We’ve all been there—in a bookstore or shopping online when a book cover catches our eye. This great cover draws us in before we realize it isn’t for a new book at all.
In fact, it’s a title we’ve already read, maybe even a modern classic, so why did the cover change? There are a myriad of reasons authors and publishers change designs, several of which we’re going to examine right now.
Often, when a book is reprinted or a new edition is released, a new cover is created as well. An updated cover reflects current trends, makes the work appear fresh in hopes of drawing new readership. Case in point—look at the differences in the covers of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The top center version resides in my personal collection, but the bottom left cover depicts an image directly from the novel’s 1962 movie release.
Post-movie release cover revamps are not uncommon. Case in point, Andy Weir’s The Martian.
Wrong from the Onset
Occasionally, covers are changed because something’s seriously wrong with the design. Look below at the horrific cover created for The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’ve no idea who created this cover, why they did, or if it’s even legitimate, but, if it is, what the hell were they thinking? Error. Error. *tilts head and twitches* What do briefcases and cats have to do with the French Revolution? Compare this to a more classical cover beside it. Ah, okay. That’s more like it. Nothing spectacular, but my brain doesn’t overheat from forcefully trying to connect the dots.
A correlation between the story and the cover should certainly exist, but the cover below is trying to do too much at once.
The Star Wars franchise is infamous for doing this. There’s too much going on with the imagery, too many vignettes are fighting for simultaneous recognition. The cover leaves nothing to the imagination. While this isn’t necessarily a problem for a well-established franchise like Star Wars, it is for a new series, new author, or small press author. This was my problem with Surrogate’s first over.
I was trying to show too much, attempting to represent the characters and world—not the concept. I presented the protagonist, a nebulous view of one of her love interests, space, and a watery world—four separate and seemingly unrelated images. It’s an admitted failure. The updated cover does a much better job at representing the novel’s concept but leaves enough to the imagination to, hopefully, hook the reader.
Is it perfect? Not exactly. All authors question their cover designs, but this design reflects the current trends toward simpler covers and bright colors while not leaving the viewer with preconceived notions concerning the content. Viewers who look closely at the cover will also discover something unique about the imagery—my hook.
I’ll let you know how it works.
–all images inside this post derive from Google images