Cover Chic: Hardcover vs. Paperback

Welcome back to Cover Chic, where we take a look at what publishers are doing with their cover art to grab our interest.

Previously on Cover Chic, we pitted US covers against UK covers. Today we focus on the US market, and how books can get a second chance at snagging an audience with a redesigned cover. But is the change in look an improvement, a setback, or just different?

Take a look at these US covers; the originals and their redesigns:

The giant moon on Karen Bao’s Dove Arising hardcover is very much in your face, and I was happy with it at first. But I prefer the extra world-building shown in the paperback: technology, and characters looking into the unknown. The colors make it pop more.

The hardcover of Ilsa J. Bick’s White Space shows a swarm of either hands or feathers. My confusion likely explains why a new cover was made for the paperback, which is evocative of a snowy forest.

Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin hardcover surrounds a character in the center with a frame featuring. . . wheels within branches? Having not read the book, I don’t understand. The paperback uses the symbol of a chipped bird sculpture. Considering the novel’s interesting setting — people living in the sky — it’s disappointing that neither cover represents that unique selling point. Thankfully, the UK paperback did the right thing. Yeah, I cheated with this vote, but a character leaping off a cliff into the unknown is the best cover out of the options.

The shadowy location on Kim Harrison’s The Drafter hardcover is intriguing, but despite the clock representing the time-travel aspect, the design looks maybe too literary. It looks too much like stock images were used, and thus feels unoriginal. Meanwhile, the paperback features a character running, indicating the novel’s thriller genre, so I suppose it’s better for that reason.

Here’s where I get angry because this is an unnecessary redesign. Lydia Kang’s Control hardcover has colors, lights, and science — two test tubes pouring liquid into a beaker. This art is perfect for me! For the rebrand, the paperback uses some boring steel surface with wires on it. Publishers, if you’re onto a winner, don’t change it!

Surprise! Martin Leicht and Isla Neal’s Mothership has THREE covers. The mass market paperback fits in with the series’s new look, which pairs space and baby themes — this particular cover has a rocket/gun/bottle hybrid. The trade paperback indicates humor with the character’s wink. But I really like the cartoony design of the original hardback. In all its forms, though, this book has the perfect cover for its subject matter.

Though both of Phoebe North’s Starglass covers show a character looking out a spaceship window, the paperback’s art looks more photographic and therefore appeals more to me.

Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie has a circus setting. While the hardcover expresses this with stringed lights and a fabric-look title banner, the paperback goes in another direction — embers on the ground, with a bird’s wing in the front. It looks great, but does it reflect the story? And I swear I’ve seen a similar cover for a novel about angels.

Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds hardcover has a giant drop landing on ink. The paperback features a tiny world within a drop, running down the page. I love the colorful city, but it’s too small.

After checking out the covers, I’m mostly not sure if a new cover is better or worse than its predecessor — it’s often just different. What are your thoughts? What are your favorites?


  • Casey October 18, 2016 at 10:47 am

    It makes me a little crazy and a little irritated when the paperbacks have different artwork. Kim Harrison’s publishers have always been kind of terrible about this. What’s the point? Trying to hook different audiences? You’re completely right about Mothership! I like the hardcover version the most.

    • Tez Miller October 18, 2016 at 11:24 am

      At the end of the day, I’m just going to buy the cheapest version, no matter the art. Luckily for me, the MOTHERSHIP hardcover was bargain-priced down to $6 at one stage, so I bought it 🙂

  • Nicole Taft October 18, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Are you going to do a piece about covers changing in the middle of the series? Because oooh boy do I have some thoughts on that! They did that with Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and my friend and I threw fits about it.

    • Tez Miller October 19, 2016 at 2:20 am

      I hadn’t planned on another cover piece (lot of work involved!), but that’s a great idea. I hated when they changed the Across the Universe covers, because I loved the first two! Anything with starry-spacey stuff is great for me. The redesigns just look so…bland. So disappointing.

  • Lane Robins October 18, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    I really like the trade paperback cover for the Mothership book. If I saw that, I’d definitely pick it up!

    • Tez Miller October 19, 2016 at 2:21 am

      You may still be able to buy it online 🙂

  • Shara White October 24, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    You know, I never liked the hardcover art for Menagerie. I always thought it looked like the “Cover Not Final” stand-ins they sometimes use for ARCs, you know?


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