Sunday, 16 March 2014

US Covers vs UK Covers!

Is there a UK cover style vs a US one? Certainly very different choices are made in many instances.

Here are 8 covers suggest to me on twitter as very different in their incarnations. Below the images is a poll where you can vote which version you like best... will there be a pattern I wonder?

UK covers                                      US covers
67% 33%
54% 46%

72% 28%






78% of 161 voters prefer UK covers overall


  1. I wonder if you could ask one more question: whether you live east of the Atlantic or west. That would give you the ability to collate on geographic location to see if the UK and US art directors are on the money. *That's* the question I'm most interested in.

  2. I'm in the UK (Northern Ireland) and I prefer the UK version in every single example above. Some of the US ones just look a little, cartoony?

  3. As a UK peep, I find I almost always prefer UK covers for fantasy novels - so many US covers that I see (for example the Words Of Radiance & A Memory Of Light ones above) look ridiculously old fashioned. They would be the sort I'd pass over in a second hand shop because they look, well, old.

  4. Personally I prefer the US covers from the books mentioned. I can't believe some readers would choose the minimalistic style for the final Wheel of Time novel over another gorgeous Michael Whelan painting. The only cover art I have a valid complaint about is the US versions of the latest three Abercrombie stand alones. The UK covers have maps, detail, and look very creative. The US covers seem a little too Hollywood/big budget picture for me. As if they are trying to appeal to a movie goer audience over a literary one. That being said.... Where's the option for "they both are underpar"?

  5. I'm from the UK and prefer most of the UK covers. The exceptions are 'River of stars' (What a dull cover. I wouldn't pick this book up in a shop because it looks meh) and 'Traitor's blade' (The US version looks far more exciting. Too many UK covers are white with a single figure now.)

    I agree with Ailsa, certain American fantasy covers do look very old fashioned.

  6. I'm also from the UK, and while I mostly prefer the UK covers, I think the US cover for River of Stars is feckin' awesome.

    Also, re the US cover for A Memory of Light, wtf is he doing with that sword? Granted, I've not read the Wheel of Time, so there may well be a perfectly good reason why he is holding it that way, but to me it just looks ridiculous.

  7. Generally speaking, I prefer UK covers over US covers (I'm American for the record). US covers just lack...flair. Look at Joe Abercrombie's three stand-alone titles; the US covers get goofier and goofier until you get to Red Country, which is just a muscular arm holding a sword and about 40% of a guy's face. It's ridiculous.

    Then there are situations like Prince of Fools. The US cover is literally just David Beckham painted up like a viking. I understand that's McGrath's style, but I think he'd have been better served by not picking someone quite so famous as his model.

    Occasionally, though, there are situations like Sanderson's Stormlight Archive books. I like both the US and UK covers for different reasons.

  8. The ONLY case where I like the UK cover more than the US is for the Daniel Polansky book.

  9. Yank, here. The UK covers are substantially more tasteful, and I generally prefer them. The Jordan one is probably the strongest contrast. In some cases I think the US covers are more dramatic, in a good way: River of Stars, Traitor's Blade.

  10. US only wins three :Prince of Fools, River of Stars, and The Emperor's Blades. The rest of the UK covers annihilate the US covers.

  11. There is no way people like the British cover of Words of Radiance more than the American cover. Simply no way. This poll must have been dominated by British voters.

    1. You think there's a genuine difference in national taste? No reason why more Brits would see this poll...

    2. Yes, I suspect so. However tastes in art have diverged, It's most likely ingrained in us by now. UK buyers have been seeing UK-style covers their whole life; ditto for the US buyers. So is it any wonder that the art directors on both sides cater to that style? As I said above, I'd love to see someone (maybe I need to bite the bullet and just do it) break down the respondents by geography. That's the only way to answer it.

    3. Well, if you look at these covers, you see a clear difference. American covers often feature some "simple" and somewhat realistic, straight-forward art, while British covers seem more abstract and feature more illustration-type art.

      A good example is your own cover. The American cover features a simple, life-like painting of the protagonist against a background most likely illustration the general feeling of the novel itself. The British cover, however, uses bright, contrasting colors and a lot of straight lines. It doesn't fit the gritty, dark mood (which anyone would expect of a Mark Lawrence novel) of the American cover, but instead it challenges the status quo.

      Almost all British covers are like this.

      The only exception to this is Low Town, and as such, it's surprising that the British cover for that is favored so much.

  12. UK covers all the way, except WoR. I love the US WoR cover so so so much.

    Otherwise, I think the American attitude to just throw the primary protagonist on the cover and call it a day to be appalling (I'm from the US). There is much more flair, and depth to UK covers the vast majority of the time.

  13. I really wish Brandon Sanderson had better covers. To me the design the UK ones have gone with says "vintage fashion", rather than "epic fantasy." It really undersells him. Sitting on a drop, people will pick up Trudi Canavan's bright white books rather than Sanderson's if they're just browsing, because there's a little more clarity to them. The US cover for that and a couple of the others look like 80s sword and sorcery, rather than modern fantasy.

    I've always got an interst in history, so the US River Of Stars cover appeals more to me. The UK version looks too literary, which if I hadn't read the blurb would make me think it should be in a different part of the shop.

    Polansky's US cover looks like the kind of art you'd see on some strange MTV sketch at 2am and would appeal to 19 year old stoner students and nobody else.

    1. I disagree about Sanderson's UK covers, I think they look beautiful, they also stand out a mile in any bookshop or library, especially since there are so many of them!
      I much prefer the abstract nature of the UK covers, the US ones mostly look quite old fashioned and seem to have to have the protagonist on them. I would rather make up my own image than take the artist's.

      But then, I am from the UK, so perhaps I've been brainwashed into thinking this way!

  14. I often prefer the UK Sanderson covers to the US covers, but they dropped the ball with Words of Radiance. That cover is abysmal and very ugly. I wasn't a fan of the first version of the US WoR cover, but the final version ended up looking pretty cool, even if it is very similar to the US Way of Kings cover.

    US covers tend to be paints of scenes or people or something you can identify in the book (action shots), while the UK covers go for a more evocative / interpretive approach with artwork created to evoke a mood where the pictures are not necessarily something identifiable from the book. I'd like to see something in the middle.

    The UK cover for The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes comes closest to this in the middle approach -

    The US cover... not so much... -