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Books, Print design

No sloppy seconds: designing series, second books and second (and third, etc.) editions

Recently a client asked me about designing the cover for the second edition of her book. She wanted to maintain the look of the first book.

“That’s a good idea,” I said.

“Oh, good,” she said, tension leaving her voice. “Other designers wanted to change it all together.”

The first edition cover was a reasonable design. There was nothing ground-breaking or super unique about it from a design point of view. However, there were elements that the author considered part of her brand: a font and the use of certain photographs. It made sense to stay the course on this one.

It can be difficult to decide how to handle another edition of the same book. A publisher might decide to stay the course on hold onto the established branding and create loyalty. Or a publisher might decide to freshen up a cover design and try to gain more exposure and more sales with a new look. I’ve worked on series designs, second books by the same author, paperback editions of hardcover books and revised editions. For many of these, my recommendation is to stay the course design-wise and leave the cover be. There are exceptions to that rule though and I’ll run through these situations one at a time.

When to redesign a book in a series

This is probably where it’s most obvious to continue the same look on covers in a series. After all, they will all sit on the shelf together (or show up in Amazon together). There are times when a cover needs to change. It’s time to revisit the cover design when a series has run its course and sales are dipping. For a series that selling well (think Harry Potter), releasing an edition with a new cover to take advantage of its popularity can sell more books.

Designing another edition of the same book (or a revised edition)

To get more mileage from the same content, it makes sense to release another edition of the same book. For traditional publishers, that’s usually a hardcover edition and then a less expensive paperback edition. If a paperback is wildly successful, this might reverse with a more expensive hardcover. A book with long legs might have several editions, each with an different cover. Or a book might be rereleased with some revised content. I think that there should be a compelling reason to change the cover for another edition of the book. Hardcover to paperback, keep the same cover. I might redesign for a special hardcover edition, especially if the first cover is nothing special. A book that stays in print for years and is re-released, a new cover design is a great way to keep the book fresh. In a similar manner, revising some content and re-releasing with a new cover can put a book back on shelves. One caution: changing packaging for a book in such a way that the audience is tricked (unintentionally, or otherwise) into buying another copy can backfire.

Designing a second book by the same author

If an author has a successful book or a strong personal brand, it makes sense to continue the same look for the next book the author publishes in the same genre. If an author runs broad on subjects or genres, then it’s probably better to appeal to the genre audience than to the author’s audience.

And finally…

When I was pulling together my January book round up, I included several editions of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. So which one is your favorite?


Image from Pexels.com

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