Diary of a series redesign… The Hidden by Lian Tanner

In news just to hand: everybody in the entirety of the world judges books by their covers. That is what covers are for, to help the reader judge: What is this book and is it for me? The book cover design process is exciting and inspiring, hard and frustrating, an art, a craft and a compromise. And we thought you might like a little peek behind the scenes.

The Hidden, Lian Tanner’s terrific fantasy series for younger readers, is going to have a set of beautiful new covers. We know they will be beautiful, even though they don’t exist yet.

Currently, the Hidden series looks like this:

Liam Tanner's Hidden Series The gorgeous illustrations are by Sebastian Ciaffaglione (That’s also Seb’s work on the glorious Old Kingdom covers) and the awesome design by Design by Committee. I have a little happy sigh whenever I see them all together. So why redo them?

A big part of publishing is working out ways to keep our books in bookstores and reaching new readers. A new cover can keep a book fresh, appeal to new readers, give a series new life, and ultimately sell more books.

It’s also fun and exciting! You get to design the whole series in one go, and you can think about it differently. It’s like trying on lots of dresses to go to a party.

We thought you might be interested to see how the process of redesigning a series works from start to finish. From blank canvas to finished books – we will bring you all the hair-tearing and high-fiving as it happens.

So here we are at the very beginning (a very good place to start)…

Step one – choose a cover direction

Before we brief a designer or illustrator, we have to choose a style, a direction, a look for the series. Which specific readers do we want to entice? Which books will our series sit alongside in bookstores? What sells well in this genre? What sets The Hidden apart from other books? How do we want the new covers to look different from the first covers?

The Possibilities

American Hidden Series Covers1) The US covers. The Hidden series is published in the USA by Feiwel and Friends. We could consider buying their covers for our editions.

  • Pros: the hard work is already done, the books would look the same across markets.
  • Things to consider: are these covers right for our Australian market?

2) The author tie-in. Lian’s previous series The Keepers are huge bestsellers. Do we want to make a stronger visual connection with them? Do we want to build a look for Lian’s books that spans all her different series? (The Catherine Jinks cover is another series we publish for this age group that has something of the same feel as The Keepers but a slightly different execution.)

The Keepers series

  • Pros: strong author branding, recognisable to the age group.
  • Things to consider: do we risk confusing readers and booksellers?

3) The action cover. Realistic illustration, lots of movement, looks like a movie poster or a still from video game, series branding is more important than book title.

Action

  • Pros: Really visually strong and recognisable for the age-group, true to the action and adventure in the books, looks commercial and inviting.
  • Things to consider: difficult to execute well. Do we want to shift the emphasis to the series title? And if so, is The Hidden still the right title?

4) The left-field option. There is a trend in the market for fantasy for younger readers to have a gentler aesthetic – a more old-fashioned, classical, or dare-we-say-it hipsterish feel.

Hipster

  • Pros: a radically different look than our first covers, could be on-trend and zeitgiesty.
  • Things to consider: Does it feel true to the books? Does it signal the right kind of reading experience?

The Process

There’s a lot to think about here, and a lot at stake. We – that’s the publisher (SC) and the editor (KW) – we can’t make that decision alone. We need help from the people who will be selling and marketing and publicising the book. We need The Covers Meeting…

We’ll let you know how we go… and if you have any thoughts on the covers or queries about the  process, let us know in the comments!

  • Judy Watson

    This is a very interesting post. My 11 year old son would definitely be drawn to the current covers or the action covers… possibly too, the US covers but he may be a little intimidated by them. I strongly suspect I couldn’t persuade him to read these books in the left-field covers. But those are the ones I’d buy! It must be SO difficult to decide. I do understand the reasons for re-designing the covers, but the current designs are great.

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