My latest book, The Lady and the Laird, has had the closest to simultaneous release I’ve ever had (within 6 weeks) in the US, the UK and Australia, and this has provided an interesting contrast in terms of the covers chosen for the three different editions.
First up is the US version. I think it’s very pretty and I absolutely love the colours, the subtle use of tartan and the landscape.
The UK cover sticks with an elegant style that has been used by MIRA for my books for the last few years. Again it’s very pretty. One reader commented: “I love the romanticism and mystery of this cover. It says classy, sensuous and intriguing.”
Last but very definitely not least is the Australian cover, which I first heard about when it caused a stir on Goodreads! It’s hard to believe but in my entire writing career I have never had a single cover featuring a bare-chested man or even one with his shirt open so when I saw my hunky, topless Scot I was pretty much overwhelmed!
Both the US and Australian covers say “Scottish historical” but in a very different way from each other. The UK one simply says “historical” I think. Interestingly when I asked readers to vote on which they liked best, people didn’t divide up according to where they came from. There were plenty of UK readers who loved the US cover, plenty of US and UK readers who adored the topless Scot, and others who thought the UK cover was gorgeous. So choosing cover art by territory is not an exact science (as it were.)
Designing cover art is a fascinating business – how do you make a book appealing to readers at the same time as capturing the spirit of the story? What is even more fascinating is that putting different covers on different editions of the same book is pretty common. Evidently publishers really do feel that what appeals to readers in the US is different from what appeals in the UK and vice versa and that German taste, for instance, will vary from Portuguese.
The story of what happened with the cover of the first Harry Potter book is pretty well known. In the UK it was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The cover is on the right. In the US it was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and the cover is on the left.
They not only changed the cover but also the title. And in the UK there was also an “adult” version of the book for those people who didn’t want to be seen reading a kid’s book! I don’t know if this happened in the US as well.
A different but equally interesting contrast is provided by Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall. The US cover is on the left below and the UK one on the right. The US cover has an instantly recognisable image of Anne Boleyn on it whilst the UK one is intriguing if a little more obscure.
It’s interesting that the major reason given for varying the covers of books depending on which country you are in is that the cultural tastes of different countries vary hugely and so what will appeal in one place won’t have the same impact in another. Certain layouts and imagery may strike a chord with readers in different parts of the world, but as we’ve seen this isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.
What do you think about putting different covers on different editions of the same book? Do you think it’s a good idea or should books, like films, have a global identity?