Judging Books by their Covers

While browsing my online library catalogue, this book caught my eye:

It captured me not because of its great reviews but because I could have sworn it was in my TBR pile with a different name. I searched through the pile and found this:

Ah yes. Not quite the same book. Extremely similar cover, completely different book.

Apparently, this happens every now and then. Sometimes in a worse way:

Sheesh. They didn’t even change the kid’s clothes on that one.  (Check out this Huffington Post article for more examples.)

(A word to designers here: if you’re buying usage rights to images that other people can buy usage rights for, maybe fiddle with the image a tad. By Gaslight is a wild re-envisioning in comparison with Long Drive Home.)

How do you feel when a new book comes out that has almost the same cover as your still-quite-recent book? Amused? Annoyed? Delighted? Honoured? (I’m thinking annoyed.)

But maybe a similar cover is an advantage, so long as the contents are good. Humans like the familiar, after all. And even a duplicate cover won’t lose a book any fans if the contents are awesome. Mockingbird and Long Drive Home are a perfect example of that. (Still, both were reprinted with new, not-as-good-but-at-least-unique covers:)


Todd Babiak’s Come Barbarians was published in 2013 with HarperCollins. Steven Price’s By Gaslight was published in 2016 by McClelland & Stewart. Both have had great reviews. And they’re both fine-looking books. By Gaslight was in fact voted a Best Cover of 2016 (annoying the Come Barbarians designer, I’m sure).

I confess that I bought Come Barbarians because of the cool cover. It’s that attractive. In both versions. I wouldn’t change it if I was either one of them.

In fact, I’m thinking the foggy green cobblestone street is good for at least one more novel. Change the coat to a cape and add a  wizard in a window, and it would be perfect for a thrilling fantasy. Any takers?

2 comments on “Judging Books by their Covers

  1. have you seen the site Lousybookcovers(dot)com? I like what you’ve explored here and offer that as a place for more bad covers. (Not that I’m a fan of the site; they featured my cover there last summer—i still laugh about their comments, which revealed more of their own shortcomings than mine, but that’s a long story).

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