Recently, the cover for Liar's Moon, the second book in Elizabeth C. Bunce's Thief Errant series, was released and I was reminded how much I appreciate it when covers in a series go together. Oh, how I adore these covers. They mirror each other in subtle and obvious ways, are both beautiful, and were created by the same designer/artist team. But seeing these books also reminded me how irritating it is when the sequence of a series gets interrupted by a change in artist or design. When trying to create a brand for a particular series or author, why change the branding half-way through the series? I understand the purpose of re-branding to inject new life into an existing series, but re-branding when the series is in process is a mystifying choice and the source of unending aggravation for readers. I've complied five of the most egregious examples of this, in my opinion.
5) The Frontier Magic series
This really is an odd choice. The first book in the series, The Thirteenth Child, came out in 2009. This year, Across the Great Barrier, the second volume in the series, comes out, but with a completely redesigned cover theme. The new book's cover looks great, but the two books side-by-side don't appear part of the same series at all. I think the fundamental problem with this cover redesign is that readers of The Thirteenth Child won't know at first sight that Across the Great Barrier is part of the same series. I've seen the cover for Across the Great Barrier several times online and only recently put it together that it was the second in the Frontier Magic series.
4) Bloody Jack series
The original editions of the books in the Bloody Jack series wonderfully reflected the fun, swashbuckling atmosphere of the books. These books are filled with rich historical details, adventure, and the hilarious and authentic voice of protagonist, Jacky Faber. While the original covers might suggest this series is middle grade, the new photographic covers seem to be an attempt by the publisher to place this series firmly into the territory of YA. But, the new covers don't reflect the content of the books in any way; the redesigned cover for the first book (on the right) looks more like a contemporary realistic fiction about a teen battling drugs or alcohol or depression than a fun romp on the high seas. Other than the tiny boat in the background, there's no indication that this is even the same book I read.
3) The Gideon Series
This is where things get weird. When the American rights to the first book in the Gideon Trilogy, Gideon the Cutpurse, were purchased by Simon and Schuster, they gave it the cover on the left. However, for some reason (I've heard because the book didn't sell well to younger readers) they decided to redesign the cover and--really weirdly--gave it a new title. The book formerly known as Gideon the Cutpurse became The Time Travelers. The problem is that, while it may attract new readers, it seriously confuses old readers. When I went looking for the next book in the Gideon Trilogy as a 20 year old, I was totally baffled--I had to dig around online for half an hour to get a satisfactory answer. Imagine an 8 year old having to sort this out!
2) The Artemis Fowl series 1) The Books of Bayern
Oh the redesign of Artemis Fowl. Like me, many people--millions of us--purchased the first six Artemis Fowl books (the books along the top row) when, to our surprise in 2010, Hyperion redesigned the covers in a presumable attempt to rebrand the series (the new books are on the bottom row). Yet the series was still in production. So, us loyal fans who have been collecting every book from the beginning now have a mismatched set of books. That's just annoying.
The middle row are the British editions.
The original covers for Shannon Hale's magical series, The Books of Bayern, were done by an amazing, whimsical artist named Alison Jay. I loved these covers. But, when Bloomsbury repackaged the series, they got rid of the original artwork in favor of photographic covers (we're seeing a pattern here!). I was really upset about this when it happened because, while the new covers are fine, the old covers were perfect. I've come to peace with these redesigns after hearing Shannon Hale speek very eloquently about it on her blog. She said: "The hope is that new covers will attract new readers that didn't pick up the books based on the old covers, and I'm very grateful to my publisher for caring enough about these books to repackage them." Put in those terms, it's clear that publishers don't make choices about repackaging arbitrarily--they do so in order to widen a series' audience. Thankfully, the original artwork for the Books of Bayern is still available in the hardback versions of these books.
1) The Books of Bayern
Example of it Working: The original cover for Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was fine, but something about it just didn't convey the content of the book at all. Scholastic obviously thought so too, because they commissioned John Rocco to create new art for The Lightning Thief that far better reflects the feel of the books, and continued to use this artist for the rest of the series. John Rocco has also designed the covers for Rick Riordan's other two series: The Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus. Even though I normally despise repackaging in the middle of a series, I applaud Scholastic for discovering the artist who has managed to create a wildly successful brand for Rick Riordan.