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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.

UK Covers on the Left, US on the Right, and Jump!Collapse )

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 03:38 pm (UTC)
They all look so pretty!

... though I have a secret soft-spot for the UK covers.
Jun. 30th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
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.

I think in the US, it's that the books are slanted toward "young adults" (teens/20-something-year-olds) & young people here tend to want to distance themselves from childish things & anything associated with it. If the books were kept in the children's section, a teen would rather die than be caught reading anything over there. They like the appearance of being "grown-up" so the books are covered & located where they are more likely to attract the "young adults". ANd then those of us who are a bit older but still like to read those books don't feel so conspicuous. ;)
Jun. 30th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
In the UK, some of us feel the same way! In my local Waterstones the Kiddie section includes the Teenage section - at 18, it feels a bit embarrassing to walk over there (although I have not yet got to the point where I claim it is a present for a younger sibling). I do prefer the term "young adult" to "teenage". :)
(no subject) - ladysaotome - Jun. 30th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
Oh no! I, ah, voted today! Which is NOT JULY 1ST. Am I disqualified? Entered? Should I give it another go tomorrow? HELP.
Jun. 30th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
I actually bought three of the books you mentioned today! Knife, Valiant and The Demon's Lexicon (...I already have an ARC of The Demon's Lexicon, I wanted the pretty cover. Also for lending purposes, as I cannot possibly let go of my ARC. I once lent Interview with a Vampire to a friend. It came back with a broken spine and many unattached pages O_o. She did buy me a new copy, but the ARC cannot be replaced). All UK covers!

I am a big fan of the foil covers, especially Knife of the ones I bought today. When you wave it around in the light, it changes colour! If you walk past it, it catches your eye! Foil covers to me are what glow-in-the-dark covers are to others.

In general, I'd say I'm Team UK, although this is probably hugely influenced by living here all my life. I love the artistic covers because I feel that it's so much easier to express the feeling of the book. I do like the covers with photographs of people on them, though. For some reason, I love it when a partial image of the face is shown - often the mouth or half a face. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it's probably because it draws my attention away from "ooh, pretty person" and towards "ooh, what is that pretty person doing?" I must confess I'm not a huge fan of US pouty Nick. UK Nick has half of his face in shadows, isn't real, and makes me wonder why he seems to be angry at the world.
Jun. 30th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
*cries and chugs brandy* Don't tell me! Children's faces!

But I agree that the foil-y Knife is mesmerising. ;)

(no subject) - empresstria - Jun. 30th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 04:08 pm (UTC)
Many thanks for the chance to win 7 free books. It made my day. All of the book covers are interesting. They all tell a different part of the story inside.

My thing about covers is that if I am buying books in a series they MUST match. I'm a teacher and often buy my books through my classroom book orders. Sometimes the hardback is the library binding edition. With no jacket, but the jacket picture right on the cover. It's easier to read, you don't have to worry about the dust cover getting damaged or lost. But you never know if you are getting a library binding or a "normal" hardcover. So I end up with part of a series one way and the other part the other way. Then my OCD kicks in and I have a hard time dealing with it. :) Same way when they change the cover art in between books for no reason. I have a hard time dealing. Also, if I start a series in hardback I must buy the rest in hardback...same goes for paperback.

I know. I'm a tiny bit nuts. :)
Jul. 1st, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
If it makes you feel any better, I am exactly the same way. It even drives me a little nuts that I have the (otherwise perfectly matched) hardcover of Ironside when the rest are US paperbacks. But I'm dealing with it because, thanks to the UK redesign, if I'd waited for the paperback my covers would not match AT ALL.

Also, I have resigned myself to the fact that I will probably end up with two sets of Demon's Lexicon. I'm an Aussie, and I ordered the hardcover from the US because it was quicker than waiting, but if they pull the releases of the rest of the series in line with US and UK the paperbacks will be quicker, and I know that means that I'll just end up buying both.
Jun. 30th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
I love this post because let's face it, unless it's been recommended or an author you know and love, you just have to judge a book by it's cover! It's nearly impossible to get a real glimpse of what the book is really like by reading just the back of the book so we rely on the visualisation of the book quite a lot I think.

That being said, I have to go against myself and say I usually like things where less is more, not too much going on but what is there should stand out! and I have a serious weakness for textured hardbacks, I like touching my books and the smell of my books more than I really appreciate the picture on the cover.
I had to buy all the Harry Potter books in both children's and adult's because I liked the spiffy colorful covers of HP Children's edition but LOVE taking off the jacket and feeling the texture of the black hardcover in my hands when reading the Adult's edition :P
Jun. 30th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
Oh and a random fact is that when I find myself thinking if I want the US or the UK edition I tend to think about where the author is from or where the book is set.

I love all of your covers but I chose the UK edition because it's closer to the characters and you. Make any sense?
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jun. 30th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fleurrochard - Jun. 30th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
I never thought much about the different covers. Sure I'd seen a few UK covers for some of my favorite books but I never noticed how most of them are slanted to younger teens and childrens. This is an insanely interesting post!

I like both the covers for ASH, WINGS, and THE DEMON'S LEXICON. For VALIANT, however, I like the UK version better. Other than those titles I prefer the US covers. It may have to do with the fact that I've seen them so much.
Jun. 30th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
I'm looking forward to my copy of Dull Boy. It should come this week. I have no idea how UK is going to win against US cover of this book. I love it! It's 'oh, pretty!' and 'what the heck' at once! I love how people working on this cover managed to pick our curiosity by making a cover which is the opposite of the title. It's my favourite. ♥

Generally I'm fan of iconic and photographic covers. Illustrated ones sadly tend to give the feeling that the book is aimed at children (or, if I should follow your logic, Britos ;)). But even there are exceptions, Ash, The Hunger Games and your book give the opposite feeling. (And I'm sorry, but I absolutely have to say this. Even though UK cover of DL is my favourite, Nick will always have the face of the guy from the US one. I hope I didn't throw you into fits...)

Also, I feel as if UK covers started to become more iconic while I scrolled down. I think that's US influence.
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)
Also, I have dreadful problem! I know I probably won't win the competition but I can't decide which pack to choose! Three covers are the same and then four are different! I know that I would like to get US version of your book since I already have the UK one, and love US version of Wings, but Knife and The Forest of Hands and Teeth I prefer in UK version. Oh, the greatest problem of humanity - to choose and which to choose?
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jun. 30th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
I have nothing deep to say except: yes. At the very least to me, the middle cover of Tithe is difficult to find and deeply coveted. **sulks** Be pleased!
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
see I barely noticed the difference in UK vs. US books until Harry Potter. I'm not a fan of the series, but a friend of mine pointed out how much MORE she loved the UK covers. I was like 'wait...are they like a better material or something?' and that's when she showed them to me. To be honest I like the HP 'adult' covers the best.

For a completist like me its hellacious to have a book/book series I love have multiple covers. Have you seen the many covers of Maria V. Snyder's Study series? Let me see if I can remember them all--[in america]there's the original Luna HC (for Poison Study and Magic Study), the mass market Luna pb for Poison, the new Mira Trade pb's for Poison-Magic-Fire and then there's the YA Mira trade pb's for Poison and Magic. Then in the UK there is the HC-adult cover for Poison-Magic, SC-adult cover for Poison-Magic-Fire, Trade pb cover for Poison-Magic-Fire, YA HC Cover for Poison-Magic, YA SC cover for Poison-Magic...you see where I'm going here? If I kept all my copies of the books out it would take up an entire SHELF of my bookcase! And that's not even including the newest book Storm Glass! Or the soon to be released brand new Australian covers!

I understand for foreign language covers--I am a big fan of the Japanese covers for the Twilight series, TDL's japanese cover is also pretty awesome! does it have manga illustrations too?--but gah...it hurts my brain sometimes.

I do find myself leaning more towards the UK cover for some of the above mentioned books though. Especially Wings, Ash, and Knife. I like the UK cover for The Summoning though, but I think the US cover is a better representation.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:26 pm (UTC)
*cries and tries to drink smelling salts as well as brandy*
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jun. 30th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jun. 30th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
(I keep forgetting things I want to say, so I have to delete the comment and try again--this time is good, though!)

I love your cover analyses posts! Your first one sent me on an hours-long link-hopping adventure to learn more about cover trends, and this one was most informative as well.

I think the iconic covers are the easiest to like, because they usually don't interfere with how you picture characters or parts of the story. Illustrated covers sometimes have a side-effect of making me picture the characters more as cartoons than real people, which means that their injuries and miseries are not as important as to real people. This only happens with the really crayon-colored, fakey ones, though.

I like having really complicated covers, with lots of little details thrown in that you only recognize as significant elements after you've read the book, so you can go poring over it after. Like most of the US Harry Potter covers, but especially Goblet of Fire. And secret covers--well, secret covers -win- ^^

Guessing game...I think The Shadowed Summer's UK cover will be illustrated with tombstones, perhaps with the title on one of the stones all engraving-like. The Season will have a few prettily-arranged aristocratic items, like fancy gloves and roses and maybe a knife. Dull Boy will be illustrated with Avery standing in a group, either with his new superhero friends or in a crowd at school (with him more brightly colored than the others, hence contrasting with the title).

[[Um, warning for opinions on your covers, but all of it good so no need for smelling salts!]] UK!TDL is all delicious with the black and red, and also looks more urban with the background and the grungy font. Now that I know it has foil, I approve even more. US!TDL also has shinies because of the cool talisman, and I dig this color scheme (such a bright red orange is not overly common, I've found). I like that his face isn't cut off. US!TDL seems to emphasize the power of magic while UK!TDL emphasizes the darkness of magic.

German!TDL is all cool and actiony, though of course we miss Nick's pretty face, and I think it would appeal to an older audience than the US one. Finnish!TDL has a really neat color scheme, and echoes your website (which is cool for your long-time fans, but also for Finnish people who might read the book and then go to your website and be all, "Yes, I am in the right place, see how it matches the cover!"). And Japanese!TDL is of course excellent, because Hiromu Arakawa? Yes, please! And I like having Alan on the cover, because he is so incredibly important to the story and to Nick.


And, and! I am going to cosplay as Mae for ComicCon this year, and I must know--what sort of shoes does she wear to the Goblin Market?
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Seriously, in San Diego? You must come say hey to me. ;) Mae wears ballet flats to the Goblin Market. http://draykonis.livejournal.com/93376.html#cutid1 - I was consulted on the footwear for this artwork.

I think you're right about the mass appeal of iconic covers: like a lot of popular things, they don't have things that might put off one person while they attract another: almost like people, where even and not-noticeable features are apparently the most attractive?

Plus I love having Alan on a cover too. ;)

(no subject) - empresstria - Jun. 30th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarkysnarky - Jun. 30th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - empresstria - Jun. 30th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
I always wish there were more illustrations on my fantasy book jackets, so, you know. :D

And, I finally have your book! And it is excellent, so far (not quite finished). This may sound kind of weird but as someone with, uh, anger problems as well sometimes, you've written Nick very very well. All of them are well characterized, but I rarely see characters who are that very real to me. I imagine my father, if you replaced swordplay with sports, was a lot like Nick. And that's the first time I've ever been able to say that about a book.

I keep trying to think of places to recommend the book! Also, I'm going to have to give my copy to the library, so they actually have one...
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
I'm an editor (of non-YA fiction - I was going to say adult fiction, then worried that you might think I meant porn) at a major house, and I've been doing it so long that I feel as if I've seen every possible cover concept ever. Which isn't true, but I've certainly see the wheel go round on people vs. not-people on covers, icons vs. full bleed, foil vs. not (often an entirely cost-based decision), shiny vs. matte (my personal preference), dark vs. light, red (or black or blue or whatever) vs. OMG, red's so last year. And we've got a UK office, too, so it's interesting to compare our covers to theirs, because sometimes they go with ours and sometimes come up with something entirely different, maybe better, maybe not.

The only thing I've figured out about myself as a book-buyer (and that includes YA fantasy) is that I'm not predictable, and a great title can draw me in as effectively as a great piece of art, and if a book hasn't got either, I'll walk right by. So even though the US cover for The Forest of Hands and Teeth is dull as dishwater imo, the title is the best thing I've heard in years, so if I don't win a copy (as is most likely), I'll buy it. (Not based solely on the title; the description sounds like something I'll enjoy, too.) Whereas neither cover for Wings appeals to me (UK: cutesy and too young; US: secret porn - which obviously it's not, but that's what the art says to me, though I do prefer it to the UK edition), and since the title says nothing to me, either, I would have walked right by it in the store. (Now, having been "forced" to think about it, I'm much more intrigued.)

If a person's face is shown, I can be really turned on or turned off by the specifics. That's especially true if it's a guy's face, because the embarrassing truth is that the female protagonist (whether she's a capital-H Heroine or not) always looks like me, or an older or younger version of me, in my mind, but the guy is never me, so he'd better be someone I want in whatever way I'm intended to want him.

One thing that bugs me - but that I freely confess may come from my involvement in the industry and the process, so I don't always react like a normal reader anymore - is when covers and/or titles (or plots) are obviously derivative of some big success or are clear bandwagon-jumping, so all the black and red covers start getting on my nerves after a while, but so do all the "It's The DaVinci Code but set in South America!" plots. (Which isn't to say I haven't edited books that have gone out with that same color scheme, because I'm just one voice in a collaborative process, and besides, sometimes a cover is just so striking that it overrides my usual responses and assumptions.)

The only real generality I can come up with is that something about a cover needs to pop, and then I'll zero in and start looking at specifics. And a great cover and title will still never make me buy a book if the copy (or on-line synopsis) turns me off. For a YA, specifically, there's the additional caveat that a book can't look too young, so there more than anywhere, I think there's a really delicate balance to seek if the intent is to get an adult audience as well as a YA one. And on that score, the cover's much more important than the protagonist's age or gender.

And that's definitely enough rambling from me. I'll be back tomorrow to enter. (I'm going to go for the UK package, since I can easily buy the US versions if I prefer them, but vice versa doesn't apply.)
Jun. 30th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
Most interesting to hear from an editor's perspective! What makes a cover pop is always so tricky, whether it's achieved through picture, colour, title, pretty, what the heck factor or some combination of all of the above.

Must be very interesting to see the wheels going around! I think there are more people on covers than there were, and definitely less bits of people, but the iconic cover still seems to be the favourite for now. Faces as you say are tricky, as they're so subjective. Icons are more neutral, as we can't be attracted to or put ourselves in the place of them.
(no subject) - nutmeg3 - Jul. 1st, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 30th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
Ooh it is so hard to say why you prefer one kind of cover over another...although to be honest, I read most new books from the library and therefore I tend to judge them by their spine and their title rather than the relative prettiness of the cover!

However, I do always prefer one cover over another. And generically speaking over the whole industry, I think I have a tendency to prefer illustrated or pictoral covers rather than faces or parts of people. I just think they look much more interesting - anyone can stick a face on a book but using art and images to convey part of the plot as well delights me. (Which is why I am most delighted with your covers: they have people on them, but they also have important things like talismans and ravens and London! And they are pretty people which I think convey an air of Nick quite well, rather than just being randomers.) I am also a sucker for architecture - I am drawn to books with buildings on them. I do not know why.

I also usually like interesting, adventurous covers. (The UK cover of 'The Last Ghost' for example, I would marry tomorrow. I love that kind of silhouette art - I used to have a little pack of fairy tales illustrated in the same way and they were the only books in which I would actively look at the pictures.) If something surprises me, if it looks very different from anything else on the shelf, I cannot help but be drawn to it and make an assumption that if the cover is original the contents might well be too.

And hooray for a wonderful book contest! :) How to choose?! I will have to think long and hard on this one because they all look so beautiful to me!
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