Cover design is never not fascinating. For all that’s said about not judging a book by its cover, it’s actually a pretty powerful skill to have. You’re looking at so many elements to convey what a story is about, who it’s written for, and what books it might be similar to in order to have it reach potential readers. It’s art, after all, and considering the power of art to depict a story is not being superficial.
Authors have little to no say in their cover art, which makes the entire process more complex. How the story is marketed, its first impression to readers in stores and online, is pretty much out of their hands. And given how more and more marketing of books is online and less in-store, it’s no surprise design has taken into consideration how a cover will look when the size of a thumbnail.
Find below five YA books that are getting new designs in paperback. I always love looking at the different choices made in the new iterations. What compelled the publisher to make a change? Who does the book seek to reach now? I love to think about whether the book is now angled more (or less!) toward a teen readership. In some cases, the change is a real upgrade, while in others, it’s not. In yet other cases, the change in design leaves a big ole question mark.
Original hardcover designs are on the left, while the new paperback editions are on the right. I’d love to know which you prefer and why. Descriptions of the books come from Amazon.
Five New YA Hardcover to Paperback Makeovers
The Companion by Kate Alender
I’ve been meaning to read this one, in part because it’s horror, in part because Kimberly raved about it, and in part because I’ve read Alender’s work before and enjoy her storytelling. The original hardcover image is so great: it’s unlike anything else out there right now, with its silver spoon collecting nails. It gives creepy and chilling vibes, and with the tagline “Lies pile up. And then they bury you” really offers a lot to the reader without saying too much. The use of pink for Alender’s name is clever, a small treat to prepare the reader for the book to come.
That said, the fact the cover is so different from what’s currently on shelves may be why the paperback has an entirely new look. It reminds me of a horror movie cover more than a book cover, and it’s a design I’ve seen many times with YA horror as well. It’s a creepy house with the silhouette of a girl and a moody sky and color palate. The lights on in the windows add to the spooky ambiance. Interestingly, the title font went from serif to san serif, which I think makes it a little more genre-friendly, and more, the tagline itself completely changed. “She thought she was finally safe. She was wrong” is a very different tell for the book than the first tagline, too. The first, perhaps, leans more thriller, while the second leans heavy into horror.
Both of the covers work, though I’m drawn more toward the original if for no reason other than its freshness. The paperback would look fabulous on a display of books featuring creepy houses, right along with Alender’s earlier The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall.
The Companion hits shelves in paperback August 21.
The other orphans say Margot is lucky.
Lucky to survive the horrible accident that killed her family.
Lucky to have her own room because she wakes up screaming every night.
And finally, lucky to be chosen by a prestigious family to live at their remote country estate.
But it wasn’t luck that made the Suttons rescue Margot from her bleak existence at the group home. Margot was handpicked to be a companion to their silent, mysterious daughter, Agatha. At first, helping with Agatha–and getting to know her handsome younger brother–seems much better than the group home. But soon, the isolated house begins playing tricks on Margot’s mind, making her question everything she believes about the Suttons . . . and herself.
Margot’s bad dreams may have stopped when she came to live with Agatha – but the real nightmare has just begun.
Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro
Having loved Oshiro’s first YA book Anger Is a Gift, I have to say the cover of Each of Us a Desert left me feeling uninterested. It didn’t tell me anything about the book any more than the title did (and it’s a great title). The tagline “Find where you belong” offers nothing, either. What is the book’s genre? What’s it about? Sure, there’s a profile in the triangle shape — is that supposed to be a sand hill or a pyramid? — but the lack of seeing an expression conveys nothing.
The paperback, on the other hand, nails it. There’s been this neat trend in YA covers, perhaps something to dig into soon, where a bigger scene plays out within the cover image. As you see with the two teens on the cover, there’s an actual desert along their backs. The tagline has been all together ditched in favor of the bigger focal point of title and image, and even though I’m still not sure what the book might be about, I’m far more compelled to pick it up. The teens have readable expressions on their faces, and the look the teen on the left is serving up makes me wonder what she has to say. I like how this copy notes Oshio is an “award winning author,” wherein on the hardcover, it simply read author.
Each of Us a Desert is more captivating in its paperback iteration. It hits shelves November 9.
From award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful coming-of-age fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life
Xochitl is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.
Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.
One night, Xo’s wish is granted―in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.
Fresh off of Anger Is a Gift‘s smashing success, Oshiro branches out into a fantastical direction with their new YA novel, Each of Us a Desert.
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
The next couple of entries on this look at cover makeovers fall into the category of surely, there’s a reason for the small change but I have no idea what it might be.
Ahmadi’s How It All Blew Up begins as a red cover. The title treatment here is interesting, with “Blew Up” rendered with shadows behind each letter and at an increased size, compared to the rest of the words. We have a big blurb from Angie Thomas, as well as the words “A Novel” beneath the title. It’s a fine cover, and offers to the reader what to expect: a contemporary, coming of age story. The teen on the cover appears to be brown, further letting readers know who the lead in the story is.
The paperback, which hits shelves September 28, takes the same cover images and turns the background to yellow. The squiggles, presumably to indicate “blowing up”/stress/angst, pop a big more with the color change, and the boy has been resized to be a little bit smaller. Ahmadi’s name now lies at the bottom, in what appears to be the same font as the hardcover’s title, while the title itself changed fonts entirely. “Blew Up” is still larger than the other words, but now all of the letters have black outlines.
Perhaps most curious in the change is the disappearance of “A Novel” and the appearance of another blurb, this one from Adam Silvera. In many ways, this now feels like too much on the cover, especially as the squiggles take on more prominence and yellow itself is a bright, energetic color. There’s a lot of writing on the front cover of the book.
Neither is better nor worse, but I love thinking about the why here. What compelled design and marketing to go with yellow here? To add another blurb — one that doesn’t actually say anything about the book? To get rid of “a novel?”
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi’s newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.
Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy–he just didn’t think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?
Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature… until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.
At turns uplifting and devastating, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi’s most powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life’s most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are.
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
The hardcover design for I’m Not Dying With You Tonight is simple and straight forward: two girls, one Black and one white, are on opposite sides, facing in opposite directions. The title being smack in the middle draws your attention to their faces, and the mirrored title and author fonts reflect that back. It’s a nice use of patterns. The bold choices in colors works well, too. There is power in that cover, without ever once trying to say there’s power in it.
But I will say, I’m even more compelled by the paperback makeover. The elements that worked in the hardcover are made more urgent when the girls are face to face, their eyes staring right into each other, rather than into one another’s mouths. Your eye is drawn to the title, and the layering effect of the city scape behind them adds nice dimension. We know this book was a New York Times bestseller, and both Angie Thomas and Nic Stone blurbed it. I’m generally not a fan of blurbs, especially multiple ones on a cover, but in this case, those blurbs establish this title as a read alike, even if the single words (“Powerful” and “Vital”) are kind of meaningless. The lengthier blurbs on retail websites offer way more to the story itself.
The new cover reminds me of adult contemporary reads a little more than YA, but that’s a value-neutral statement. This has a wide appeal range.
My one criticism of the paperback is something that, to the untrained eye, probably isn’t noticeable: the size and spacing of each word in the title is different. It’s a small difference, meant to squeeze the title between the faces of the girls. It happens in the hardcover, too — look specifically at “Dying” — but it’s easier to see on the paperback.
Both covers are solid, but I prefer the paperback a little bit more.
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight hits shelves in paperback September 7.
Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.
When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.
They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.
Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
One of the biggest pet peeves of readers and librarians is when a book in a series gets a new look before the series ends. This means an inconsistent look on shelves and a challenge for helping readers find a book they’re looking for and describing by color. Were a series to maintain two looks — one in hardcover and one in paperback — throughout, it might not be so irritating. But I can’t think of many cases where that’s happened.
All of that is to say the hardcover of the first book in Rin Chupeco’s “A Hundred Names for Magic” series is getting a new look in paperback. The hardcover is such a neat look: each of the letters offers some kind of insight into the story, tying it all together with the concept of magic. There’s a lot of images packed into the design, and yet, it doesn’t feel busy. I’m a huge fan of the series title and number being included, too, right below the title. The color palate here is itself magical.
And while many of these things carry over into the new paperback, particularly the colors and the series title, there’s something that feels less compelling for me. There is the teen looking over their shoulder, a universal offering to walk into the story with them, but the explosion of orange in front of the person is confusing. Perhaps because this is a digital cover and not in person, it’s hard to tell if that’s meant to be a dragon or a phoenix or other creature. At the bottom right, there’s what looks to be a ferris wheel or, perhaps, some kind of climbing plant structure. What was not busy in the hardcover turns into an overly busy visual in paperback.
I do like the font and title treatment on paperback, and I find it interesting the addition of the word “trilogy” to Chupeco’s accolade.
The paperback isn’t bad, but it’s a bit confusing and a little generic in comparison to the hardcover. I’m also curious about the change when the second book in the trilogy has yet to be announced. As of this writing, there’s no title, cover, or publication date.
Wicked As You Wish hits shelves October 1.
Once upon a time, the magical Kingdom of Avalon was left to wither and die after the Snow Queen encased it in ice. Its former citizens are now refugees. Which is why crown prince Alex and his protectors are stuck in… Arizona.
Tala Makiling has lived her life as an outsider. Her family curse, the one that’s doomed her to be a spellbreaker, someone who destroys magic, hasn’t won her too many friends. Except Alex, who trusts her and her family to keep his royal identity a secret.
And then one night, a famous creature of legend, the Firebird, appears in their tiny town, reigniting hope for their abandoned homeland. Alex and Tala team up with a ragtag group of new friends to journey back to Avalon. Their path is filled with danger―from deadly prophecies, to terrifying ice wolves, a traitor among them, and the Snow Queen herself. But if they succeed… their story would be legendary.
Because the nature of this post is to explore and discuss design, I’ve elected not to include the names of artists or designers. I went back and forth on this because crediting is important and something more people who write or talk about books need to do, especially related to covers, but ultimately, because the changes happen more often in marketing and sales than they do in design, I don’t want to draw attention to an individual who may or may not have had much say in what they produced.