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Foreign Edition Book Cover Design

2010 January 9

I finished the Dick Francis novel Even Money last night. A good installment in his series of mysteries, quite enjoyable. This morning I noticed something funny about the cover, though: it depicts American currency in spite of the plot (which takes place in England) involving not a single greenback. There are piles of cash, but all Sterling or Australian Dollars. The UK edition, naturally, depicts British currency:

Even Money US and UK editions

Left: U.S. cover showing Yankee Dollars, Right: British edition showing Pounds Sterling

It’s customary in publishing to have separate editions of a book for specific, usually national, markets. Presumably it’s also custom to entrust the cover design to someone local to a particular market; although I work with several editors based overseas, most of the book covers I design are for the U.S. market.

With translated editions, this is of course inescapable: the book’s content, and in most cases title, will be different, so you’ve obviously got a unique edition and even if cover art is reused, there will have to be a new layout. What I find fascinating, though, are the different editions prepared for the U.S. and British markets, even though we speak essentially the same language and, in this globalized era, the few differences in spelling, etc., are unlikely to cause confusion.

Yet there are always different covers; probably more to marketing departments’ experience with what will sell the book here vs. there than to specific cross-cultural concerns. Admittedly, in the case of Even Money, a cover featuring Sterling notes would not have the same iconographic punch for an American audience as American currency, strange as it is with no such bills being present in the story. In any event, multiple designs are good news for us working designers.

Also good news for the curious as, with the internet, one can easily visit an author’s web site or a UK publisher or bookseller site, and pore over all the cover designs which you won’t see on local shelves.

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