Judging Book Covers

[I’ve again asked Jon Fishman to comment on his experiences with Lerner Books UK.]

Creating covers might be the most high-stakes part of book publishing. Although we’ve all heard that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we do anyway. The cover is what catches the eye (or doesn’t), it’s what makes a person pick up a book (or not) to find out more. Lerner puts a lot of time and effort into creating the perfect cover, and I think we do a heck of a good job. So I found it interesting that some of our covers had to be completely redesigned for the UK market.

In Pat Shepherd’s post from October 28, she writes briefly about some of the UK covers we produced. I want to add to that here and point out some of the specific changes we made for the UK market.


Pat asked the reader to guess which of the Louis Braille covers shown here is the UK edition. Did you guess the one that looks green? The U.S. edition on the left was created first, and the UK edition on the right was produced from the original. As you can see we took the central portrait of Braille and made it larger and a bit more abstract. We also removed the cartoonish art that you can see on the US edition and changed the font.


The next example, Coasts, wasn’t changed as radically. As Pat wrote, the trim size was increased for UK publication. Beyond that, the main difference here is the title font. As you can see, the UK edition on the right uses a larger, transparent font.


In a few cases, we also changed a book’s title to be more appropriate for Lerner Books UK. A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What Is a Noun?, for example, was published in the UK as A Cat, a Bat, Your Grandma’s Hat: What Is a Noun?. I’m pretty sure there are skating rinks in the UK, and what country doesn’t have its share of finks? But the mink, a North American mammal, had to be replaced.

In general, I’ve found that the visual aspects of nonfiction books made for young readers in the UK are more sophisticated than we would produce for the same audience in the United States. Note that in the first example, Louis Braille, we removed all of the cartoon imagery from the cover and went with a more conceptual front-cover style. For Coasts, the new font is transparent and therefore more difficult for a new reader. Or on second thought, I would have assumed that transparent font would be more difficult before undertaking this project.

I’m not sure what conclusions, if any, to draw from these differences. What do you think?