Rebranding AKA New Covers and Titles for Old Books

The Woman in the Lake - UK-Final-webNicola here. Today I’m talking about re-branding in the form of book covers and titles.  The reason: My publisher and I decided to give The Woman in the Lake a new cover and a new title for the UK e-book and I thought it might be interesting to explore why this happened. I hope this will appeal to readers who might wonder why books are sometimes rebranded, and to authors who may face the same dilemmas themselves. It’s a look behind the scenes – and a very honest one – into what happened with The Woman in the Lake.

TWITL as I call it, was published simultaneously in the UK and North America in March 2019. It’s my third “timeslip” novel, a term which in itself can cause problems for an author trying to interest an agent or publisher in a book. Some people haven’t heard of timeslip, others ask what the differences are between timeslip and time travel, some people call the books dual or multiple time stories… There can be some identity issues!

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Mary Balogh, on covers

Blue2Hi, Jo here welcoming bestselling author, Mary Balogh, back to the Word Wenches. I've been delighting in Mary's new covers, and so I'm happy that she wants to talk about the subject. Of course, we're looking forward to your views and comments, and one lucky commenter will win a copy of Mary's book, Only a Kiss. If you already own that one, then you can choose another title.

Mary's recent complete series is the Survivor's Club, about a group of men and women who shared a difficult time during the Peninsula War. The first book is The Proposal, and its cover history illustrates what Mary is going to address.

PropguyMary-balogh-1 Prop




Over to Mary.

Until recently I would have said that I never choose a book by its cover. After all, the cover is the one thing over which the author probably had very little input or control. Covers are designed within publishing houses according to the current theory of what will sell. In the historical romance genre, for example, if it seems that men with bare, waxed, over-developed chests and the generic white shirt or headless women or women with billowing skirts are what readers are looking for, then chances are that is the sort of cover writers will be landed with whether they want them or not-or whether the picture is historically accurate or not. At present the billowing skirt seems to be in vogue even though the book itself is very likely to be Regency and Regency fashions, in my opinion, are more gorgeous and romantic and sexy than the fashions of any other era.
I do my reading on a Kindle and make most of my book choices by browsing on Amazon. Like most other readers, I choose largely by author and within certain genres. In those cases covers do not have any bearing upon my choice. I will buy the book regardless. But I am always searching for new authors and I like to dabble in new genres just to see if there is anything to take my fancy and broaden my reading horizons. And I have made the discovery that yes, indeed, I am very much affected by covers. I will not buy a book solely upon the appeal of the cover, but that is what makes me stop to take a closer look. There are no doubt countless books I would enjoy enormously and countless new authors whose backlists I would devour voraciously if I could but find them. But it is the cover that draws me-or repels me.

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Same Book, Different Cover

The Lady and the Laird Nicola CornickNicola here, talking today about why books have different
covers depending on which country they are released in.

My latest book, The Lady and the Laird, has had the closest
to simultaneous release I’ve ever had (within 6 weeks) in the US, the UK and
Australia, and this has provided an interesting contrast in terms of the covers
chosen for the three different editions.

First up is the US version. I think it’s very pretty and I
absolutely love the colours, the subtle use of tartan and the landscape.

The UK cover sticks with an elegant style that has been used
by MIRA for my books
Laird_uk_350 for the last few years. Again it’s very pretty. One reader
commented: “I love the romanticism and mystery of this cover. It says classy,
sensuous and intriguing.”

Last but very definitely not least is the Australian cover,
which I first heard about when it caused a stir on Goodreads! It’s hard to
believe but in my entire writing career I have never had a single cover
featuring a bare-chested man or even one with his shirt open so when I saw my
hunky, topless Scot I was pretty much overwhelmed!

The Lady and the Laird mystery coverBoth the US and Australian covers say “Scottish historical”
but in a very different way from each other. The UK one simply says
“historical” I think. Interestingly when I asked readers to vote on which they
liked best, people didn’t divide up according to where they came from. There
were plenty of UK readers who loved the US cover, plenty of US and UK readers who
adored the topless Scot, and others who thought the UK cover was gorgeous. So choosing cover art by territory is not an exact science (as it were.)

Designing cover art is a fascinating business – how do you
make a book appealing to readers at the same time as capturing the spirit of
the story? What is even more fascinating is that putting different covers on
different editions of the same book is pretty common. Evidently publishers really do feel
that what appeals to readers in the US is different from what appeals in the
UK and vice versa and that German taste, for instance, will vary from Portuguese.

Harry Potter 2The story of what happened with the cover of the first Harry
Potter book is pretty well known. In the UK
Harry Potter 1 it was called Harry Potter and the
Philosopher’s Stone
.  The cover is on the right. In the US it was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and
the cover is on the left.

They not only changed the cover but also the title.
And in the UK there was also an “adult” version of the book for those people
who didn’t want to be seen reading a kid’s book! I don’t know if this happened
in the US as well.

A different but equally interesting contrast is provided by
Hilary Mantel’s historical novel Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall.
The US cover is on the left below and the UK one on the right. The US cover has an instantly recognisable image of Anne Boleyn on it whilst the UK one is intriguing if a little more obscure.

Hilary Mantel 1It’s interesting that the major reason given for varying the
covers of books depending on which country you are in is that the cultural
tastes of different countries vary hugely and so what will appeal in one
place won’t have the same
Hilary Mantel 2 impact in another. Certain layouts and imagery may strike a chord with readers in different parts of the world, but as we’ve seen
this isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds.

What do you think about putting different covers on
different editions of the same book? Do you think it’s a good idea or should
books, like films, have a global identity?

Cover Images: Where Do They Come From?

Cat 243 Dover

by Mary Jo

Reader Laura Terhune asked, “How are cover images are selected?  Do you choose from existing photos or have a photo session to represent the story?  Do you get to select the models?  Does your publisher and/or editor have a vote?  Who ultimately makes the decision?"

Interesting you should ask this, Laura.  There are a number of answers to your question, and I’m currently involved in the variation that gives the author the most control.

Traditionally, covers were designed by publisher art departments and authors had fairly minimal input.  Publishers have their own ideas about the kind of look they want for particular authors and types of book.  New authors usually have little say, though as a writer becomes more established, she’s more likely to contribute to the process. 

Burning Point Original Only authors at the very top of the food chain—the Stephen Kings and J. K. Rowlingses of the world—are likely to have “cover approval,” which means they can veto a cover they don’t like.  One can get “cover consultation” in a contract, but that means only as much as the publisher wants it to.  If you want a horse on your cover and the publisher wants two people exploring each other’s tonsils, the heavy breathing will win.

The cover images are created when the publishing art department arranges a photo shoot with a couple of models and a range of different costumes.  Lots and lots of images will be shot, sometimes for multiple covers.  An image will be chosen and the illustrator works from that, making changes such as colors, hairstyles, and adding appropriate background. 

The author might be asked for suggestions of scenes from the story that might look good on the cover.  An author may suggest movie stars who have the look of her characters.  She might even suggest a particular cover model she’d like to see.  She might supply images to help create the background. 

Silk & Secrets--Stepback For example, for my book Silk and Secrets, which is a rescue mission to Central Asia, I included a picture of Bactrian camels.  (TWO HUMPS, NOT ONE!)  I was amused to see later that the step back illustration by the late great Pino used that exact image in the background, with the addition of camel packs and harness. 

Well organized as always, Harlequin has authors fill out art facts sheet to describe the appearance, clothing, setting, possible scenes, etc.  Each H/S line goes for a particular look, but within that, they’ll try to insure that books coming out the same month don’t look too much alike. 

Spiral Path Original Single title books have a more scattershot approach.  Sometimes the art department listens and follows the suggestions.  After all, they do a ton of covers every year, and often welcome ideas since they may run dry themselves occasionally.

Other times, sending information to an art department is like calling cats: they ignore you entirely.  <g> Sometimes the art folks come up with something you love, sometimes—not so much.  Art people tend to have brains that work differently from word people, and communication can sometimes fail.  (Word Wenches is unusual in that we have several Wenches, including me, who have strong backgrounds in the visual arts.) 

Generally publishers like to keep authors well out of the process because we can really get in the way. Authors tend to have clear ideas of what our characters look like.  We’ll look at a cover and think, “Wrong!” And then list all the shortcomings. <g>

There are maybe three times in my career where I’ve looked at a cover and DarkMirror--Final HIGH REZthought, “Wow!  That is spot on!” (My YA cover for Dark Mirror, out in March, is an example of a cover image that really hit the mark.)

The longer we write, the more pragmatic we become.  As in, “The models bear no resemblance to my characters, the costumes are half a century off, and she’s wearing twenty-first century slut make-up, but the image is beautiful and the colors are terrific and this cover will sell.”  <g> 

The_Burning_Point--Real Final In the golden age of romance, most covers were done using this photograph and illustration process.  With the advances in computer graphics programs, now a lot more is being done with computers.  This can result in very realistic images of people, usually with some romanticizing added to make the image more appealing.

There is now a seismic shift in cover design as authors start self-publishing their backlists or new books that haven’t sold.  This is part of a huge transition in publishing, one that is still very much in process. 

Our own Wench Pat has put a number of her backlist books online, with more to come.  I’m working on putting up my three contemporary romantic novels, and then will upload my historical Silk Trilogy, along with shorter works that haven’t been widely available.

Twist of Fate Original Self-publishing takes a lot of time.  You have to have a clean file, and maybe, if you’re compulsive, as so many of us are, you’ll do some editing on that original manuscript.  You have to convert the file into different formats so it can be uploaded to different sites with different requirements.

And you have to come up new covers since the original ones belong to the publisher.  This is where an author can really have fun.  Some authors have the computer skills to design their own covers.  There are numerous stock photo sites like stock photo sites like and with zillions of pictures, but searching for the right image can eat up HUGE quantities of time—and you might still not find one you really like. 

Not surprising, this need for romantic images is creating new resources.  I believe The_Spiral_Path--FINAL the first stock romance cover image site was by cover model Jimmy Thomas  His site site has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of images from photo shoots featuring him with different female models or alone, and also with different heat levels.  It still takes a lot of time to find the right image, but at least it’s like fishing in a pond that has been stocked with the right kind of fish.  <g>  We used him for the covers of both The Burning Point and The Spiral Path as shown above.  (The original images are shown as well, and have much less of a related look.)

TOF1 Despite a degree in design and years of work in the field, I didn’t want to design my own covers because I never learned the ins and outs of computer graphics. I’ve been too busy writing romances. <g> 

So I chose to work with author and designer Kimberly Killion . who has fabulous computer design chops and is doing a gangbusters business designing professional quality covers for other authors. 

A cover isn’t just a matter of finding a good image.  That’s actually the easy part.  Typography is enormously important, and weak typography brands a lot of covers as amateurish. 

Layout is also very important, too.  One of the things I learned in my years as a designer is that good design, like good writing, is often unobtrusive.  Done right, both things seem so correct and obvious that one doesn’t even think of how it could be different.  Instead, one sees the whole design or the story.

Here is a page from Kim’s site showing how she transforms images into finished covers.  It shows the value of cutting off the heads of characters. <G>  Using a real person's face will often look wrong.  Not showing the face allows the viewer to imagine her own image of the characters. 

Twist_of_Fate--Final 2 Kim has actually started her own stock photo site of specifically romantic images to use on covers.  Even so, developing a cover requires work.  The author has to supply information and help look for images and bounce ideas back and forth. 

Working with Kim is like playing tennis with a pro—it raises your game. <G>  She’d shoot an image to me, I’d make a suggestion, she’d try something different.  This took time, but it was a lot of fun, and I love the results.  Since e-book covers are generally used small, I kept the images simple: a man and a woman to show it’s a romance, and some sense of what the story feels like. 


Above, I've shown the original bland cover for Twist of Fate, then one of the covers we did while developing a new cover, and the one just above is the final.  I liked the girl in the raincoat, but the feeling was wrong.  The final has more angst and I loved the colors.  Kim dropped in the background and made the heroine's hair red, one of myriad changes.

I’ve scattered some of my cover images through this blog, and I’m starting to work with Kim to develop covers for my Silk Trilogy.  We’ll develop a “look” for all three books.  We'll probably go through dozens of variations of image, layout, color and typography before we finish with a cover we both think is great. 

ACF21 E-booking is a time consuming process, but done right, it will help our beloved older books sell indefinitely.  And sometimes, we get to do covers the way we wanted them in the first place! 

Laura, this is probably more than you wanted to know about the origins of cover images.  <g>  But since I used your topic, you get a free book from me!  Happy reading—

Mary Jo. ending with the cover for a novella that spun off from my contemporary novels.