Kernels of Nonsense: Cover Redesign

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I discuss various book related topics. I originally had another post planned, but then Friday happened.

Cover redesigning seems like a great idea on the surface. If you’re a publisher. And you’re looking to sell more books. So you think changing the covers might appeal to a wider audience. But if you’re a reader and especially if you’re the kind of reader that takes pride in their book collection, book redesigns can be a nightmare.

Way back when Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken came out, this was the cover. And if you’re familiar with this amazing series, you’d agree that this cover’s whimsical feel does fit the strange atmosphere of the little town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Personally, I love covers that are more akin to illustrations than ones which feature real people (especially when those models do not resemble the characters in the book at all). This happens to be one of my favorite covers ever.

Then the publisher decided it was a good idea to change the covers. I don’t know all the details surrounding this change, so perhaps the artist did not want to do the next two covers, but I do know that when I saw the second book’s cover, I was really disappointed. This new design lacked the kind of personality the story deserved. I would never reach for this book on the shelf to find out more. It’s boring, unoriginal, and tells me nothing about the book. I’ve had issues with covers before and this is probably the one that’s upset me the most, that is until now…

So you’re probably wondering why I suddenly changed my topic for this week’s discussion post and that’s because one of my beloved book series is getting a makeover. Just when the last book is about to be released. And I am not happy about it. The first two book covers (two incredibly beautiful perfect covers) look like this…

…and will now be accompanied by a third cover that looks like this…

When I first saw this, I was upset. If you don’t own the first two books, I can’t properly explain to you how beautiful they are. And so, for aesthetic reasons, I really wanted this last book to feature the protagonist in a similar pose and attire. I’m the kind of bookworm who wants my books to match. I don’t like it when I own one book in a series in paperback and the other two in hardcover (I’m working on accepting this), so something like this is a little upsetting.

And for my own peace of mind, even though this cover doesn’t make the most sense when it comes to the series’ main character, Kestrel, I wanted to believe that the circumstances that occurred at the end of the second book and what happens in the third might explain this stark difference between the first covers and this last one.

But then I had a look at the other two books’ redesign…

Oh, no. No, no, no, no. This is awful. Are these covers beautiful in their own way? Sure. Do these covers show an awesome female warrior you might be interested in reading? Absolutely. Do these covers represent who we know Kestrel to be? Not at all. If you’re familiar with this series, you would know that even though Kestrel has grown up in a society that celebrates war and takes pride in physical strength and skills, she is not a fighter. At least, she isn’t in the traditional sense. For much of the series Kestrel is stuck in an impossible situation and she uses her head to get out of it (or more into it). She has to rely on her mental strengths because she isn’t a warrior, she can’t best anyone in a physical fight. And these covers feel more deceptive, the more you understand about her character.

And then the tweet came. This is probably more upsetting than any cover redesign. After everyone was led to believe that the cover for the last book in this trilogy would be this one, we are now learning that even the hardcover will not retain the original design.

When a blogger asked if the hardcover would still be this one which was revealed not too long ago, @FierceReads had this to say: “The red dress is not happening, we wanted Kestrel to look as bad*** as she is so we thought a redesign was in order!” Everyone was in an uproar. Was this person implying that being in a pretty dress did not equal “bad***”, that in order to be “bad***”, you have to be able to wield a sword? What kind of message is this sending?

But maybe I’m pointing the finger at the wrong person. Another author on Twitter who followed what happened reminded readers that sometimes it’s book store chains that call for cover redesigns because they believe these books won’t sell as well with the old design. This does nothing to make me less angry over the redesigning or the tweet, but it does want me to give the publisher perhaps the benefit of the doubt. I also don’t believe in judging someone solely on one tweet. Haven’t we all had moments where we wish we could take back something we’ve said, either because we didn’t mean it or we didn’t think it fully through?

But this situation does give one pause, making you realize (once again) that society has such a limited perception of what a strong woman should look like. Traditional feminine qualities are still thought of as weak and it is only when a woman embraces traditional male qualities that she can be called strong.

I’m just hoping (and maybe begging) for the publisher to reconsider this change. Not necessarily entirely, but perhaps those readers who prefer the red dress cover can have a chance to purchase this edition of the book instead.

How do you feel about cover redesigns? How do you think publishers should handle them? Are you a fellow Winner’s Trilogy fan who’s in an uproar? Share your thoughts in the comments and let’s discuss!