More Reasons Not To Judge A Book By Its Cover

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - US and Swedish covers

In an interesting article in The Observer, Tom Lamont wonders why books are given different covers for each country they are published in, something not done for other types of media like movies and CDs. He interviews a few cover designers who attribute the changes in a book’s cover as an attempt to capture the cultural sensibilities of each individual country. However, at least one of the designers he talked to is skeptical “about book buyers being so different in each country that they require different covers.”

International cover design is something that came to my attention after reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (read my review here). The US version seemed harmless with it’s brightly colored cover and benign title, so I was shocked by the horrific violence that it contained. After reading it, I discovered the original Swedish title was “Men Who Hate Women” and in Sweden it was published with a more graphic cover. Take a look at the US cover on the above left and the Swedish cover on the right (Photo above).

It’s hard to believe they’re both the same book, right? I understand why they changed it (I can’t see the Swedish cover selling well in the US) but I don’t think the pretty colors capture the essence of the book AT ALL. In fact, I felt duped by the cover-like I had been sold one thing, but actually got another. I get that the publisher wanted to market The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo differently in the US, I just think they went a little too far and actually tried to obscure the true nature of the book.

So even though I think they changed the cover too much in the case of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I do think they needed to change it if they wanted it to sell in the US. But not all books necessitate a cover change abroad. While searching online, I must have seen four different covers for The Brightest Star in the Sky by Irish author Marian Keyes, each one a bland variation on a star theme. I think in that case, one cover would have sufficed.

Have you ever read a book with a cover that didn’t match the content? Have you noticed differences in book covers in your country versus internationally? Leave a comment below!

Print This Post Print This Post

Please make sure to read our comment policy before posting a comment.