I'm really delighted to reveal our UK hardback cover for TRUTHWITCH – by the super-talented Susan Dennard. Just imagine the light glinting off that gold foil, as wondrous adventures lie in store! All you need to do is turn that first page and jump in. If you haven't read any advance publicity materials I can only envy the *absolute treat* of a read you have in store . . . I remember the excitement of reading it for the first time, an excitement shared by Robin Hobb, Sarah J. Maas, Maria Snyder and others.
In this post, I'd like to give some background on the design process which has taken us up to this big reveal. It takes a long time to get a book cover right and it's briefed many months before publication for this reason. A whole group of people are involved in the process, and I want to give a big thanks to the UK team – in particular to our talented designer Justine Anwieler and illustrator Scott Grimando.
Apart producing a stand-out cover for an amazing book (of course!), one of our main wishes was to have US and UK covers that hit the same notes in terms of setting, character and feel. We all want to make Truthwitch an international phenomenon, with our covers being very much in sympathy and sending out the same strong signals about the exciting story within. We wanted a unified look for all markets – a reason why we didn't use the much simpler design on our UK book proofs, our advance reading copies. You'll therefore notice that both US and UK covers have gone for a high-seas adventurous feel, a similar colour-scheme and both feature the fabulous Safi on the cover. With a title such as Truthwitch, which identifies the main protagonist so directly, we felt the cover was crying out for a visualisation of Safi. Sometimes UK and US covers might show different depictions of the same character. But we wanted to think more internationally this time, using the same Safi for all markets. That's where Scott Grimaldi's photoshoot came in, as we decided to use the same shots for the UK cover as had been used for Tor US's Truthwitch cover. That way we could be sure that Safi was particularly 'real’ and not possibly diluted by variations.
But, you might ask, if the visual references are broadly the same, why not just use the same cover in the UK and US? That's where things get interesting. Consciously and unconsciously, we are steeped in the visual language of our own culture. Have you ever seen a cover designed for a different international market and thought, but 'our' one is so much better! What were they thinking?! This is because the UK and US markets are different, and we know readers respond to different cover looks – just as people respond to different advertising, product packaging and television shows depending on their home country and its influences. UK or US art departments will design a book cover which appeals to their particular target readership – and design sensibilities don't always translate across international borders. I've been briefing genre covers for many years now, and it's always intriguing to compare what has been done in the UK with the US. I've found that certain rules very broadly apply. And now I’ve said this, no doubt readers will spot a ton of exceptions! But I'd like to lay out a few observations here. A UK cover is likely to have:
- Less detail in the background
- Greater degree of simplicity generally – this might extend to the colour palate too
- Much more focus on an elaborate or branded font. A US title font might be simpler or the type might be smaller, allowing the background to take greater prominence
- A graphic look (think symbols, icons etc.) rather than illustrative approach (landscapes, scenes from the book etc.). And even where a UK cover does take a more painterly approach, the end result is often still more graphic than a US equivalent
- Fewer words used on the front, for example shorter quotes or straplines. And a subtitle might appear on the spine rather than front cover itself
You can see these principles in play when you compare the UK and US covers for Truthwitch – and when you look at so many others. And it is always fascinating to see how readers feel about the result. With some books (the exception not the rule) you do see the same covers on both UK and US editions. But there is a risk that they will really appeal much more to one market than another. However, I do think getting the right cover for all markets is easier with an abstract graphic book cover rather than an illustrative or figure-led approach.
You may have your own theories as to why US or UK covers look different, or why they share certain key messages. With the US and UK covers, you can see two wonderful depictions of the exact same book. And both are designed to appeal to their particular readers, as we try to share our own love for this book with the people we want to pick it up. Covers certainly inspire passionate opinion and that's how it should be. A great cover can inspire someone to take the plunge and enter amazing new worlds. Wherever you come from, we want you to live, breath and read Truthwitch, and bring some magic into your life.