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Happy July: Free Books! Cover Competition!

So six of my friends and I were discussing US and UK covers one day, and we compared and constrasted and generally came to very few conclusions about the difference between US and UK covers. We were focusing on young adult covers, as we're all young adult authors, and I thought it might be interesting to share some of our waffling here. Possibly even enlightening!

Okay, it was all Saundra Mitchell's idea and anything enlightening was probably said by her, and definitely not by me.

But as a reward for listening to my babbling, we thought we could give away seven books at once.

In the US, I think young adult fiction is seen as slanted more towards adults, whereas in the UK young adult fiction is seen as slanted more towards kids: with the landslide success of Twilight everywhere this is changing as we speak, but for now I've noticed that in the US teen sections are kept quite separate from and sometimes far away from the children's section, and in the UK they tend to be together and quite often to blend.

So, there's the question of different audiences for the US and UK people.

There's also the question of different sensibilities: I know a couple of US covers that were changed because 'that's too sexy for the UK market.' This overlaps with the question of audience, but might also have something to do with notions of propriety this side of the pond. ;)

And there's the question of timing. Some of us have always loved young adult fiction - for instance, you can try prying my copy of Margaret Mahy's The Changeover out of my cold, dead hands - but it cannot be denied it's exploded in recent years, and especially since Twilight, though there were signs of its rising popularity well before that. And Twilight had a much slower start in the UK than the US - possibly due to their very different covers. So I think the UK is less certain of young adult fiction: it has lots of experiments in style.

One example of such experimentation is a book I know of that was sold as straight-up YA fantasy in the US, was sold as YA fantasy with a different UK cover, and at the same time as adult fantasy with yet another different UK cover and a different title. This was deeply confusing for me. I very nearly bought the same book twice.

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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, published in 2005

Here is the first piece of proof that US covers favour photographs of people. It is a Thing. I think this may be the biggest difference between US and UK covers: it's fairly usual for a UK cover for young adults to have an illustrated cover, whereas I've seen few US covers with illustrated people on them, and those that have them tend to trend young.

The UK Uglies cover isn't illustrated, but it is experimental: in a way they're both 'What the heck!' covers. (In my head there are two kinds of covers - covers trying for the reaction of 'Oooh pretty, I shall pick it up!' and covers trying for 'What is that about...? I shall pick it up!' Some covers do both, but I see those as the Two Main Aims.) The US cover makes you go 'What the heck' because of the way the title works with the cover - it's a picture of a girl who as far as we can see is pretty, and yet the title says Uglies. 'What the heck,' we say, and pick it up. The UK cover is of doll parts and medical equipment. Surgery on Barbies? A torture manual for doll haters? 'What the heck' we say, and pick it up.

The system works!

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Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, published 2006

The US cover for Twilight is pretty well-known, and I have gone on about how it is genius for both being iconic and having a person on it as well.

The UK cover is less well known, as it was rejacketed with the US cover in paperback and has thence rocketed to success. I read it with the UK hardcover, and I showed it around to all my friends and swore it was selling like Harry Potter in the States. 'But we've never even HEARD of it!' they exclaimed. (Now, they have.)

I see the UK cover as an experiment: a photographic cover of a person, yes, but altered to suggest the supernatural. She is all flat (as if someone had taken a rolling pin to her, I am not commenting on Bella Swan's womanly endowments) and ghostly looking: she's near some lockers. The UK cover trends young, too, as it makes it clear the character is going to school.

After realising the US cover does so well, though, the UK publishing industry said to themselves 'Black and red!' As we shall see...

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, published 2007

Both photographic covers, but the US versus UK sensibility is a factor here: the boy on the US cover is foxy, whereas the girl on the UK cover is moody. The US cover has the 'Oooh, someone's shirt is off, LET'S GO! pretty' and the UK cover has the 'what the heck is on that girl's face? Ah, runes!'

Interestingly enough, with the release of the third book the series is being rejacketed in the UK with the US covers.

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City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, published 2008

I thought it might be cool to see how series progress when on a different track: the US cover keeps it up with the 'oooh, pretty' this time with sparkling waters and flaming hair rather than shirtlessness (Probably for the best, I for one would be rather startled by Clary's womanly endowments on display). And the UK cover this time is working the attractive guy, in an understated way, and the cover is also a little black and red. Remember those colours!

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Tithe by Holly Black, published 2002

'Sarah' you might well say. 'Why is this all the way down here when it's the earliest? Also why are there THREE COVERS explain yourself!'

So the middle cover is the US hardcover of Tithe, which was rejacketed into the last cover for the US paperback. (This happens, and in fact one day I may do a post on the changes of some books from hardcover to paperback. But not today!) But since we in the UK are suckers for our illustration, the middle cover was what was used as the first paperback edition over here. (That's the one I own, incidentally. If it is rare and coveted by others, I shall be much pleased.)

Then the UK cover was changed to reflect the US cover, and then in 2008 the first cover in the line-up, and the first original UK cover, was put on UK bookshelves.

This one is a little tricky, I realise. But the US paperback is one of the Very First YA iconic covers against a dark background, and we can see how it had babies like Twilight.

The UK cover isn't illustrated (as we'd already had an illustrated Tithe) but it does have a fairytalesque quality I think, and it also has masses and masses of foil.

(And if you think three covers is tricky, I could have shown you the new UK adult editions, and the new US covers coming out soon: I had mercy and did not complicate things further.)

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Valiant by Holly Black, published 2005

But same deal as with the first book in the series: the first original UK cover was published in 2008. Remember I told you guys to watch for black and red? Here it is, accompanied by tons of foil (in an iron fretwork pattern, which fits nicely with the book). And the US: icon against dark background, much more obviously fitting in with a series than the UK cover does - different views on companion novels? Who can tell.

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The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong, published 2008

Illustrated UK cover, photographic with person US cover, and the UK cover has a lighter background: if moodiness is to be had, it's in the rather Gothic-looking house. The look of the UK cover also fits in with the UK covers for Kelley Armstrong's adult series, and in fact I often see it shelved in the adult section.

Also interestingly, the sequel The Awakening has the same cover in the UK as in the US - girl in moody light, holding a necklace, as on the first book's US cover.

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The Devouring by Simon Holt, published 2008.

This UK cover is experimental too - I have to say, it kind of gives me nightmares! And it's a huge contrast with the mellow US one, as well as being another example of illustrated and photographic covers. I have one theory about this book, which is that since the author's got a boy's name and boys are statistically more likely to read books by boys, the UK cover and its horror edge is designed to appeal most to boys. Whereas girls statistically read more full stop, and the US cover is designed to appeal to them. Different audiences in two senses of the world!

Plus an example of the pretty cover (US) versus the 'What the heck' cover, as in 'What the heck is up with that guy's face? Pick it up!' (Oh my God his faaaaace ohhhh myyyyy Gooooood.)

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, published 2008

The UK cover, as we can see, illustrated person, and black and red! And the US cover, iconic against a dark background.

Early versions of the UK cover folded out to show another character against a blue background, and I own that version: cool diversifying extra feature, also possibly giving a younger impression than the US cover.

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Ash by Malinda Lo, published 2009 (not yet)

And spot the UK cover: trending younger, and distinctly fairytalesque: in this case very appropriately, as the book is about Cinderella. The UK cover highlights that by the edge-of-Disney but atmospheric illustration and the telling glass slipper, and the US one does something different but very clever: the icon against the dark moody background is a person! Curled up to look like a cinder. Very well played.

And to examine those of the seven participants who have US and UK covers to examine:

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Knife or Spell Hunter by R.J. Anderson, published 2009

Both of these books are illustrated, which is rare! And the US one looks designed for a younger audience to me: in fact I was signing in Harrods a couple of weeks ago, and the bookseller there had ordered in the US copy because she thought it'd fly off her shelves. So I think this is a US cover with a lot of UK sensibility.

But the moodier, iconic UK cover has specific art on it: it has art by Brian Froud, a UK artist who a lot of people in the UK are going to recognise. (Other people too, but tons of UK people.) So it's a clever cover for over here because the feeling of familiarity will make people stop and pick it up. And it's very pretty, with lots of foil: the UK does undoubtedly like its foil. More on that...

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Wings by Aprilynne Pike, published 2009

Both of these covers are iconic and both are photographic, but the UK cover (as UK covers do) trends a little younger to me - bright colours, snazzy font, lots of foil. Whereas the US cover has a moodier, darker look, fitting in with iconic covers like Twilight, Tithe and Hunger Games. Note the foil thing: see, I told you the UK seems to really like foil. I can take out Knife and Wings and tilt them up to the light and be entertained for hours and - minutes. Yep, minutes. Very few of them. I'm a grown-up. Swear.

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The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, published 2009

Iconic and photographic cover: the photographic cover is the US cover, natch, and the UK cover is black and red.

An interesting thing about UK and US sensibilities here: several of the seven discussing this were halted by the UK cover, going 'Yes but what IS that image?' Whereas I, the one used to UK covers, said 'Naturally it is a skeleton hand beckoning/skeletal leaf thing!' I don't know whether this means my side of the pond likes something convoluted, but thinking about some European movies, signs could point to yes...

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The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, published 2009

Analysing your own covers is the very hardest, as one is tempted to go 'OH MY BABY FLAIL!' but see how the pattern continues. My UK cover is illustrated, and my US cover is photographic: they both have the pretty cover thing going on (as hello, attractive young men) and though it cannot be seen here, the title of the UK cover is foil.

And the UK cover is black and red: to which, no objection in life. Good colours, and good company!

Now, having seen so many US versus UK covers, you probably have opinions. You probably have favourites.

I cannot hear them. (NO. SERIOUSLY. PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME. SERIOUSLY, PLEASE DO NOT.) Books are not significantly like our children, as selling one's children in the marketplace is frowned on by many. But book covers are like our children's faces in a way - they mean a lot to us, and we don't have control over them. They're also marketing tools, so people should feel free to express their opinions on them: but doing it to the author is liable to just make the author collapse in a tragic heap of smelling salts and brandy. (Medicinal, of course!)

I would like to hear anyone's thoughts on the trends in covers on both sides of the pond, possibly how US covers sometimes get new covers in paperback but never adopt the UK ones, and how the UK industry often changes to the US covers to see what will happen. I'd also like to hear guesses on what the UK covers of the other three of the seven debaters - Saundra Mitchell of Shadowed Summer, Sarah MacLean of The Season and Sarah Cross of Dull Boy - would look like.

But if you want to pick favourites, good news, that's how you win seven books at once!


Go here to vote for Team US or Team UK, and possibly win either the seven books in the UK package complete with UK covers, or the seven books in the US package complete with US covers.


( 183 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 30th, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
This morning, my copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth got posted. I'm looking forward to it! :D
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
When I bring a new hardcover book home, about the first thing I do is strip it of its jacket and put that somewhere safe. So in my mind's eye, your cover isn't a guy looking moody, it's half a sword on a bit of path. Therefore I was confused when we got to your covers in the list!

Speaking of Demon's Lexicon, I just wanted to mention that I quite like it. I've abandoned the books I was already in the middle of in order to start on it (terrible habit, I know), and it's sucked me in like a sucky thing. Great job!
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
Well I do have a deep love for my secret cover, but it would be cruel to show mine off when other people don't have one. *hugs secret cover to chest*

Very pleased you're enjoying!
(no subject) - artemisfowl2nd - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - slythwolf - Jul. 1st, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
That's fascinating! I never knew that some books had covers which were completely different! Well, I knew they changed them but some of those are just... yes. I also love the foil covered books and can be amused by the shiny bits :)

I am however severely disappointed that they do not show the UK book covers on that voting link, aside from the fact that it doesn't open until tomorrow, when the UK covers are easily better.
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:06 pm (UTC)
Ah - ah - ah! What did I say, don't say it to me! Someone fetch the brandy...

Jun. 30th, 2009 12:02 pm (UTC)
I agree with most of this. The only thing I would add is that when both UK and US covers feature people, whether photographed or illustrated, the US ones are almost always less 'real' person looking. Whether more made up (er, with make-up), or more PhotoShopped, or with a touch of the anime about them, American cover people look less like people one would ever meet. There is probably a town in Iowa where everyone looks like that.
Jul. 1st, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
I think it's actually in California.
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)
Here in New Zealand we seem to get odd mixes of UK and US covers. I don't know whether Australia is similar or leans more strongly towards one or the other, so someone else will have to comment on that respect.

To go through the covers that you have listed, I have seen in shops the UK Forest of Hands and Teeth and Knife, but the US Mortal Instruments, Devouring and Uglies. And we have the iconic red and black Twilight covers, although when I first read it it was the hardback UK cover.

For some more examples of UK covers I have bought here/seen in bookshops rather than online (thank you thank you thank you for the BookDepo plug during #amazonfail. I can actually buy more books because they're not outrageously expensive as they are here, and it actually has books that won't be out here for months) would be Morganville Vampires, Meg Cabot's books and Wicked Lovely etc. Tamora Pierces are a hodge podge and could be either or.

As for me, I tend to be attracted to UK covers - the US Uglies one makes me go "meh" while the UK one grabs me right away - and I already own the UK Demon's Lexicon. Were I to pick books to look at that I haven't read based on covers, right now I'd go for the UK covers of Ash, Knife (I made the decision very quickly to get the UK one simply for the artist - it's Brian Froud!) and Forest of Hands and Teeth, and the US cover of The Devouring and The Summoning.

But for Forest of Hands and Teeth, the cover I really adore is the German one. I showed my friends all three variants and they immediately latched onto the German one - they're all very upset that they can't have that one.
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
Why do people have to tell me about their preferences? *cries and clutches brandy and her US cover* Tell the competition, it upsets me!

Very interesting to know about the mix, though: I knew that the Mortal Instruments series sold with their US cover in Australia and NZ, and that my book sold with its UK cover, but little else.

Random House Germany, where Carrie and I both are, gives good cover. *uses German icon*
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catherinehaines - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catherinehaines - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rj_anderson - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catherinehaines - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kashiichan - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - catherinehaines - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tenik - Jun. 30th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jun. 30th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tenik - Jun. 30th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:07 pm (UTC)
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
Can I vote for the US covers on the grounds that the books I have already have UK covers?! I have to say I am not in the target demographic (by some way!) and I don't go heaps on foil and scary leaves/hands, I like covers that are dull to touch instead of shiny ( like my hardback copy of Anne Fine's In Cold Domain) but I think that might just show my age. I did quite like the repackaging they did on the Chrestomanci books with the cut out circles. And although I really enjoyed Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Catch Trap, the cover was almost bad enough to warrent a brown paper wrapper! And the blurb had the main character's name wrong! So I try not to judge! I also love old paperbacks with soft cardboerd covers, and I sometimes object to hardback because they make my wrists ache when I'm in the bath, so I am not really an informed critic! My copy of City of Bones arrived today, and I am a tad annoyed that it doesn't match the two earlier UK editions. Do you know if Covenant will look like Lexicon? All the best, Tiff
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)
You can vote for any reason you like. :) And while I have no information on what the US Demon's Covenant will look like, I've talked a little with people about the UK Demon's Covenant, and I think it will be in the same series style as the first UK cover.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC)
I have wracked my brains but which UK fantasy had a different title for its adult printing??
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)
It's not a UK fantasy. I was thinking of Alison Goodman's first book, which was published as Eon: Dragoneye Reborn in its US YA incarnation, and as Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye for its UK YA incarnation, and as The Two Pearls of Wisdom for its UK adult incarnation. With three different covers, natch.

(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jun. 30th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:14 pm (UTC)
Man, I'm totally participating the hell out of it XD
Man XD
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:17 pm (UTC)
No, maybe I racked them!
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:18 pm (UTC)
I thought you might be amused to know that when my husband carelessly knocked my stack of books off the ottoman, Demon's Lexicon fell/stood upright on its own. Guess Nick doesn't like to be kicked around. ;)
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
I'm still trapped in a world of 'ooooh, pretty' over the UK Valiant cover - here in Australia we have the UK covers for Tithe and Ironside but the US cover for Valiant, for reasons I can not explain. I've always found the Modern Fairie Tale series interesting from a marketing standpoint for that reason. (I found the series interesting from a reader's standpoint before the UK covers were released purely because they are awesome.)

For some reason, probably related to the fact that Tithe and Ironside were given new covers and Valiant wasn't, no-one in Australia seems to realise that the books are a trilogy. In almost every bookstore I've walked into over here, if they have Holly's books at all, Tithe and Ironside are side by side, and Valiant is either before or after the other two, not in the middle where I always thought it belonged. As much as I know that it is very wrong to rearrange the shelves in somebody else's bookstore, I tend to sneakily switch the books into the right order when nobody's looking.

I can not always be won over by the use of foil, but I will admit to tipping my pretty, pretty copy of Knife into the light enitely too many times at different angles, because the Brian Froud cover is a Thing of Wonder, and the foil makes it sparkle with an otherworldly light. But, this said, I put off buying Wings for a month because by waiting I can get the US cover, which looks less like it's intended for an eight year old.

As for what the UK covers for the other three books would look like, I've only read Dull Boy, but I actually think that it looks a little like a UK cover already. It's illustrated, and slanted toward boys rather than girls. But it would be cool to see a slightly darker cover, maybe with a group shot of Avery, Sophie, Catherine, Nicholas, Darla and Jaques, and lashings of red and black. I just don't think that it's very likely, and since the one in my mind is photographic it's more like a US paperback cover. Personally, I'd just be happy for there to be a UK cover, since then we'd get it as normal stock out here and I could force other people to read it.
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
I would looove to see a red and black team shot for Dull Boy. *beams* Thank you for that image!

The UK cover for Valiant was released later than the UK covers for Tithe and Ironside, so maybe it will travel to you! It is very pretty, though I own it, and the first version of Tithe, and the US series hardcover for Ironside, so my set could not look less like a set. ;)
(no subject) - fadedbluejeans - Jun. 30th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
I loved this discussion about different covers, especially since I'm quite picky about them myself (I've even bought books a second time in order to get a cover I like more). And this list of books has all gone down on my to-buy list.

I also just wanted to say that I finally managed to buy a copy of The Demon's Lexicon (UK cover, since I'm in Europe and we're discussing them XD). I read it in slightly less than two days and loved it so very much. By the end of the book the characters felt like old friends and I was holding my breath to see what was going to happen to them. I've never been more sad to finish a book, but at least the blurb for the next in the series has kept me going for now. I can't wait for that to be published too! Your writing is amazing.
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
*beams* I am so happy you enjoyed it, and so glad you fancy the blurb for Covenant. :)
(no subject) - allichaton - Jun. 30th, 2009 01:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jun. 30th, 2009 01:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
My hero(ine)! - allichaton - Jun. 30th, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
I love how covers can give you a different experience of a story! By which I mean, reading Jane Eyre in a crimson cloth-bound edition is an entirely different experience to reading it in the pale white and lilac Penguin Red edition. Different covers appeal to my different moods, and when the pale cover appeals to me, I take more notice of, say, things like the setting and the society stuff; when the crimson cover appeals, it's more about Rochester and the relationship. This is why it is ENTIRELY necessary to have multiple editions of favourite books!
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
I like your thinking: the different fonts in different editions even make the experience different for me. My copy of Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs is about twenty years old, and in tiny type on yellow pages, and I love it the most, as it makes me feel oddly nostalgic as well as generally captivated.
(no subject) - frock - Jun. 30th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ate - Jun. 30th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
I think there's definitely been a swing in the US towards featuring PEOPLE, at least, or bits of people. Either that, or the symbols. Often books perceived to have a "younger" audience will have illustrated covers rather than the photomanip/photoshop collage of doom, so they can be hidden in the Childrens section as well as the Teen section. I know I was making mental notes on this topic at some point... I'll have to swing by the bookstore after work and take a look.

I suppose one example are the Chrestomanci books. I'm trying to remember what the covers of the ones I got out of the library while very young look like, and I can't. The two volumes of two books each I own now have very disgruntled looking cats on them, which suits me just fine. However, it seems like the new covers for individual volumes all have at least bits of people on them, and they're in much brighter colors than my old copies, which indicates to me that maybe they're targeted for a younger audience...

Hm. Actually, there are a number of new covers, and they seem to be frames with scenes inside them. So... I will actually comment on this a bit more after I've actually been to a bookstore and browsed a bit.

I will say, though, that the crazy "Let's photoshop a bit of human in with a lot of other crazy stuff" cover thing is not an entirely new trend, since I definitely have Wizardry books (Diane Duane) sitting around from 8 or so years ago that show this trend. (The Wizard's Dilemma is all SWIRLY.)

Also, I love me some foil-covered books. My copy of The Game (Diana Wynne Jones again, and this is just making it seem like I only read books by people whose names begin with Dian-, which is just nonsense) is all shiny and pretty, and I may have possibly spent about an hour staring at it from different directions.

I wonder if the US covers change based on whether the author is British or American? (Edited to add:) I mean, whether they get different styles of cover or are more likely to get covers that are mainly illustration-based rather than photograph-based, or whether this is something based on the age group, whether it's younger or older teens they are trending for. (But then again, the Artemis Fowl books have rather trippy covers, so this CAN'T be.)

Edited at 2009-06-30 12:41 pm (UTC)
Jun. 30th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
I spent at least an hour tipping my copy of The Game in different directions when I bought it a few weeks ago, since I discovered that thanks to the lighting of the room I was in I could make the foil bits black, silver or gold depending on the angle the book was tipped at.

Yes, I am lame. But I'm alright with that.
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Sarah Rees Brennan
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