What is it with books getting republished with atrocious covers? It happens all the time when I read a library book more than a decade old, decide I like the series, drop by Collins or Dymocks to buy it and find that it’s been re-issued with some terrible new cover.

Let me show you an example in Green Mars, the middle novel in Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic Mars trilogy. I’m not using for its literary value (since I still can’t make up my mind whether I like the trilogy or not; granted, Green Mars is the best of the three), but rather because it’s a perfect example of covers that gradually slide down the sucky slope.

Here’s the first cover, for the original edition in 1993. (edit: Closer inspection reveals that it is not, in fact, the original cover; that was probably the airship one. But doing them in anything but best-to-worst order would kill the argument so shut up.)

It’s a great science fiction cover. Nice illustrations, montage of scenes, captures the vast and beautiful nature of the story etc. Couldn’t be happier with it.

A few years down the track we have this:

Okay, not too shabby. Less impressive than the last one, but still a pretty good cover. Airship over green field, snow on Mars, sense of adventure. Let’s see how things go for the next reissue in the late 90’s…

…Oh dear.

Gone is the colourful hand-drawn illustration of the previous two covers, replaced with computer generated rubbish that reminds me of the shitty CGI desktops you find when using Google Image search for practically anything. I’ve seen the versions of this cover for Red and Blue Mars, too; it’s essentially the same canyon, but bare red/filled with water respectively. This is a vomit-worthy cover, but still better than the most recent one, a publication only a few years old which I found in my local Borders:




No matter how bad a cover is, it’s always better than no cover at all, which is essentially what this one is. It’s not even fucking green. If you’re going to have a blank cover with a tiny picture, for this of all trilogies, at least use different fucking colours instead of making them all blue.

Another example: the original publication for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Tedium Time series, and the 2000s version which is the only one you will ever be able to find in a modern bookstore.

Which would you prefer? Image or no image? The question is rhetorical and anyone who responds to it will be shot.

I don’t know why they do this. Some people have suggested that it’s a copyright issue; that the cover artist retains the rights and refuses to lease them again for a republication of the same book. If that’s the case, why not just hire a new artist?

Or is the truth much stupider? Do the marketing people at all these publishing houses think readers actually want these dull, boring, bland, generic covers with no zazz to them whatsoever? Is that why they try to push them as “collector’s editions?”

I’m not averse to having different covers for different press editions of the same book. It makes them more interesting. But every cover should actually be eye-catching, i.e. have a fucking picture of something on it. Should I ever have something published, and then have it re-published with a cover that has absolutely no allure to it, I will… I will get very huffy but do nothing about it because I’ll be lucky enough to have a book on the market, that’s what I’ll do.