Judging Books by Their Covers: U.S. Vs. U.K.

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 by Susan Gabriel

I found this over at the Millions Blog and thought you might be interested. Read the entire article here.

U.K. and U.S. covers often differ from one another, suggesting that certain layouts and imagery will better appeal to readers on one side of the Atlantic rather than the other. These differences are especially striking if you look at the covers side by side. The American ones are on the left.

cover cover
Hmm. I think I like the American one for this book.
cover cover
The British one has a little bit more going on for me this time.
cover cover
I’m not sure I like either. What do you think?
cover cover
Is there a reason this book looks so retro?
cover cover
I’m leaning toward the U.K. one, though I’m not real sold on either.
cover cover
The American one seems a bit more intriguing. But I like the U.K. one, too.
cover cover
I definitely like the U.K. cover better for this book.
cover cover
Both of these are cool, I think.
cover cover
I go back and forth on this one.
cover cover
I like the U.K. one for this book. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.
cover cover
I like the crosses and the spiders. Maybe a combination of both.So what do you think? Do you judge books by their covers? Do you have clear favorites? As always, I love hearing from you. 

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11 Responses to “Judging Books by Their Covers: U.S. Vs. U.K.”

  1. Barbara Younger Says:


    I judge them by the covers, some–just so hard not to. In my days as a children’s librarian, I learned just how much children do this. They will take one look at the cover and decide to reject it if it doesn’t suit them no matter what you say!

  2. Barbara Younger Says:

    I just tweeted your post, and it got retweeted by a British site I write for some. Ah the fun of the Internet.

  3. Susan Gabriel Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Barbara! I remember when my daughters were younger they were quick to judge a book cover, too. Interesting, your perspective as a former children’s librarian. Thanks for the retweet. It is such an interesting world we live in these days.

  4. Susan Gabriel Says:

    Also, subscribers are weighing in via email:

    “Hi Susan. Well from top to bottom, my choices are as follows: UK US US US UK US US UK UK UK and UK. (smile) I’m so decisive, I scare myself. Much Love Trelys”


    “This is fascinating! I am always amazed at what you discover. – Ann”

  5. Sonje Says:

    I always go for an abstract cover. So whichever is more abstract, I like that. I do not want a cover to put any images firmly in my mind. I like to do all the image-making work myself.

  6. John Grabowski Says:

    The Ann Patchett American cover was designed at the insistence of Patchett herself, based on a Vladimir Horowitz album cover her husband had: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51q2n1siEhL.jpg

  7. Susan Gabriel Says:

    Hi Sonje,
    I’ve never thought in terms of abstract or non-abstract. Thanks for the insight!

    And, John, I’d like to thank you for the interesting info, too. I hope Ann Patchett will forgive me for preferring the UK cover, but I like the nature aspect of it.

  8. John Grabowski Says:

    I agree. Speaking as a graphic designer, the balance works better for me

  9. Sonje Says:

    I’m actually in the middle of cover discussions with my publisher. We definitely have different visions of what the cover should be–and unfortunately, they make the ultimate decision. To make me feel better–or maybe just not alone–a friend sent me this link to writer Justine Larbalestier’s issues with the UK cover of her book, Liar. I found it very interesting. She also discusses the different covers used by different territories.


  10. Nancy Purcell Says:

    I’m always drawn to a book by its cover. I will read the inside flap, look to see what other work the author has written. I then close the book, take another look at the cover, judging if it’s telling me something, and then make my decision of “to buy or not to buy”. But it’s always the cover that calls my interest. I looked over my own library and the covers of my coveted books. Yep, the covers draw me into the author’s fantasy. One thing they have in common….the time period art work.
    They all carry me somewhere. Thanks for taking me on this trip!

  11. Susan Gabriel Says:

    Thanks, Sonje, for sharing your experience. It seems a lot of authors out there wish they had more input about their book covers. The link you sent of justine’s experience was fascinating. It seems it didn’t really matter what her character looked like in the novel, the publicity dept. decided what would sell. yikes!

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