Thursday, October 20, 2011

COVER LOVE - US versus UK, what's the difference?

I have always assumed 'a great cover is a great cover' wherever you're from. Like a work of art. So when my editor made a recent comment about US versus UK cover art and its appeal to their respective markets, my curiosity was roused, my ignorance on the subject totally exposed. Thus began a week with one wonderful addition to the "things I do on my computer that suck up my time", (recently featuring my obsession with stuff about building your author platform, tips for harnessing the power of facebook, and making book trailers on imovie.) This week, I've been checking out the differences between UK and US cover art and here are a few of the things I stumbled across along the way:

In 2009, 52 % of books sold in the UK YA market were by Stephenie Meyer. But Twilight only began to see big sales in the UK after they replaced the UK cover with the US cover. (Yes, that is the original cover for Twilight when it first came out in the UK!)

YA cover art in the UK is reportedly more orientated towards a younger teen audience and more likely to use illustration as opposed to photographic imagery. (Hunger Games: US cover left, UK cover right. Declaration: US cover right, UK cover below left.)

A surprising number of recent books by American YA authors are being released with the same cover when they come out in the UK. (Note: I've mainly been looking at my own genre -- YA dystopian. No idea if this also applies to Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and Contemporary YA fiction. The cover for Across the Universe in the UK is an earlier variation apparently, without the pink/ purple space & stars behind the two silhouettes.)

So what have I learnt from all this? No idea. Unarguably, there are cultural differences between us Brits and you Americans. But with all the social media platforms, the predominance of Hollywood films and the US culture impacting across the world, do our teenagers really still stand oceans apart? Is a good cover a good cover wherever you're from, or are the subtleties of our cultures still enough to distinguish different preferences? What do you think?

(If you've written or read an article you'd like to share on this, please leave your link in the comments!)

Claire Merle is the author of THE GLIMPSE, (June 2012 Faber & Faber), a dystopian thriller set in London not many years from now, where mental illness has skyrocketed out of control and society is divided by genetic testing into those who'll become sick - the Crazies - and those who won't - the Pures.

For news and updates about THE GLIMPSE come and join me on my facebook page. For everything else, let's talk on twitter - clairemerle

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  1. It's an interesting point. The UK covers do tend to skew younger. I wonder why that is? Is childhood more protected in the UK? Do kids in the US have a desire *not* to be seen as kids?

    For my birthday in September, I got the British version of the Harry Potter series. It's interesting seeing the different cover art (as well as all the different colloquialisms in the text!). Also, I'm sure you know this, but in the UK there are "adult" covers for HP as well as the original covers-- for children, I suppose? A separate "adult" cover edition was never released here in the US (as far as I know). Perhaps this speaks to my theory of there being more of an emphasis on the separation between children and adults in the UK.

  2. Ooh - dystopians with the same cover. Yes - many of them do.

  3. Mmm, v. interesting point Sonje. Perhaps UK publishers are more focused on the early teen audience...? Though I'm sure UK kids are as eager to be seen as grown up as UK. Mmm, HP adult cover in UK and not in US? Seems to back up your point.
    Lenore, why do you think that is? Is it because they're signed first with US publishers and UK publishers with all recent economic pressures don't redo the covers? Is it about forming a book with a more unified identity that bridges continents? Or is it because those covers are already so good?

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