Book articles

UK vs. US book covers: Who does it better?

(Alternative titles include: ‘Why are our American pals constantly outdoing us with their beautiful cover designs?’ And ‘This is all a ploy so Kate can have a rant about some of her least favourite UK covers’.)

It’s well known in the bookish community that book covers can often make or break a novel. A stunning design can be the reason a reader picks up an unknown book, and likewise a poor design can be the reason they don’t. I would make some comment about not judging a book by it’s cover, but meh, we all do it, why not just enjoy the beautiful book covers for what they are.

I recently wrote a post about my 16 best book covers of 2016, so I want to compare some of my favourite UK and US covers. One version is (almost) always better than the other, so I’ll these are the covers (or series of covers) I like best.

The Shades of Magic trilogy by V. E. Schwab

UK covers

US covers

OK, I know I just said that one set of covers is always better, I love both of these equally. The designs are so charismatic, and it’s easy to tell that a lot of thought went into them. Their representation of each of the main characters and different Londons is also really cool.

Winner: Both

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

US cover                                                                           UK cover

The designs for both of these are relatively similar, and equally stunning but the colours of the US cover just edge it for me. I usually love black covers with white text, but something about the bright blue star against the dark background and red patterning catches my eye every time.

Winner: US cover

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

US cover                                                                             UK cover

Aaaand I’m going to contradict myself again. Despite not choosing the black cover for Caraval, I much prefer the black and red edition of Heartless. The bold design is much more eye-catching than the UK cover and the crown and sword emblems in the title are very well done. It just looks more striking and intense than the UK version and I love it.

Winner: US cover

I’ll Give you The Sun by Jandi Nelson

US cover                                                                             UK cover

There’s a clear winner for me. And it’s the US version. The design of the character, arc of water surrounding her body, and font are all streets ahead of the UK edition, which looks clunky and slightly dull in comparison. Sadly, I also don’t like the UK cover’s gold-against-blue theme and the font just doesn’t work for me. (I normally like an elegant font, but I think the colour of this one that ruins the effect.)

Winner (by a mile): US cover

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

US Cover                                                                         UK Cover

I’ve actually had a complete change of opinion about these covers. Originally, I preferred the US edition, with its vivid black-on-pink design and the beautiful leafy strands branching out of the woman’s silhouette, but recently I’ve seen a lot of the UK cover in bookshops and it’s grown on me. The dove’s wings look elegant and there’s something very aesthetically pleasing about the background detail of the leaf.

Winner: UK Cover

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

US Cover                                                                         UK Cover

I’m hoping to read this during 2017, but if I buy myself a copy it’s going to have to be the US edition. The gold/yellow of the UK cover just looks garish to me and, sadly, doesn’t make me want to purchase the novel. By comparison, the black and platinum of the US cover looks sleek and the more abstract, artistic design immediately invites me into the world.

Winner: US Cover

The Queen of the Tearling series by Erika Johansen

US Covers

UK Covers

Again, I have a clear favourite here. The US covers are so much more impressive to look at and I love the embellishments around the edges of each book. Although the colours are different they easily manage to look coordinated and you’d never mistake them for being part of several different series. Though I don’t mind the second and third UK covers, I really dislike the first one. The illustrations on the other two are OK, but the first one is pretty jarring and the background colour is so drab. I’m actually going to wait for a cover change before I buy this series, or get someone visiting the US to pick them up for me!

Winner: US cover

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

US Cover                                                                         UK Cover

So this is a tough one because wowww both of these are beautiful.The font of the US edition is clearly better, but overall I have to go with the UK one. The sheer detail of the bird is stunning and the fact that they’ve revealed some of the inner mechanics down its body and leg is very cool. I’m also a sucker for sparkles and that is one sparkly bird.

Winner: UK Cover

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

US Cover                                                                         UK Cover

As I started this post with some V. E. Schwab, I thought it would be fitting to end with another of her books. Although I do like the US cover, I find it a little timid in comparison to the bold colours and riotous paint splashes of the UK edition. (I think the US cover may be due a redesign, though I’ve not actually read anything that confirms this?) I also love the fact that the colour scheme for the UK cover matches that of the Shades of Magic series.

Winner: UK Cover

So, it’s judgement time.

Overall winner:

US covers 6 – 4 UK covers

It’s not a contest, of course, but if it were, the US covers would be edging it. This is only my opinion though, and I’m sure there will be plenty of readers out there who prefer the other covers to the ones I’ve chose. Either way, I’m thankful we live in a privileged age where talented designers are given the outlet to create imaginative covers that readers across the world can then enjoy.

So although this post was mainly about me being a basic bookworm and judging books on their shiny covers, I also wanted to take a moment to appreciate all the hard work that publishing companies and designers put into bringing a cover to life. There will always be some readers who love a cover and readers who hate it, but the cover is what prefaces the story and gives the novel’s exterior character; without it we’d all be in book shops looking at shelves and shelves of the intro/title pages. And that sounds far less exciting than drooling over new covers.

So here’s to good and bad covers alike. Long may the publishing industry keep them coming.


15 thoughts on “UK vs. US book covers: Who does it better?

  1. I never really got why US covers were different to UK covers. Most of the time I never minded because obviously I ended up getting the UK covers. However there are a few series where because the US cover was so much better I payed out for the shipping and got copies from the US Amazon site instead; The Girl from Everywhere is a brilliant example of this, the US cover is so much better than the UK one, by like a mile. Also despite owning the UK paperback editions of ADSOM series I have brought the US covers in hardback as well, I just couldn’t resist because it’s one of my all-time favourite series!
    I guess overall US covers ate better than UK ones in your opinion, although I have to say I much preferred the UK cover of both Caraval and I’ll Give You the Sun. 🙂
    Great post Kate! 😀

  2. I tend to like UK covers better than US covers, but there are a lot of pretty US covers too! Like The Thousandth Floor 🙂

  3. Ooooh this was such a relaxing and aesthetically pleasing post to read?! ❤
    I pretty much agreed with all your choices, except, for me, I definitely prefer the US covers for the ADSOM trilogy over the UK one. The silhouette is nice, but the US one is so artistic and unique to me.

    1. Omg thank you so much! ❤ (I can't tell you how happy it makes me that you found it relaxing to read!) Haha yeah, I know a lot of people really prefer the US covers, but I just have such a hard time choosing between them! I'm hoping to get copies of the US versions to add to my collection at some point because I honestly do adore both sets! 🙂

  4. Wow! Great collections of covers. Those are all the books I want to read. I agree with all of your choices. That Nevernight, I had no idea the cover with the bird is UK because that cover is really stunning! 🙂

      1. That’s what I like about it too, the details. I have only seen it on other blogger’s reviews so yes, I don’t think I will have that UK cover living in US 🙂

  5. I did this with my mom, and she chose some covers I would not have guessed! She liked the U.K. of Caraval (I do too) and VE Schwab, but the rest were US. I think I lean more towards the U.K. Ones. Except for the Tearling series.

      1. Yes, they are so plain!
        I like the stars on the other cover…I find there are such strange differences between the US and UK/AUS versions of books…like why stars? I love them, but why the change? It just makes me wonder…maybe it’s for the crazy fans like us that want both covers of books if they like them! 😂

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