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The Covers, They Are A-Changin'

'Sarah!' I hear you cry. 'Where are the publishing posts of yore, so informative and yet so hilarious?' 'No,' you actually cry. 'We really didn't miss them. You don't actually know that m-'


I have been told by Some People (and by that I mean Justine 'Don't Spoil Me! Why Are You Spoiling Me? QUIT SPOILING ME OR I WILL USE MY AUSTRALIAN KUNG FU' Larbalestier) that sometimes when I talk about books and movies and television shows, I tend to spoil them for people by means of gently saying 'I was so sad when so and so died' and 'I hope that Character A and Character B make out/turn into zombies/take over the world again.'

That's okay. For not only am I going to be mostly talking about covers, I promise that my brief summary of each of the books (all of which I recommend) will be MOSTLY LIES. There will be a bit of truth, here and there. But you'll never know where, unless you read them all. Rest assured you will be spoiled for nothing but the stories that play out in my head.

But this is mostly a Cover Post, and it is about an aspect of covers I have not yet previously discussed! It is about what happens when a book changes cover in the transition from hardback to paperback. (I am concentrating on US editions alone, as they have many more hardbacks than UK editions.)

So why does this happen to some books and not others? Weeell, for many reasons. Obviously, a cover's main job is to sell the book, so stuff like hitting the bestseller lists means your covers tend not to change.

Naturally most books, they hit not the bestseller list. So all covers are changed to increase sales: sometimes sales are good, and the cover changes anyway. Why is this?

Because the publisher is like 'These sales, they are very nice, but we would like to sell MORE.'

Publishers, they never say 'Ehhhh... I think we've sold enough books.' No indeed - the 28 millionth copy of Twilight out the door is just as sweet as the first!

So sometimes, they think 'This book is selling despite the cover. We hear lots of complaints that the cover does not appeal/does not match the story. We will change it... and sell MORE!'

Sometimes, they think 'This book is selling to a certain audience. The audience this cover appeals to. But we think another audience would like this book. So let us CHANGE IT UP! (and sell more!)'

So let us go with the assumption that there are Two Kinds of Covers. Object covers, in which you are like 'Huh, that is some stuff.' And people covers, in which we are like 'Huh, those are some humans.' In the people covers, there are two subsets (watch me do the fancy maths) - covers concentrating on faces and covers concentrating on figures.

How and why do covers change? Let us go BEHIND THE CUT, and see. With guaranteed no spoilers, just lies!

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

SCARLETT: This is a story about me, New York and my HANDSOME BROTHER, Spencer.
SPENCER: Who needs New York when you have me, Scarlett? Look at me, I'm juggling a walrus!
SCARLETT: This summer I will be getting a very strange job. As a spy. A ninja spy.
SPENCER: Scarlett, pay attention to me! I've just performed a triple backflip on a ladder with a watermelon on my head!

An excellent book, particularly all the bits with Spencer in them. Now you will see in the change from the hardback (first cover hardback, second paperback, them's the rules of this post) that they changed the aesthetic from a Face Cover to an Object Cover.

The covers ask different questions: the first one is 'Why is that dreamy girl in charge of the ring-y bell? Some guest at the hotel could be tempted to seize it and ring out a tune on it! Not that I personally have ever been tempted in such a way.' The second cover is 'That key does not honestly look like it will fit in a lock. Why are the - OH I SEE. Well, hello New York skyline.' One emphasises Scarlett, and one New York.

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How To Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

You know how it is. You're at a club, you meet a fairy, you do a few too many shots of Cuervo, and then the fairy dude is always calling you and calling you, and sending text messages like 'HAVING A SHOT OF MEAD - CATCH UP WITH U LATER?' and 'LISTENING TO TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART & THINKING OF U' and really, you want to concentrate on your basketball game. So you and your friends hatch an elaborate plot to, as the saying goes, ditch your fairy. (Fairy boyfriends, not like vampire boyfriends. Not keepers.)

This cover is also a big change: from a person, with an emphasis on her figure and actions rather than her face, to an object cover. The change is pretty unusual - illustrated covers are rare in young adult: I've heard Received Wisdom that people think illustrations look kiddy. But it's a really striking image - it is a GIANT HAMMER squishing a FAIRY. Not only is it definitely memorable image, it suggests action and comedy, while the figure cover is a little more traditional, and suggests romance a bit more: the fairy is a sparkling trail.

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Tithe by Holly Black

A faerie prince and a handsome troll have a bet on that the faerie prince can't make a human girl the queen of the Summer Homecoming Court. A romantical and comical adventure ensues, complete with frisky mermaids, and complicated when the faerie prince accidentally swears a sacred vow to be the human girl's love slave. These things happen...

I have shown these two covers before, BUT, I find it interesting because it was a series cover change: all the other covers in the Modern Faerie Tales look like the paperback. (Same with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but the second book is sadly not yet out!) It is a dramatic change from a person cover to an object cover - an object cover that is stark, and thus arresting - in contrast to the hardback cover, which is illustrated and has a lot going on.

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An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

What do you do when your girlfriend Katherine leaves you? Well, you could go on a heartwarming road trip with your best friend and learn a little about love and life, OR you could clone Katherine a thousand times, in order to make a clone army and TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Nothing says 'I'm over you, baby' like being God King of the Universe.

I wished to have one cover change which showed two people covers, as that happens too: a figures to faces cover. The figures cover suggests both people and (given the font-yness, another fine authorly word for y'all) maths. The face cover, though, differentiates the people - the faces of the girls all have personality, giving us the idea that these Katherines we have such an abundance of are special snowflakes. Engaging the reader in different ways!

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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

STABLE BOY: I work for a corrupt household in which there are a mysterious pair of twins! I love the Good Twin.
GOOD TWIN: We kind of keep our dating in the family.
STABLE BOY: ... Beg pardon?
GOOD TWIN: Well my parents were brother and sister. And we have a relative we keep in the shed. Personally, I'm in love with my sister.
STABLE BOY: And you're the good twin? WHAT DOES THE EVIL TWIN DO?

This is an adult book, proving that my Theories Hold Good for all covers, not just YA. And we see the change from an object cover to a people cover - a figure cover rather than a face cover. The theory behind the change may have been 'This cover, it is so pretty! But - in a bookshop, is what people want to see... more books? Is that what will grab them?' And so a cover suggesting people, and the past - and suggesting more action. Because people can move by themselves, and books cannot! (I know you guys keep me around for these deep insights.)

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The Forest of Hands And Teeth by Carrie Ryan

A young girl defying her puritanical upbringing to achieve her dream - of being a zombie slaying ballerina. When the Royal Ballet House pairs her with Reginald DeComposing, the aristocratic scion of a wealthy zombie family who loves ballet even more than brains, will Mary be able to work with Reginald? And will her dedication to zombie slaying be compromised when these unlikely partners... fall in love?

So both these covers are not only both people covers, but both face covers, and yet we see a different aesthetic! The girl in the hardcover looks haunted, the forest a ghostly backdrop, her hair streaming in the wind. The girl in the paperback is framed by spiky branches, her gaze not off into the woods but intense and out at the reader. Wiiidely different aesthetics, even though the covers would sound alike if described. Which is why my post has so much VISUAL EVIDENCE.

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So covers, when they change, they usually change types, or change into a different subset. They go from action-y to atmosphere-y or vice versa. They reflect very different aspects of the book. It is always a big change.

And The Demon's Lexicon cover is changing from hardcover to paperback. I am most interested to hear your thoughts on what it may be like!


( 147 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 30th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
Hmm, not sure how I feel about this...the hardcover is pretty hot, and both my cousin and my sister read it for that reason, apart from my raving. Maybe the Demon Protector Necklace Thing? (I am so sorry I forgot the word for it...I am living in Spain and English is slowly being replaced). Anyway, that would be a cool cover, too.
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
I hope they liked it. :) And the hardcover will always hotly exist. Talisman might be a nice cover all right!
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC)
I blame you for this ---

What does Reginald Decomposing eat?

Nov. 30th, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
Oh dear, oh dear...
(no subject) - anywherebeyond - Nov. 30th, 2009 11:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sadams119 - Nov. 30th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blamebrampton - Dec. 1st, 2009 09:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
I beam at this description of your reaction to the book! And summary of what the book would be. ;)

It is true that Nick is not very emo or pensive at all, though M'Cover Model Tyler is very handsome, which I enjoy. I regard it as like foreign covers - seeing different aspects used to portray your books is always fun. Also of course I have no objection to others drawn in to my net. :)
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
I seem to much prefer the object covers. A quick glance at one of my (many) bookcases shows that most of my paperback book purchases have object covers. I've even been known to purchase a second copy of a book I already own simply because I like the simplicity and beauty of the object cover over the cover I already own.

I know. It's a sickness.

STABLE BOY: I work for a corrupt household in which there are a mysterious pair of twins! I love the Good Twin.
GOOD TWIN: We kind of keep our dating in the family.
STABLE BOY: ... Beg pardon?
GOOD TWIN: Well my parents were brother and sister. And we have a relative we keep in the shed. Personally, I'm in love with my sister.
STABLE BOY: And you're the good twin? WHAT DOES THE EVIL TWIN DO?

LOL, it probably says something about my twisted psyche that I actually want to read this story.
Dec. 1st, 2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
Sarah's description isn't the plot of the book but honestly in terms of...things I don't want to say because of shh secret spoilers, it's not far off! There is much to appeal to a twisted psyche! And I absolutely adore that book and will rec it to all and sundry because it's beautifully written as well as twisted-in-an-awesome-way!

So yes, if that appeals to you totally pick up the book!
(no subject) - lirren - Dec. 1st, 2009 12:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - savvy_implet - Dec. 1st, 2009 04:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
re: the 13th tale - o_cesario - Dec. 6th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
I love this post, I love your icon, and I think I may love you. The Demon's Lexicon has been ordered from Amazon and will soon make its way to me, and THEN we'll find out. In the meanwhile, may I steal your lovely, lovely world dominating icon? :D
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
Sure: it's got Demon's Lexicon characters in it, so you can get fond of 'em before they arrive!
(no subject) - novembersmith - Dec. 1st, 2009 12:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
No offense against your US cover (which is the one I have), but I'm hoping they change it from a face cover to an object cover. Maybe more focus on a talisman? I'm not that fond of your US hardcover, mostly because I don't think it's helping to reach a wider audience.

WHAT SARAH'S US SLIPCOVER SAYS: I am a hot, tortured, and brooding male!
WHAT SARAH'S US SLIPCOVER IMPLIES TO BOYS (a.k.a. my 13 year old brother who is wary of the cover): Oh god, this is a book for girls, isn't it? I am uncomfortable with flaunting a photograph of a dude who isn't doing anything cool like hacking demons. Why doesn't it have awesome swordfighting? The guy pouts too much.

And then I show him the secret cover and he's cool with it. But face covers seem to appeal more to girls than boys, even though the face is male. I think illustrative/action-y covers appeals to boys here in the US, but that's my own theory.

I will admit to staying away from Maureen Johnson's earlier books because of the faceless girl. To me they implied "We are YA chick lit". Not that I have a problem with chick lit; it's just not a genre I read. And then I picked up the paperback of SUITE SCARLETT and tore through Maureen's backlist.

Covers: they have more impact than we like to believe!

(P.S. Boss and I are meeting with your agent this week! I gushed to her over email about how much I loved your novel and your blog.)
Nov. 30th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC)
Agreed; I could do without the modelicious male on the cover. (Happy to see him between the covers though.) (Oops, a double entendre? Mercy me.) (Unf.)
(no subject) - sarahtales - Nov. 30th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - thegreatmissjj - Dec. 1st, 2009 12:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blamebrampton - Dec. 1st, 2009 09:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - slythwolf - Dec. 1st, 2009 07:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blamebrampton - Dec. 1st, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
Ooh. I have to say that, had I not been following your blog, I may not have picked up the Demon's Lexicon hardcover. While Nick is, well, Nick, and all, I found him looking a little too emo for my taste. Of course, it would only have taken me a moment to read the summary (I'm good, I never judge by covers) and I would thus have bought it instantly. However, I don't know that my eye would have been sufficiently caught.

I'm very interested in the paperback cover. My hope is that it will be a summoning circle! With creepy stuff around it, like talismans or candles! Or something. And colors -- One must never forget that sharply contrasting colors draw the eye faster than almost anything.
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
I SO WANT YOUR VERSIONS OF THE BOOKS TO BE REAL. In fact, I stopped reading this post halfway through to plan a stereotypical high school chick flick bet-gone-wrong film starring Roiben and Ravus and so on (Roiben was a jock type but with leafy armour instead of a football shirt).
*sigh* maybe someday someone will write these things for real. A girl can dream.

By the way, I'm sure that everyone else probably knows this and I am just missing something obvious, but where/when do you tell us who has won the various books of the month?
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
I comment to their comments in the giveaway post, and if I do not hear back I email. ;)
(no subject) - ayamizuno - Nov. 30th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
I think part of it might be due to the size shrinkage. Object covers don't look as ridiculously large on paperbacks, and for visual communication-wise, the title and author should be clear, so you don't typically get complicated cover art on smaller books. Maybe your publisher might want to give your series a "style" too. Like Twilight's covers have single objects against black backgrounds so that even if you didn't know there's a new one in the series out, you'll recognize it and check it out. Consistency is kind of important. XD

You probably notice this too--well-known authors have book covers with huge author names and smaller titles. If you're not very established, an intriguing title is really essential (is this like telling a chicken how to lay eggs? XD)

When I browse new titles, I go for atheistically pleasing images, something with vibrant colors and good contrasting shadows and highlights. One of the covers you've displayed looks like there's been a gray veil thrown over it, fading all the colors out.

Can't wait to see your paperback version. I usually buy paperbacks because they can fit in my purse. ^__________^
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
Very interesting post (as usual), Sarah! Honestly, I had not really paid attention to the "cover changes from HC to paperback" phenomenon. I'm usually more likely to notice (ARRRRRGH!!) when the publisher comes out with a new edition of one of my favorite books, ditching the previously awesome cover art for something that (to me) is far less compelling. Which they appear to have changed, yet again, since I can't find a pic of that edition from a couple of years back, to something that at least doesn't make me hate it.

I have an inordinate amount of love for Michael Whelan covers. When a classic SF/F book I adore - which previously boasted a gorgeous Whelan cover - gets a facelift, I tend to get very annoyed. Mostly because when I was 11, and found the genre for the first time, I bought and read everything that sported a Whelan cover, largely because they were gorgeous, and the books inside them were usually awesome.

I used to tell myself "someday, when I am published, I will insist that Michael Whelan do my book covers!" This was way before I knew that authors have no control over such things.

On another note entirely, I finished TDL this weekend. It's been in my "to read" pile since it came out, and I finally worked my way to it. I got to the last page, and kept turning the page hoping there would be more. Alas, no.

It took me a couple of chapters to really settle into the world. I mean, it was good, I was into it, but it(you?) has a very distinct style that was quite different from the book I'd just finished, so I blame that. But by chapter three, I was hooked in the "don't want to put down" kind of way, and by the end I was like "OMG WHEN IS THE NEXT BOOK COMING OUT??!" And then I was like "WHAT??! NOT UNTIL SPRING OF 2010??!!" *cries*

So, yeah, I loved it. And even though I suspected some things, I wrote them off early on because of [spoilers], and consequently I totally didn't figure out [spoilers] until [spoilers] happened, and then I was like "OMGWTFPOLARBEAR!! Niiiiiiiiiiiiiick! And Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalan!"

And then there was that pesky last page.


Yeah. I've never tried bribery with authors before. You tempt me to make the effort. If I thought it would work. For even a second.

(Pssst! I make pretty jewelry. If you're into that. Also, my Mom is a pastry chef (for reals). I can make decadent delights. Or get her to.)

Just saying.
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
*will totally help with the bribery if needed* I can...*tries to think of something useful for bribery* Sing? Um...take pictures of my cat doing silly things?

Curses...I knew I should've tried to learn some more useful bribing skills!
! - sarahtales - Nov. 30th, 2009 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 1st, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
So, random question that has to do with covers/hardcover and paperback: Is there a hardcover of the UK version of your book? I looked in bookshops while in Ireland but could only find the paperback.
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
No, we do way fewer hardcovers in the UK'n'Ireland. Even Stephenie Meyer comes out in paperback at the same time as hardback: we just don't seem to like them as much. Also books over here are more expensive, so hardbacks are more also, which may be a factor.
(no subject) - nycelle - Dec. 1st, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
I would be unsurprised to see a sword somewhere on the new cover. Although I dunno really, because I like the cover...although my personal preference is for the UK cover, for some reason. Nick looks more dangerous there, which is good, all things considered. Maybe an object cover in general, or maybe something with a silhouette of Nick, or...something. But he should definitely look more dangerous.
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
I think I'll have to cast my vote for the switch in the US to be from face to object as well. I'm hoping for the talisman because it's so darn cool, or maybe a closeup on the demon's mark on a human body? (the human being of course our dear Jamie.)

I love your blatant lies in the summaries; I've read several of these books but I want to read the books your summaries describe too!

I'd write more because I actually have thought about this but I might have broken my wrist and it is in a brace. >.< And so I have to hike my left elbow way up high to type! It is le sad.
Nov. 30th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC)
I hope your wrist feels better!
(no subject) - dreamwaffles - Dec. 1st, 2009 06:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
I have to say, I much, much prefer object covers to people covers. I am admittedly not a huge fan of the cover for TDL (even though the guy on it makes for very scrumptious eye candy), but I knew the contents had nothing really to do with the cover, and so of course I purchased and read and loved it despite my misgivings about the cover (and I really, really loved TDL, btw).

It's not even that I don't find the people on people covers pretty or interesting or hot; it's something about them being people on the covers that doesn't appeal to me. I don't know why; perhaps it has something to do with being able to imagine the characters the way I want to, instead of how they're portrayed on the cover. Or just that objects are more mysterious to me, and make me more curious to read them. Interestingly, I prefer the second John Green cover to the first one that's more abstract. I think it's just that the fonts and such are too busy for me, compared with the simpler second cover. Maybe that's it--people covers are usually too busy and have too much going on, but object covers tend to be simpler, like the one with the books. I love that cover.

Regardless, I've always tried to not let my dislike of a cover get in the way of my enjoying a book. In fact, my favorite book series of all time is Animorphs, and they have the hokey-est covers imaginable (kids, turning into animals, with bizarrely colored backgrounds).
Nov. 30th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)

I actually read your comment because of the Animorphs icon. I always feel vaguely embarrassed reading them, mostly because of the covers. They scream "KIDS BOOK" as loudly as possible.

However, Rachel is possibly one of my favorite girl characters ever. And I love that Tobias eats baby rabbits. Does that make me twisted?

Back on topic: I feel exactly the same way you do about people vs. object covers. I like to imagine the characters on my own. That being said, I prefer art of people over photographs. I'm not really sure why.
(no subject) - frenchroast - Dec. 1st, 2009 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cameoflage - Dec. 1st, 2009 01:05 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - frenchroast - Dec. 1st, 2009 03:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 30th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
oh, i absolutely loved the hardcover cover for forest of hands and teeth. the new one looks so wrong and distasteful. :(
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