From Russia with Covers

A Russian fan recently directed me to this site, which gives a full accounting of books by my Russian alter-ego, Скотт Вестерфельд. (Technically, Скотт is not an alter-ego, given that he is, in fact, me. But I prefer to imagine him as an actual other person, reading this post and chuckling as he consumes champagne and caviar, surrounded by all the author’s copies that my Russian publishers never bother to send me.)

I’ve always enjoyed Скотт’s covers, which have a pulpish fabulosity that makes my own covers seem restrained, almost priggish, in comparison. So I thought a series of posts examining his work would be fun.

Let’s look first at Скотт’s Midnighters series. These books have had no fewer than three separate sets of covers. Whether this is because Скотт is astonishingly popular or simply because this series has never gained traction, I have no idea. (Someone would have to send me some royalty statements in order for me to take a guess. Hint, hint.)

Anyway, here are the first two Midnighters covers, published in 2006:

These covers are fairly true to the books in their details (13-pointed stars, small-town buildings, all sort of metal weaponry) but the central figures are somewhat bizarre. First note that Jonathan Martinez (um, Hispanic) and Jessica Day (textually a red head) are both blond and blue-eyed here. That’s whitewashing in its most aggressive form—Aryanization.

Also odd is the subway train looming up behind Dess in Book 2. Note to Russian artist: there are no subways in Bixby, Oklahoma. The stimulus bill wasn’t that big.

But it turns out that these covers have been replaced, so let’s move on. This is what they looked like in 2008:

Holy guacamole, that’s a different look. The whitewashing is pretty much over with Jonathan, and Jess has arguably reddish hair. Of course, everyone is suddenly in bondage leather, which might not be strictly canonical (or even purchasable in small-town Oklahoma). But the energy in these covers is lovely.

I also like that Dess is on Book 1, while Jessica and Jonathan have been moved to Book 2. Because everyone likes Dess better. Plus, this Dess is much more awesome than wimpy oop-I-fell-over Dess from the first set of covers.

But this take on the series didn’t last either. A little book called Сумерки came out, which was about some dude who sparkled, and there was a sudden call for everything to look a bit more . . . vampire-y.

So these are the books in their current form:


A little more urban fantasy, and apparently a bit more successful, given that we finally have a cover for Book 3 in this style:


So . . . Buffy. And yes, Jonathan has been white-washed again, but without blond hair at least.

It’s worth noting that these three covers have the least to do with the books. The 2006 and 2008 covers could be stared at after reading the books, and you’d find lots of little easter eggy details from the text. These are more generic.

Which brings me to a broader point: Everyone in marketing says that the most important thing a cover can do is sell the book to someone who knows nothing about the novel. In other words, a cover is merely advertising space, and doesn’t need to be true to the text, just eye-catching. But this notion misses what happens over the longer term.

If we readers can return to the cover after we’ve bought and consumed the novel and find new connections between word and image, it strengthens our bond with the book and the series as a whole. And the most important advertising for any novel is, after all, a satisfied reader. I wish publishers would get over the whole first-impression thing and think harder about long-term relationships. (Indeed, it would probably be nice if everyone would do this about almost everything. But that’s a bigger issue.)

In other words, I like the second set of covers best, pulp-tastic and yet mostly true to the story, and full of details from the text. Midnighters is, after all, more about kicking darkling ass than sparkly romance.

One day, my Russian publishers may send me royalty statements, and I can tell you whether or not this theory is full of bosh.

And for those of you who don’t know the Midnighters series, here are the current US covers:


I’ll be blogging the Russian Peeps, Uglies, and other covers soon. There are also a new set of UK covers for Midnighters in the works, and I’ll be touching on those as well.

Till then, enjoy.

54 thoughts on “From Russia with Covers

  1. По моему потрясающие обложки, как не крути, пускай и с недочетами!
    Ну и я была бы очень рада если бы с серии “Uglies” появилась третья обложка, вместе >.<

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