On January 18th Neil Gaiman himself tweeted an announcement that several of his books will be getting new covers throughout 2021, and the tweet was accompanied by a slideshow video preview of minimalist watercolour designs by Henry Sene Yee on mockups of his books. Rumour has it there are actually multiple sets of special releases coming for Gaiman’s work. Let’s talk about that and judge a few great books by their (new) covers.
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A couple of these covers haven’t been revealed yet, but you can get excited looking at the HarperCollins listing for the new editions. Since Gaiman himself provided inspiration for these minimalist covers, is excited to see these special reprints coming, and has approved all of the covers, anything we fans have to say is secondary. I do believe that if the author is truly happy with the covers their books get, then that’s all that truly matters.
But that would be a boring and short article, wouldn’t it?
If you follow me on YouTube or if you’ve taken the time to poke around this site then you’ll know I’m an illustrator, and more specifically that I love working in watercolour. Armed with that knowledge, it would be fair to assume that I’m super excited about these covers, but I’m not. I’m not one for minimalism, and though I can appreciate well done abstract art, I generally don’t want it adorning my own walls. When it comes to book covers, I want the cover to grab my attention, make me pick up the book, and hint at what’s inside. I don’t think most of these covers do that.
Neverwhere‘s new cover features the suggestion of a staircase in a cool-to-warm purple gradient. This is definitely one of the ones that actually catches my eye, but it didn’t immediately make me think of the story within.
Neverwhere is about the paranormal city beneath the city of London. When I see a staircase without context I immediately think of going up, not down. The fact that the gradient progresses from a dark colour at the bottom to a bright colour at the top reinforces this. If I knew nothing about this book besides title and genre and made a guess on what it’s about based solely on this particular cover, I would think it has something to do with heaven or some other world in the clouds.
What about you? Do you like this one? What does the purple staircase make you think of? Would this one make you pick up the book?
Stardust‘s new cover features a yellow orb in a mottled blue sky. At first glance I thought it was the sun, but then I read the title and realized it’s a single star. Knowing this book well, I think this imagery is perfect and will be appreciated by those who’ve read the book (or seen the film) as this is Yvaine before Tristan knocked her from the sky.
The artistic style choices made in this one remind me of Van Gogh’s style. Yes, I’m thinking of piece like Starry Night. Don’t you see it? The swirling sky, the cobalt blue and cadmium yellow. As a fan of Gaiman’s books and this one in particular, and as someone who could use a new, undamaged copy of this masterpiece, I wouldn’t be disappointed to receive a copy of this edition (or find it’s the only option if I went looking to buy a new copy.)
That said, remember how I said I thought it was the sun at first? New readers unfamiliar with this book will probably think so too, and that says nothing at all about this book. Do you agree? Think I’m overthinking it?
Anansi Boys‘ new cover features a collection of vertical brush strokes in orange and red. I’ll admit I haven’t read this one myself, so I don’t know what it’s about and can’t comment on how well the cover matches. What I can say is that with the help of the title, which implies a group of people, I start to see the brush strokes as people, either stylistically elongated or with their shadows. The choice to add red to the top of the yellow brush strokes add to the impression that these lines have heads.
At the same time, I can see people interpreting this cover differently. Another alternate image I see quite easily is matches, particularly because of the warm, fiery colours. It also looks like a barcode.
Would it make me pick up the book and read the back? Probably. Do I want this particular cover on my shelf instead of the other editions out there? No.
If you’ve read Anansi Boys, do you think this cover fits? If not, does this cover interest you? I’m curious!
American Gods‘ new cover is sagging horizontal red stripes, and I hate it. Some people have pointed out that they think it’s the stripes of the American flag (like it’s so obvious) but given that Gaiman is both more subtle than that and not American himself, I highly doubt that’s the meaning behind this piece. Some have said it’s blood red, and that makes more sense.
What do I think it looks like? It looks like I’m standing far too close to someone’s striped tshirt, or possibly a beach towel. If you know nothing about this book and don’t make the flag association, it says nothing at all about the story.
What do you think? Are you seeing something I missed?
The Graveyard Book‘s new cover is a square in two shades of grey that does look a lot like stone covers for a book to me, so I guess it’s appropriate.
Would it make me look closer? No, but to be fair the title alone would. Do I like this design? Not at all.
This one feels really lazy and somehow both not specific enough and yet too on the nose.
I’m really curious to know what you think. Do you like it? Is it a good representation of the book? Would it make you pick this one up if you knew nothing about The Graveyard Book?
Coraline‘s new cover is a pair of eye shapes in a payne’s grey shade. If you already know the story of Coraline, it kind of makes sense. Replaced beings in the alternate reality Coraline accidentally travels to are betrayed by their black button eyes. So yes, eyes are important. But the eyes on this cover aren’t round like buttons, they’re almond shades like lidded human eyes in a slight squint.
I must say though, points for using payne’s grey rather than black or a dark valued flat, neutral grey. I like the complexity of the shade chosen and how it has been allowed to show its mix of pigments. It’s interesting to look at.
Would it make me pick up the book, though? I’m not sure it would. It makes me think of the mask the Hamburgler wears, and thus suggests a crime drama. That’s obviously not at all what Coraline is.
What do you think?
Trigger Warning‘s new cover is a series of vertical brush strokes, somewhat connected, in a rainbow of secondary and diluted colours. This is a collection of short stories, so it’s difficult to come up with a single symbol to represent it, but I think you’ll all agree this swatch test doesn’t say anything about the contents at all.
Given that the subtitle is “Short Fictions and Disturbance,” I would have gone with something more to do with psychology. Something suggesting a Rorschach blot image might be more appropriate.
Do I like this one? No. Would it make me pick it up? No.
What about you?
Fragile Things‘ new cover is two warm-toned blobs that vaguely suggest wings to me, which reminds me of the cover on the edition I own which features a bee. For that reason, and that reason alone, I think it fits. This one is once again an anthology of short stories and therefore quite difficult to represent with a single symbol.
But if I had never seen another edition of Fragile Things would this look like anything in particular? Possibly not. Probably not. Would it make me pick it up? No.
Would it make you pick it up? What symbol would you pick for this collection?
Smoke and Mirrors is yet another collection of short stories, and the new cover in this case absolutely looks like a bunch of smoke. So, win?
I like this one. It works.
(I’m trying to take up vertical space to get past this one. I’ve said what I have to say about anthologies twice already.)
Would I pick this one up based on this cover? Maybe. Do I like it for this book? Yes.
What about you?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane‘s new cover is a field of sea colours, which makes a lot of sense. The original cover showed a girl swimming up toward the surface, so this one automatically lacks that volume (pun intended) of story hinting detail… but then I looked closer and the darker part in the top right of the watercolours looks like a face in profile. It looks masculine to me, so instead of the cover being about the girl from the main character’s childhood, this time it’s about him.
Do I like it? Not as much as the original, but yes. Would I be enticed to pick this one up? Probably.
What do you think?