Welcome to Cover Design in a Digital World! If you are a first-time reader, please start with the Introduction and continue with each post in chronological order (see the calendar, to the right of this page). This blog has been an interesting journey across time and genres, while attempting to navigate the process and development of cover design through the years, until the present and the relatively new, digital challenges these last few years have brought.

Of course these posts are only a small example of the wide range of cover designs across the publishing industry throughout the years but I nevertheless believe that they give some idea of the factors and concerns facing publishers and designers, then and today, who need to make decisions on cover design in order to get each book the recognition it deserves (or simply to get make sure it is received by the right audience).

Every year there are hundreds of thousands of books published worldwide, new or updated, while publishers continue to try to sell books that they already have in stock. This means that there are other factors to consider than simple aesthetics; a designer can (perhaps sadly) not be creative and play with a book cover any which way he or she likes. After taking a look at different genres with each new post it is clear that there are established rules for each genre that must be followed; it may have taken time but eventually each genre has developed a certain look that must be duplicated in order for the audience of said genre to spot it quickly and easily through certain images, colours and fonts.

There are of course exceptions from this, literary fiction for example deviates from this formula exactly because it isn’t formulaic, the stories are complex, more serious, and usually critically acclaimed, if they belong to literary fiction. As such those covers would be more artistic, they could look completely different from other books of the same genre (which may have nothing in common with each other) as the idea is to distinguish them from other literary fiction. Graphic designers, when choosing great cover designs, would certainly choose the covers that are distinct from those that they would have seen before. On the other hand, those books are more difficult to sell because they do not belong to a recognized genre such as science fiction or chick lit, whose covers are not as overtly artistic – yet they speak volumes to customers as they are based on models that have been proven to sell.

In the end that is what cover design is about; it is a tool which helps to sell the product. We may live in a new world, we may have e-books that do not need covers, and yet people still choose to buy e-books that have covers instead of the ones who don’t. The digital market means that customers no longer view books the way they would in a bookstore, the images are much smaller and that must be accounted for, which explains the development to bigger fonts, bolder colours and a simplicity which makes the most important elements stand out, such as the title of the book and the author’s name. Despite those changes the landscape is still the same; book covers are advertising, and for the foreseeable future, they will continue to be used, both digitally as well as physically, to entice customers to buy the product. The cover is not dead, far from it.


Literary Fiction: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

By choosing this book I have deviated from the books that I have picked so far. Yes literary fiction can be described as a genre, however when I use the word genre I usually have in mind such genres as fantasy or science fiction, genres that are outside of what is considered “good” literature. No one would argue that Love in the Time of Cholera is not a great, literary work. There are, sadly, plenty of people who think little of such genres as chick lit and self-help literature. It is my, very small, hope, that we will start respecting how different we are, and therefore respecting that our taste in literature (and music, come to think of it) is valid, and our own, and not for anyone to judge. But that is a matter for another post, and, indeed, another blog entirely.

Literary fiction, as you will see, will continue to stand out from the genres I have covered so far. To begin with, it is not only its merit but the issue of “genre” which sets it apart from the others. As a quick Google search with tell you, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what literary fiction is, and whether it is even a genre at all. To quote this last link, literary fiction is “experimental”, “unprecedented”, “nontraditional”, “original” – which means that the works belonging to this “genre” or this “not-genre” if you will, can have absolutely nothing in common between them. So how do you even begin to design a cover for something that has never existed before?

I believe Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, originally published in Spanish in 1985, proves just how difficult that can be. Here is the original cover:


What I feel when looking at this is lost for words – and not in a good way. What on earth is this cover supposed to tell us? I honestly think it looks like a manual for a tractor or something (I’m not even sure what the image is, is it a boat, a house, a houseboat?). Now I have to confess that I don’t know anything about Columbian cover art, so it is difficult for me to image the factors at play behind the decisions made here but I have to say I am greatly confused by this. All I know for sure is that by the time of the publication García Márquez was already an internationally acclaimed author, a Nobel Prize winner, which might mean that there was no need to make a big deal out of the cover as it was expected to sell anyway?

I think it is best to move on (but if anyone knows more about this cover please hit the comments!). The first US edition was published in 1988 by Alfred A. Knopf and tells a different story:


Love in the Time of Cholera is, as the title suggests, a love story, although some will disagree on how great the love that is depicted in the novel really is (a blogger argues that García Márquez “hypothesized that lovesickness is a literal disease, comparable to cholera. His characters suffer from love just as they would from any malady”). It is true that there is great suffering in this tumultuous love story and I think that is where this cover is coming from. The background colour alone suggests that the story takes place in a hot, exotic climate, and is indicative of the passion the characters feel. Then you have the woman at the center, a woman who is not from our time, a woman who is mysterious and difficult to decipher. As you will see in other covers the focus is very much on the love aspect, which could confuse readers looking for a simple love story that ends happily.

This next cover, published a year later in the UK by Penguin, is interestingly enough wildly different:


This just goes to show how difficult it is to design a cover for literary fiction, where the sky seems to be the limit. There is no genre to look to that can provide some guidelines. García Márquez’s works are known for being some of the greatest examples of magical realism, but it is difficult to say how that subgenre should look. How can a reader know what he is getting with a cover like this? It seems to be out of this world, as magical realism is, and the image corresponds to the event of the book, but that would not be known to those who haven’t yet read it. So what is it telling us? Maybe to be intrigued? To be curious? To prepare for something completely different? I am not saying I don’t like this cover, but I do think that it shows us how challenging it is to market literary fiction to the right audience (because who belongs to that audience, can a publisher even know that?). Also, as you can see, this cover would not work today as the text is illegible (although the focus is correctly on the author, which is perhaps the only thing that the publisher knows can sell the book for sure).
Penguin seem to have published another cover simultaneously in 1989, trying perhaps to understand what could appeal to their readers:


Again there are similar aspects, an otherworldly sense to it, the difference being that the former is out in space while this one is connected to nature, with bold colours, and quite sensual. The focus is on the author, the whole design would not work digitally, and there is yet again the question; would a customer know what he or she is getting? They might be intrigued but the only thing they could know for sure is that this is a novel by Gabriel García Márquez. As you can see I could really go on forever, with the multitudes of covers Love in the Time of Cholera has seen over the years:

1989, again from Penguin:








And the more recent ones, this one from 2007:


These two last ones, and other covers, choose to put the focus on the woman. That makes sense as the novel tells the story of a man obsessed with the love he has for a woman, and it also creates a sexy cover (and as we have all heard, sex sells). The same ideas are used for this Vintage Books cover, also from 2007:


This is quite erotic with the woman, the rose and the bold, red colour (looks like Twilight and all it’s copycats, actually). It also, just so you know, now a major motion picture. Speaking of, this cover from 2008 is for the film viewers so that they know that this is also a book (and for those who want Javier Bardem on their bookshelf):


Now this copy is one of many from 2007:


I think this one is my favorite. It is simple but contains many of the elements that have been used to market the book, without being too overt. What I believe the range of these covers tell us is that there are certain themes that are used to represent the book; there is of course love, passion, the female body, erotica but also nature, which can be wild, mysticism (whether on earth or in space), magic, and a mysterious aspect, often connected to the latin world, which for Western readers would be quite foreign to them. In the last few covers you start to see a development towards a clearer look, and Penguin has of course published the book in their Penguin Books, simplified series:


All in all I believe these covers prove my point; literary fiction is not as easy to market as other, more formulaic, genres. That is not necessarily a bad thing, for one there is more room for interpretation and play in the design of these covers. On the other hand it makes matters difficult when there are no rules to follow. Who is the audience for this book? How should they know what they are getting when they buy this book (since the genres are never written on a cover, the design is supposed to do that for the book)? The only available route seems to be to make as many contrasting covers as is financially viable and see what works best, which makes for a more fascinating experience for designers and readers alike (although a costly one for publishers, too bad for them).

Self-Help: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Self-help is defined by as “the act of providing for or helping or the ability to provide for or help oneself without assistance from others.” This is undoubtably true though some would perhaps describe it as part of the pursuit of happiness, which would explain its appeal through the ages. Self-help books are by no means a recent phenomenon, though the market has gone from niche to mainstream culture and as such expanded substantially in the last decades. The name of the genre is taken from a title published in 1859, the famous Victorian bestseller Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct by Samuel Smiles, though his book was by no means the first or only self-help literature available to readers back then.

Nowadays there are practically as many different emphasis in self-help literature as there are books (depending on what you are looking for; love, money, weight loss, a connection with the almighty) but I will focus on spirituality with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. The Power of Now was first published in 1997 by Namaste Publishing in Canada, and then two years later in the US by New World Library. Since then, 3 million copies of the book have been sold in North America alone (the book has been translated into 33 languages) and Tolle is currently one of the most influential spiritual guides in the world.

These first two covers were published by Namaste Publishing in 1997 and by New World Library in 1999:



As you can see the US publisher imitated the first edition from Namaste Publishing with only slight alterations. From the beginning the look has been simplistic, the background image is vague, the colour quite neutral. Yet there is also a feeling that accompanies it, I at least can see a sky which is partly cloudy even while the sun is also glinting there somewhere. It looks like the vague feeling a person can feel when they know that there is something missing, something he or she should know, without knowing exactly what it is. It is definitely spiritual in nature (the question is, do I think that because I have seen spiritual books before, or do I want to read these books because I feel that way?). In any way it at least manages to make me curious about the content.

In 2004, after the book had become a bestseller, a book with this cover was published, again in the US:


It is still essentially the same idea, what has changed is that the book is doing well so it contains more information to entice readers; the author is now getting some attention and thus his name is more prominent and the colours are a bit stronger, which makes the font and the cover as a whole stand out. As we will see the focus is very much on the “NOW” part, which does seem to help with sales as this customer writes. She says she “felt a strong urge to read Eckhart Tolle’s book” as the words on the book cover stood out to her (and then she went home and bought it on Amazon, as people do). But this is an interesting description, that the title manages to make people feel that they must act, that they only have this moment, and thus managing to influence buyer behaviour so easily (indeed, the book tells you the only moment you have is now).

With this new cover from UK publisher Hodder  in 2001 we get an different look and yet see many similarities:


There is still a picture of a sky, with the sun shining, the colours are strong and The Power of Now prominent. It has the same elements I was drawn to before, but those are even more stronger than in the original version. This is the cover which, out of them all, really speaks to me. First of all I just love the colour blue, exactly for the same reason it is used here; it makes me feel calm. And what are you looking for when you buy a self-help book except a way to make your life easier, less chaotic, calm and serene, and therefore peaceful and happy? Looking at this cover is like peering into the sun on a warm, cloudless, sunny day, and when does that not give you the greatest feeling ever? This cover seems to promise me that it has the answers that I am looking for. I feel more relaxed and happier already just by looking at it.

Proving my point (I think!) is this cover published 10 years later in 2011:


It is pretty much the same design, perhaps even sleeker than before, but the focus is the same as for the 2001 design (which I do prefer over this one, my beloved sun is simply more obvious to spot in the earlier version). On the other hand, this cover from Hachette Australia which was published in 2009, in my opinion completely misses the mark:


Where is the passion, the inspiration? The colours are just too bland, they don’t manage to stand out. Yes the font is clear but that is all that it has going for it. It looks boring, for lack of a better word. There is no inspiration, no promise of a better tomorrow, let alone a better now. It tells me that it is possible to be too simple, in a way that will never get anyone’s attention.

Despite finding this cover uninteresting I do acknowledge that it is nevertheless a minimalistic design, which it has in common with the other designs made for The Power of Now. I believe that the reason why the earlier versions, from the late 90’s and early 00’s, are so similar to the ones published most recently might be that the idea for self-help books was always to simplify. These books are not meant to complicate your life but the opposite, they’re meant to de-clutter it. The genre design, and the modern designs fit for digital thumbnails, share a common goal; to be as minimalistic and as clear as possible.

In the end I would like to point out a cover design by this graphic designer who didn’t like the published versions:


He clearly felt that an element of mysticism was necessary and so put the emphasis on this symbol. I don’t think that the cover needs it as the point of Tolle’s book is to explain ancient messages to a modern audience using a language readers today understand. I do like the minimalistic approach nevertheless, once again it is quite modern, and so, I think, it should be.

Nordic Noir: Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason

Nordic Noir is the name given to the genre of Scandinavian Crime Fiction which has become quite successful in recent years in many countries around the world, a success that covers not only books but television series as well. Nordic Noir is said to be made up of three important factors; setting, languages and heroes, as the novels more often than not are made up of series which tell the story of a certain, usually depressed, detective or detectives (for those interested in Nordic Noir I recommend the works of Barry Forshaw). Although not technically part of Scandinavia, Iceland nevertheless has their share of Nordic Noir writers, the most famous Icelandic crime writer being Arnaldur Indridason.

Arnaldur Indridason has been one of Iceland’s most popular writers since the publication of his first novel, Synir Duftsins (Sons of Earth) in 1997, frequently topping the Icelandic bestseller lists. He is the recipient of The Glass Key award (the only one to have won the award two years in a row in 2002 and 2003) as well as the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger award (2005). He has sold over six million copies in over 25 countries and his books have been translated to at least 21 languages.

Jar City was the first of his novel to be translated and published in the UK (it was originally called Tainted Blood but the name was changed in conjunction with the movie release) in 2006. Here is an original cover for the USA from 2006:


This cover is quite bleak, very noir actually in black and white (perhaps saving on colours with a first book from an unknown author?) with a figure of a man and a scary looking house. For commercial purposes it doesn’t really say much about the content (how much does “A Reykjavik Thriller” tell an American audience?) . However, the original cover released in the UK in 2005 and then again in 2006 with the new title tell a different story:



These are much more informative; the book is an international bestseller, it’s a murder mystery, the winner of the Gold Dagger, a major motion picture, it has a quote from the Times. Even if a reader doesn’t know anything about the book there are plenty of things to make him or her interested. There are also many Nordic Noir elements; the snow, the red (colour of blood), and swings that look positively scary in the dark.

Here the US version has been updated, and much improved:


This version looks more modern and is at least described as “a thriller”, with a quote from a critic accompanying it as well. The atmosphere is clearer now that the half of the image is not taken over entirely for use of the title and author name, and the whole design is fittingly quite ominous. The next cover, also from 2006, from Picador is not as indicative of crime fiction however:


It reminds me more of a medical drama, perhaps because the plot centers around DNA, however I think it would be difficult for a reader to know what kind of books this is. It says this is a “An inspector Erlendur novel” but as this is the first book published about that character in the UK, how would a customer know what that means? This would not work very well in a digital environment as the smaller text would be ineligible.

It seems to have taken time to figure out the best design for a novel such as this, as these examples show. Another thing a publisher must keep in mind is the best way to brand a book so that customers will remember and hopefully become loyal to it. As the brand is usually not the publisher or the imprint it is normally the author – except, like in this case, when it might be difficult for customer to remember them (Arnaldur Indriðason is not the easiest name to for a foreign readership). So in this case an effort has been made to make the series the brand; the US calls these books “A Reykjavik Thriller”, by 2009 the UK publisher had made up the “A Reykjavík Murder Mystery” series, a title which can be found on all of Arnaldur’s subsequent novels:


700x0Here you can begin to recognize the signature look; Jar City – A Reykjavík Murder Mystery, accompanied by the same font, the same place at the top for the title, the same place at the bottom for the author name, and a beautiful, mysterious, almost other-worldly image (of course of Icelandic nature) in a bold, easily detectable colour, which will stand out on a digital device and as a thumbnail. You can see that the look of the book has developed through the years while the standard, recognizable cover design for Nordic Noir has been defined over the years (the focus being on a bleak, desolated, chilly nature, where anything can happen). With this series I must say I believe that they have designed these covers perfectly for Nordic Noir as well as for a digital age – I even want my own copies for my bookshelf, though I as an Icelander have no reason to read a translation of Arnaldur’s works.

Science Fiction: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Adam Douglas

Science fiction has a long, complicated history which, for the sake of my mental health, I will not go into here. Let’s suffice to say that it has been around for a long while, and is quite diverse. However, unlike the fantasy genre, which is all the rage these days, science fiction nowadays is more on the fringe, read mostly by science fiction geeks (a term which I use with affection). Maybe that is because we live in the future, that is the technology that people dreamed of during the Golden Age of science fiction is now a part of our everyday lives. Instead of dreaming about it, we are used to crazy ideas becoming a reality.

Taking a look at Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy, published in 1978, this overview will show that, despite science fiction being on the fringe, the genre has nevertheless seen a development from its established genre look towards a more current, minimalistic design, just as its close relative, fantasy. Lets however start with the original cover for HHGTTG from 1978:


It is interesting how “normal” this cover looks, that is that there is nothing that reminds people of space, aliens or any kind of alien technology. Perhaps it’s because the book is based on a radio series which was quite famous, meaning that the title alone was enough to sell the book and it wasn’t necessary for the publisher to rely on a fancy cover to sell the book. This trend continues with later editions, such as this one from 1986:



It isn’t yet science fiction as we know it: the background isn’t immediately recognizable as space, nevertheless the font definitely belongs to the science fiction family. Science fiction as we know it, however, is apparent in this cover design from 1995:


Here we have background image of a galaxy, clearly signaling the genre, with science fiction typeface and a bold, green colour, all of which are indicators of science fiction. This is also a book which encompasses all five books of the series which are more often than not sold together in a single volume, as they are in this next one from 2002:


On this cover we find the aforementioned elements of science fiction, as well as an image that has been and will continue to be an icon for HHGTTG, such as on this 25th anniversary edition which was published in 2003. The cover was updated from an earlier version which was first published in 1984:


It is curious that instead of making a more contemporary cover for the celebration, the publisher chose to go back to the roots with this antiquated cover . It seems to be made for fans, instead of trying to reach a new or a different audience; like the other covers its focus is on space and the lunacy of the plot. On the other hand the idea might just be to make the book stand out as science fiction, an instantly recognizable bestseller, the classic from the late 70’s, which could explain why new editions look like they were made in the past, such as this one from 2004:


It makes sense to appeal to fans in this way, after all if they love science fiction they may very well be fans of the genre’s cover art, almost just as much as of the book itself.

Five years later the 30th anniversary was celebrated, proving what an iconic book this is (how many books do you know of that are celebrated every 5 years?). This time they had a little fun, the cover is quite simplistic for the genre and in comparison to previous covers of the book, however a limited edition was also developed where fans got a set of stickers with the book so that they could decorate their own cover as they wished. See first the anniversary cover:


With stickers:


And the subsequent four covers (the first one was the only one that came with stickers):

RS HHGG_allbooks

Those covers, published in 2008, are of course quite recent and one of the few versions of HHGTTG that have a modernized look. There are still some crazy, recognizable figures/objects on the cover but this series has toned down the previous lunacy of the older covers, maybe because of the anniversary (though that is not the case for the 25th version), maybe to link them to the fantasy literature that is selling well these days (these covers do resemble the Song of Ice and Fire/Hunger Games/Lord of the Rings look that has been discussed here before), or perhaps in the hopes of reaching a wider, more mainstream audience. The question is, is there a mainstream audience to reach?

Whether or not it is it has still appealed to designers to make an updated version of the series. These covers were designed by Rob McDonald who wanted to create ” a set of consistent, minimalist book covers”, seen here:


The Hitchhiker’s Guide of the Galaxy has, as these examples show, gotten the contemporary, uncomplicated treatment, as has been the case with many other novels across genres. And yet, with the publication of the sixth HHGTTG novel, written by Eoin Colfer and published in 2009, the cover of this new book is just as crazy as the covers of the former book have ever been, complete with a galaxy background et al:

And Anothing Thing

I believe that these types of covers are the right choice for the genre. The covers may sport brighter colours and bigger fonts to help sell the book online, but that does not mean that these covers shouldn’t look like science fiction and for that purpose I think it should always be obvious that the book takes place in space – just as I want to be able to pick out my Chick Lit novel at the airport on the basis of a girlish image, flowery font and pastel coloured covers alone.

Chick Lit: Straight Talking by Jane Green

Chick Lit is a term used to describe a genre that originated in the 1990’s, which is written by women for women and centers on their everyday lives, their struggles, essentially the issues they face at work, with their family and friends, and in their search of love. The genre began with such publications as Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary in 1996, as well as Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City in novel form. Jane Green, a British, now US based, author is one of the founding members of this genre; her first novel, Straight Talking, was published in 1997. Since then she has published numerous bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here is the first UK edition of the novel from 1997:


As you can see this cover is vastly different from those that Chick Lit readers are used to these days (why a leopard cover? Very un-appealing, no froth, or frills, and least of all fun). The reason may be, as with Lad Lit, that there was no formula in place by then that could dictate a certain look which could guarantee a receptive audience – after all a new genre must be introduced to its readership before readers are able to recognize the books that belong to it. Lastly it can take trial and error until one of these books becomes a bestseller, at which point publishers have a successful cover to imitate in the hopes of achieving similar results.

This is how the novel looked when it was re-issued in 2003:


Frankly, I like this cover even worse than the original, mostly because I don’t feel it says anything about the novel. The wholesome, clean look reminds me, for some reason, of maternity books (most of the time they have a white cover, to indicate health perhaps?). I feel like this book would give me some kind of clinical advice at least.

2003 was also the year that Straight talking was released in the US (although it was Green’s first book it was not the first of her books to be published in the US) and we finally start seeing the Chick Lit “signature look”. These covers are from 2002 and 2003:



Here he have the flowery font, the beige colour, the silhouette drawings that,  I believe, enable readers to imagine the characters’ appearance in any way they want (making it easier for each reader to identify with the protagonist). These covers are romantic, dreamy, and the reader knows what she is getting when buying this book.

Even though there is a development from the earlier covers to the recent ones who bear what has now become a “traditional” Chick Lit cover, the digital environment does not, in general, seem to have had much influence on the cover art. It seems that it is not prudent to deviate too much from this known Chick Lit look, not even to help with online sales. If you take a look at this list you may see a slight change, the font may be bigger (Green’s name is more prominent), the colour palette more often than not belonging to the pastel family (making the font easier to read) but the typeface, the flowery, dreamy text stays the same. These books are intended for a certain audience and the readers must be able to pick them out easily, which seems to be more important than how the covers look online (though one could argue that need not be mutually exclusive).

It is possible to get Straight Talking from eBookDownloads with this very simple cover:



However, when I look at this cover I don’t see a Chick Lit novel. Maybe that works for people who don’t care about covers at all. But I believe it is possible to make a cover that looks like a Chick Lit novel and is easy to view as a thumbnail and on digital devices. If I had to choose, I would pick the Chick Lit-y, difficult-to-read-the-font-on-Amazon cover over this one any day.

Lad Lit: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

According to, Lad Lit is simply “fiction about young men and their emotional and personal lives”; essentially the male equivalent to the more recognized Chick Lit genre, which adresses the issues of the modern woman in a light-hearted way. British author Nick Hornby started the trend, first in 1992 with his autobiographical story The Fever Pitch from 1992, which focused on his obsession with the British football team Arsenal. The Lad Lit trend officially began with his first novel, High Fidelity, which was published in 1995 and told the story of Rob, a record store owner in his mid-thirties who has just been left by his girlfriend and is reluctant to grow up. Anyone who wishes to read more about Lad Lit should check this out.

However, back to the covers. Here is the original cover of High Fidelity from 1995:


This cover is simple, with only a picture of a young man, the title and the author’s name. This is before Nick Hornby made a name for himself as well as being the first Lad Lit book, which might explain the simplicity. I can’t help but feel that the publisher didn’t exactly know how to market this book, as it was the beginning of a new genre. This cover doesn’t tell you anything about the contents of this book, although that would soon change with the next set of covers. Before getting to that however, let’s first take a quick look at this Popular Penguins cover:



This is just to show that High Fidelity does have a modern, simple cover, quite different from the original version, and from those that came later. And while I understand why it would be a part of this series (easy to pick out online, as mentioned in earlier posts) I can’t help but feel that this is not what Nick Hornby, or Lad Lit, is about. Hornby’s world is more messy, insecure and unsure of itself, more artistic and colourful, filled with passion for music and sports. Other covers do reflect that, one of those being a 2011 cover by Penguin Ink, which I particularly like:


This cover, as you can see quite clearly, is made by a tattoo artist. Even though I am not a fan of tattoos I still like this look, it does focus on the music, which is an important part of the book, and it appeals to men rather than women, which Lad Lit is written for (though I am a woman and I love this book, and I know I am not the only one). All in all this cover is a fresh take on the book, and it definitely stands out as cover art.

As you can see, despite the original cover and the simplistic look of Popular Penguins, there has been a development over the years, not necessarily towards a simpler, more modern look but instead more focused on the genre throughout (perhaps because there is now a better understanding of this new genre). Here is an example from 2010:


Now the focus is finally on what the book is about; the potential readers of this book can see that it is about music, about a young guy, rock and roll and from a time of vinyl, compilation tapes, and “real” music (no iPods, CD’s, and no autotune). This cover suggests a certain atmosphere, a way of living, which should tell you what you are getting. And even with more modernized versions the focus is always put on the music, as can been seen on this cover from 2000:


While the text here is big and bold, and accompanied by a bold colour, making it quite modern, music is still at the cornerstone of the cover art. The same can be said about the next cover, also from 2000:



Again the focus is on music, the image being of a box filled with vinyl records. This seems to suggest that, in the same way that Chick Lit has dreamy covers, usually with couples on them or at least of a girl, the protagonist, the covers of Lad Lit are meant to attract male readers through their favorite hobbies.

Obviously, as the book is still in copyright, the covers we see here are from Penguin, the publisher of the book, which means that no other publisher has been able to make a version of their own. And yet, as Hornby himself points out, reprints and the attempts by publishers to continue selling books off a backlist means that new covers are still being designed in order to reach a new, or a different, audience, which also means that the “original” version is no longer as important as it was. On a positive note it also means that there is a broader spectrum in the covers made, instead of a single, iconic cover. In the case of High Fidelity it means that publishers got the chance to take a book which they perhaps did not know how to market, and re-design the look and feel more appropriately as the genre began to develop, making it possible to reach the right target audience.