Announcing: the Australian cover!


Looks different, doesn't it!

When I first met Belinda, my lovely editor publisher at Penguin Oz (congrats to Belinda on her promotion!), one of the first things she said to me was, "Of course, we'll have to change the cover." And I asked, "Why?"

Cover change is not only normal, it's expected. The people who understand these things swear that reader cultural response to covers is radically different across countries, even between the English speaking nations. I thought it was an old wive's tale, but when I put my two covers side by side, and showed them to locals, the Australians said they preferred the Oz version. I should imagine most US readers would say the reverse.

The screen image, by the way, does not begin to do justice to the very cool texture of the background.

I'm battling to get an expert on cover design to write about it here, but unfortunately they are all shy!


37 comments:

Peter Cooper said...

It's interesting to compare the two covers. This one has "murder and mayhem" in the title, set against what looks pretty well like blood on a plaster wall. The other one mentions mystery, but not murder, and the cover characters are cartoon-like. Obviously we Aussies are attracted by violence and gore, rather than intrigue ;-)

Personally, I love them both, but I think the Aussie cover would be more likely to make me pick up the book (if I didn't already know anything about it).

Can't wait until it comes out!

Gary Corby said...

Hi Peter, your reaction is the system working as designed.

Random sampling indicates Australians do indeed find the Oz cover more attractive.

Without wishing to incite any culture wars, it seems Aussies tend to interpret perfectly fine US adult covers as YA-ish. I suppose the converse is the Oz cover would be interpreted in the US as too thriller-ish. I'm across both sides enough that I like them both for different reasons. But then, I would say that, wouldn't I? A father loves all his children.

Lexi said...

Comment from the UK: I like the Oz cover, but I LOVE the US one.

Book covers are so good these days.

Gary Corby said...

Hey Lexi,

I just knew you'd be interested in this! I deeply admired all the cover work you did on Remix.

Mike Mullin said...

I like the Australian cover better. And I live in the U.S. Maybe, like Peter Cooper, I'm attracted to violence and gore. It feels like it contains a faster-paced tale to me for some reason.

Jenna Wallace said...

I LOVE this cover...but then again I've lived in four countries in ten years so I'm not a good benchmark. Maybe I should spend some time in Oz next.

I have no doubt that book is going to fly off the shelves!

Philangelus said...

I'm in the US.

I like the Australian cover better. :-( I'm a freak. I'm terribly sorry to mess up your survey.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Oh goodness, I'm going to mess up your survey too. I'm in the US and I love the OZ cover. Now, I really like the US cover but this one is so arresting, I don't think I'd be able to walk past it...

Steve Ulfelder said...

Very illustrative (heh), thanks for posting. I'm guessing that in the US, the publisher fears casual browsers will be put off by the ancient setting - so the cover needs to be lighter, promising something of a romp. For Australia, OTOH, the setting is something to be played up.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

In all honesty, I like this one better. The colors, the font...

Maybe I'm an Aussie at heart?

Your American cover reminds me of the cartoon start to Mystery on PBS. That's not a bad thing; I think they were trying to hit that target audience, maybe.

C. N. Nevets said...

I like this one okay, but the title font strikes me as cheesy and the imagery, while nicely executed, seems like a million other books. All my points for the US version. :)

Susanna Fraser said...

I'm an American who likes both covers but thinks the American one better matches the tone of the book and also is very specific to Athens, while the Australian image would do equally well for, say, a Lindsey Davis book.

Once when I had more spare time than I do now, I sat down and compared British and American covers for Bernard Cornwell's and Lindsey Davis's books. (They were perfect for such an exercise because they're prolific and extensively published in both markets.) I concluded that Americans prefer covers that focus on an individual, usually the protagonist, while the British covers were more likely to be a landscape or a group of people. True to type, I liked the American covers better, and specifically because I liked the focus on Sharpe or Falco or whatever.

Loretta Ross said...

Ooh! Pretty! And I'm going to mess up your survey too, because I think I like the Aussie cover better as well.

BTW, I hadn't realized Diotima was a real person! And I'm getting fond of Socrates,
which is kind of weird given what we know about his future. I guess it's better than getting fond of Joan of Arc, though, eh?

H Niyazi said...

Hi Gary!

I can confirm this:

I am in OZ(Melbourne) and I prefer the Oz cover!

H

L. T. Host said...

AWESOME!! Love it.

I can understand the attraction in Aus. and I can understand the US attraction in the US, totally. I agree with what you said, that the Aus. cover tends to make it look more thriller-ish, and I agree with whomever said that the US cover tends to capture the spirit of the book more, but that could just be a product of my country of origin, so it's hard to tell! However, I can tell you that I LOVE them both-- and your Aus. publisher really nailed this one!

I love seeing differences between covers, too. My sister brought me a copy of Harry Potter from England last year that's really cool, because it's different.

Elizabeth said...

Hmm. I like them both, but they give different impressions of the book.

The American cover is playful; it has whimsy. That suggests that the book is going to have some humor and fun. Which, as a reader, I like.

The American cover also makes it clear that the setting is ancient Greece, and since there are two characters displayed, a man and a woman, it creates an expectation of a romance -- or at least some Mulder-and-Scully-type flirting in the midst of solving the mystery.

The Australian cover is quite striking, but it plays up the murder-and-mayhem element, without hinting that there are other elements to the story. And I actually don't think it makes it clear that the setting is ancient Greece. In fact, if I had just noticed this in a bookstore, I'd probably be more inclined to think of it as a Da Vinci Code like-story, that deals with historical elements but is actually contemporary.

(I've never actually read the Da Vinci Code, but thriller-like cover + title referring to a historical figure would make me think that the book is in that vein. And since the Da Vinci Code sold a bazillion copies, that's probably not a bad thing.)

I like both covers, and either would get me to pick up the book. And I haven't read the book yet (still waiting on my copy, alas), so maybe my impression of what your book's actually about is off.

But it does seem like the American cover hints at a broader story, while the Australian cover is more hardcore, let's-appeal-to-mystery-and-thriller fans.

True to type, I like the American one better. :)

Valerie Geary said...

Oooo, I love them both!

Ricky Bush said...

I just sayt that this Texan like the Aussie cover.

DeadlyAccurate said...

Another Texan who likes the AU cover better. Not that they aren't both gorgeous, but the AU cover would catch my attention more.

Gary Corby said...

I just got off the phone from Belinda the Publisher.

She's been reading your delightful comments and is over the moon! I suspect she was particularly pleased to win a few American hearts. (not that publishers would ever be competitive or anything...)

Gary Corby said...

There are so many interesting things you've said, I'll try to respond across them all.

Elizabeth's analysis is amazingly thorough (no surprise there, Miss Lawyer!), and Susanna's comment on UK vs US covers perceptive. We have both US and UK editions at home of Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, and Ngaio Marsh, and the differences in the covers are striking.

I wonder if everyone's reaction depends on where they sit in the broad bell curve of mystery & thriller readers? I'm interested so many of you pointed out the "murder and mayhem" tag, which to be honest I glided over when I first saw the cover. Perhaps the national differences are due to the US demographic having a higher percentage at the cozy end, and Oz readers a higher percentage into the mayhem?

There's a reverse implication for US authors looking to sell overseas. In fact, there's an implication for anyone who wants to sell across multiple countries. I was fascinated by a comment I heard at Bouchercon, that UK audiences in general prefer darker and more violent stories. I don't know if it's true, but it seems to be an industry perception.

It all implies certain writers are natural authors for certain countries, and not necessarily their own.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Okay, I'm proof of the covers working because I prefer the US cover. I like the Australian cover, but as a historical fiction reader/writer, the first one draws me in more.

As for your last comment, Gary, I've also heard that Brits prefer darker stories. I've noticed that trend with historical fiction written by Brits- they tend to have fewer happy endings. I know most Americans prefer happy endings- I break the mold there. There's nothing like Oedipus, Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet for making a story stand out!

Gary Corby said...

Hi Stephanie!

IMHO the best proof of the UK/Oz culture difference is to look at the two archetypal soapies.

I shudder to mention these, but consider the difference between Neighbours (Australia) and Eastenders (UK).

If you've never seen either, then consider yourself lucky. If you have, then you'll know what I mean.

Taymalin said...

Heh, it's too bad that we Canadians get the same covers as Americans. We aren't as culturally similar as big business always seems to think. I'd love to see some covers aimed at a Canadian audience, but I doubt we're a big enough market to warrant it.

For the record, I prefer the Oz cover. I like the US cover, but if I knew nothing about the book, I'd pick up the Oz. But I'm a thriller reader, so that might be more of an influence on my cover preference than my location :)

Taymalin said...

Actually, I'd like to see commercial cover art aimed at Canadians. I just thought of how many poetry, narrative essay, and nonfiction books I've seen that were distinctly Canadian (and pretty boring IMO).

pierre l said...

Slightly off topic, but I have just finished the book and loved it. I got my copy (US, obviously) from Book Depository in the UK.
Without wishing for secrets to be revealed, is there going to be a UK edition? Having said that, I see that Waterstone's will be selling the US edition (no stock yet).
With regards to the cover, I tend to go into the bookshop or shop on-line knowing exactly the title or author I am looking for so I am not really influenced by the cover (I am very influenced by authors with blogs and buy far more books than I have time to read).
I prefer the US cover, but like the Oz description ("mayhem").

Gary Corby said...

Taymalin,

Canada and Australia are very similar in size and population. I should imagine if there were a Canadian publisher then there'd be a Canadian cover? I don't really know.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Pierre,

I would love for there to be a UK edition!

This requires a British publisher to hand over a few pence for the privilege, and so far they've resisted the temptation. I like to think they will eventually be assimilated.

Could I just say, phrases such as, "I have just finished the book and loved it," are guaranteed to make the day of insecure authors.

Seriously, writers are readers who more than once have read a book and loved it, and now they want to pass on the joy. So when I read what you said, Pierre, I thought, "Mission accomplished."

Meghan said...

I just ordered my copy today. I like the original cover. It's clever and it makes me smile. :)

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Meghan! I'll be fascinated to hear what your expert eye thinks of it.

Julie Weathers said...

I love the American cover and I seldom like cartoony covers, but this one is just cute and I like that is brings out the idea of a Hellenic mystery, since I'm a history buff.

Plus, it reminds me of Miss Janet's minions looking for you.

Having said that, I would definitely pick up the Au cover and give it a test read. Front, back, first few pages and random pages throughout the interior.

Sean said...

I like the OZ cover magnitude better. It says rich, opulent, best seller. The US one says historically accurate

Gary Corby said...

And I will add that Miss Julie, while talking on twitter, was the first person to spot the raised eyebrow on the coin!

Congratulations Miss Julie! Belinda the Publisher will be pleased. She was starting to wonder if it was too subtle.

Gary Corby said...

Hey Sean, I'd settle for an historically accurate, rich, opulent best seller.

Sean said...

Me i'd settle for some words on paper :)

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

But I hear you :)