Should you judge a book by its cover? The traditional answer is no, but every author is aware that this isn’t the whole story. A brilliant cover can transform the prospects of the most mediocre book, while a dreary one can hobble even the very best. The stakes are high. In my experience, getting the cover right is not only one of the hardest parts of the creation of a new book – it’s potentially the most stressful for the author, in that success or failure is basically out of your hands.
Complicating the picture, though, is the fact that the same book can have radically different covers in different territories, as international publishers each work to meet the aesthetic and commercial demands of their own market. This leads to the unexpected and delightful result that you can compare and contrast all sorts of approaches – and decide for yourself which version is the best.
So, to celebrate the publication of The Notorious Scarlett and Browne, I thought it would be fun to check out some of the foreign editions of its predecessor, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne. We’ve got six contenders here, all skilfully and thoughtfully done, each zeroing in on slightly different aspects of the book. I like them all. Which is your favourite?
1. [Image] Publisher: Walker Books (UK). Artist: Tom Cole
A striking image that instantly conveys the epic sweep of the tale, the adventure, the sense of vast, strange lands to be explored. The book’s “British Western” vibe is picked up by the excellent typography, and by the rich palette of red and orange.
2. [Image] Publisher: Knopf (US). Artist: Stephanie Hans
A fabulously kinetic cover. The choice of graphic artist Stephanie Hans to bring Scarlett and Albert to life gives the image tremendous dynamism. The book’s comic energy is also suggested, which personally I like, because this element is often hard to convey on covers.
3. [Image] Publisher: CBJ (Germany). Art/Design Studio: Semper Smile
Beautiful golds and purples convey a sense of richness around the impressively simple central Wanted Poster. Scarlett’s silhouette flickers with dangerous energy, while Albert is more coolly assured than on most of the other covers. Probably the most “Western” of all the editions.
4. [Image] Publisher: Mondadori (Italy). Artist: Andrea Pucci
A rich and sensual image, skewering the book’s dystopian fantasy vibe via the monumental ruin of Big Ben rising from the waters. This doesn’t actually occur in the story, but the effect is powerful, as are the silhouetted images of Scarlett (looking sleek and formidable), and Albert (comically gauche). Plus there’s even a nod to the Westerns theme in the type.
5. [Image] Publisher: Fragment (Czech Republic). Artist: Various
The Western feel is again very much to the fore in this vibrant photographic montage, with Scarlett and Albert as Bonnie and Clyde-style outlaws, and the Wanted Poster feel to the main title type. Great dystopian ruins and a suitably apocalyptic glow.
6. [Image] Publisher: Sayzansha (Japan). Artist: JozeShimazaki
A fabulously light and playful depiction of Scarlett and Albert, with Scarlett’s jaunty insouciance and Albert’s comic haplessness exquisitely rendered. The art manages to make a broken bus atop a pile of debris seem both epic and beautiful.