The Lunar Chronicles, US paperbacks
Like the Fire and Thorns series above, these are a full series being released years later with new covers. This time, it’s not because of a new addition. I’m not sure what the reason is, but it’s probably money!
The old covers (left) do evoke the fairy tale sense with the impossibly red, semi-transparent apple surrounded by whorls of light. It’s also very clear to tell which fairy tales each book is based on. For that, I really like them, and the red-blue contrast is eye catching. With the first book, the metal joints in the shoe made the sci-fi element super clear.
I do get major Twilight vibes from all the original covers – particularly this one (my first comment to the friend I read the series with when this cover was revealed).
The new US covers (right) have a lot more narrative clues to be unpacked. Like with the VICIOUS covers, it’s a more modern style and I’m not getting any Twilight vibes! The colours are all different. The original SCARLET cover was very grey, but that’s not the case now. Despite the variety of colours, they all match in intensity.
Plus, it’s really nice that this cover makes it super obvious that Winter is black. My original copy of WINTER has hands that are the same colour as mine, aka a white person’s.
1. UK Stranger the Dreamer series paperbacks
The intricate design of the bird – all the details in the feathers, the mysterious eye on its chest – evokes Laini Taylor’s lyrical writing style. The billowing clouds flecked with stars is so atmospheric. The background is a deep, rich reddish-orange. It feels like a sophisticated book full of arcane magic that you desperately want to be real, but know can’t exist in a world like ours.
I have no idea why the publisher decided to change the design for the paperback (right). It’s just nowhere near as pretty, and is best summed up as meh.
The colours are muted from bold orange into a yellow haze. Instead of the bird, we get a few dark feathers that hardly stand out from the background – not to mention the title getting lost in background. The magic has gone from this and you don’t have any idea at all what is inside.
2. An Ember in the Ashes series makeover
The first two AN EMBER IN THE ASHES books were released with deeply atmospheric covers (left). It’s gritty, with dust raining down from the walls into the sand below, and the military complex looms over it, half in shadow.
With the main body being grey, your eyes are immediately drawn to the sparkling golden title – particularly the human silhouette in the brightest part of the H. It’s a spark of hope, surrounded by glowing embers.
I understand why the covers in the US changed why they did – and I respect Sabaa Tahir for using her influence to get the diversity of her book represented by the cover.
However, I don’t really like the final design (right), as it looks a bunch of models forced into awkward positions and then digitised. However, others have voiced it better than me.
In the UK, we didn’t even get the diversity of the new US covers. It was as if the publisher only saw the generic poses part of the US cover and thought “we ought to go generic too”.
And so we got this (left). It’s title in front of a weapon – the classic, boring fantasy cover. I’m guessing the light is meant to be a cat, but not sure how that fits the story. The EMBER cover is the best of the three, as the doorway at least hints most to the feel and look of the world.
Irritating fact? The UK hardback for A REAPER AT THE GATES doesn’t match the sizing of the first two hardbacks. Not only do the spines clash (from shinny metallic spines to shades of green), but the new book is taller.
3. SEAFIRE, US paperback
The original US cover of SEAFIRE (left) is in the “symbol behind the title” style that is a pretty predominate style in YA at the moment. And I like it. Bring on all books with this styling! I prefer symbolic covers to ones with character art.
The title pops, and the medallion’s oranges conjure up the image of fire, compared to the deep teal of the background. The rusty barnacles clinging to the edges match the metal, post-disaster world and the gleaming spikes conjure an image of quick-paced action.
The sequel’s cover is an entirely different style, and doesn’t match at all (it’s a character art one too.) Therefore, the publisher also changed the first book’s cover (right) to match the second book when they released it in paperback.
The colours again! Parts of the title almost get lost, everything a pinkish-purple that strays into blue. The fire element of the title has been lost, replaced with a swinging heroine, though goodness knows how she’ll get back onto the boat considering she’s low enough to slam into its sides.
Luckily, when the book was acquired for UK publication, the publisher also paid to acquire the original cover design. According to a publicist I talked too, this was decided after the new US cover was announced because they had the same reaction as me. I’m glad they also liked the old cover more!
They adapted it (left) to bring out the artsier side, with a flat painting. I really like the swirls behind the compass, and the more flame-like fringe ringing it.
4. The Soulfinder Trilogy, by Maria V. Snyder
This isn’t a full series change, but rather changing the cover style of later books. The Chronicles of Ixia books have had three styles in the UK (and way, way more in the US). The original design (right) haven’t been around for ages. I think I read the first book (POISON STUDY) in this style.
As covers go, it’s alright. It’s got the book and the poison to reference the title, plus Yelena with her bo staff (which later books spell differently!). It does the job, and the fonts are quite nice.
Then the six books that were published by that point got changed to a black background with words (about half a dozen repeated over and over. I checked). All the books have a wisp of colour in front of words (left).
It took me a while to like them, but then I came around and like the way the two trilogies were distinct in their colours and yet cohesive in their overall design. It feels less cliche. Also the wisps of magic look really nice in person with the light shimmering off them.
However, when a new trilogy was announced, the new books were given covers that didn’t match any of the other covers at all. The other books weren’t changed, so the final three books stand out like a sore thumb (right).
As covers in and of themselves, this trilogy isn’t bad. The colours are vibrant – teal, then purple then orange. But they don’t match the other covers at all. The lack of continuity is frustrating, particularly when the Australian publisher went with the same style as the one above so all the books looks great together.
5. The new UK paperback for KING’S CAGE
This is the pettiest of the complaints on my list. It’s a stupid, minor thing that I shouldn’t care about at all. But I do, because I’m a book nerd and also very pernickety.
The original editions of the Red Queen series go from white to dark blue across the four books, with KING’S CAGE a medium blue (left). They make up an ombre looks gorgeous on a shelf. Then the UK publisher released the final book as a paperback with a slightly different spine, but everything else was the same.
However, at the same time as they did that, they re-released KING’S CAGE with a RED background. I took a picture and sent it to a friend, who thought it was a printing error so I should buy it as it could be worth something later on.
It wasn’t a mistake, but a deliberate choice. None of the other books had colours changed. So anyone buying the series today has white, pale blue, red and black spines. Also, the “over 5 million copies sold” makes me laugh. It feels so conceited.
Wow, that was long! Thanks for getting to the end. What cover changes do you like?