New UK Covers

February 4th, 2013

Few people know better than I how incredibly jumpy people get about covers, so before I say anything else let me reassure the public that mass-market paperbacks of the First Law and its standalone sequels in the original parchmenty style (B-Format, or slightly larger mass market paperbacks about 7.75 inches high) will continue to be printed and sold across the UK and beyond, most recently together in a rather fetching boxed set, in fact.  However, as there is an additional A-Format edition (that’s a slightly smaller mass market format, about 7 inches high) of the First Law trilogy with art by Chris McGrath that look like this, there will now be additional A-Format edition of Best Served Cold and The Heroes using the recent US Artwork by Gene Mollica but a lettering style that matches the UK approach and looking like this:

They’re already turning up in Waterstones, in fact.  The purpose of this diversification?  Well, the B-Format will certainly continue to be the main edition, but issuing an A-Format with a different look hopefully might snag a few readers unstimulated by parchmenty stylings, as well as encouraging a bit of new interest from jaded booksellers and so forth.  That’s the theory.

I also note in passing that Locus have put Red Country on their recommended reading list for 2012.  You never know, those in search of quality reading material to fill the gap until my next release might find a couple of recommendations on their worth pursuing…

Posted in artwork, reviews by Joe Abercrombie on February 4th, 2013.

34 comments so far

  • Luke Scull says:

    I do like them, but is there something a tad unnatural about the position of Monza’s head? It doesn’t look like it belongs to the person clutching the sword. Maybe it’s just me.

    In any case, with a sister like that, you can’t really blame Benna can you?

  • Frank Fitzpatrick says:

    There’s no denying that they’re handsome covers, but the ‘parchmenty style’ are my favourite book designs.

  • Aidan says:

    They say “Never judge a book by its cover”. Luckily for me, i don’t trust other people’s reviews on anything (and therefore never read them) so when i go in to a bookshop, my method of choosing what to read next comes down to “which book cover catches my eye”? This is how i came to read your books; those parchment covers were so sexy i thought waterstones should surely be putting them on the top shelf.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I think it’s the angle I took the photo at…

  • Sword1001 says:

    I prefer the parchment type covers as well, as they give more of a ‘feel’ of the world I think. The covers above could well apply to any fantsy series and just look like “generic-fantasy-cover-1-&-2” . . .

    Regarding covers, my near illiterate brother – a scaffolder who hadn’t read anything other than the Sun since leaving school – had a mad fit a couple of months ago and walked into Waterstones to buy a book. Ended up buying TBI – parchment cover. So don’t write off the parchment style’s ability to capture new readers who’ve never heard of you . .

    So yeah . . if you want to capture the semi-illiterate market . . . parchment is the way to go

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    The semi-literate certainly are a huge market.

    I’m not convinced they buy that many books, though…

  • Dangerous Jim says:

    You can add ‘Semi-literate scaffolder’s choice’ to your growing list of accolades.

    I like the parchment and in partular maps on the front.

    But how about a picture of a hooded, anonymous stranger, maybe with a sword or some sort of weapon, or even more mysterious, empty handed? I don’t know who could walk past a book like that and not buy it.

  • Sword1001 says:

    He has bought 4 of your books now Joe. 4. Paid for your dinner tonight he has.

    I’ve only paid you for your last 3 books – the first three I found in a charity shop . . You didn’t get a penny out of me for your work on the The First Law. One of your kids went hungry cos of me.

    So, you know . . . don’t knock the semi-literate

  • I don’t know why your covers are so fixated upon weapons, Joe. I mean, how about a picture of a nice bunny rabbit next time? Or a cat? People love cats. It might even open up the ‘completely illiterate’ market to you if you were to release a book full of cat pictures. Better still, make it a video rather than a book. Put it on YouTube.

  • Sidney Harbour-Bridge says:


    Apologies if you’ve answered this before elsewhere, but how much say / input do you get into covers for your books. A little? A lot? A smidge?


    S H-B

  • Peter says:

    Reading this reminds me of the heady days of vinyl when you could get different covers fo 7″ & 12″ plus picture discs. The enthusiast would buy them all. I’m sticking to good old first edition hardback though.

  • Ryan says:

    Nice covers, though I still prefer my Subterranean Press ones. I think the issue with Monza’s head you can’t pinpoint is her neck length looks huge.

  • Harry says:

    I intially bought TBI because of the cover. Instead of some obvious, shiny, generic Fan-ter-see crap with a man in a chainmail codpiece giving a dragon a Cincinnatti bowtie whilst waving an improbably large sword around, it had a real character on the front, who looked like there might be something interesting to say about him. Similar here with LAOK

    I loved the original covers so much it was a stretch to get used to the parchment ones (though now I really like them), but at least they weren’t dull and obvious.

    The new ones look like David Eddings publisher spent too long looking at Men’s Health or Cosmo and Guns and Ammo. They’ve gone from art to embarrassing. Obviously I love the books or I woulnd’t feel this strongly, but these are sub-teenage.

  • Harry says:

    *David Eddings’ publisher

  • AntMac says:

    That can’t be Monza. The arms are far too weak for a person who has trained with a sword for years. She looks like a yoga instructer, an under nourished one.

    A person with wrists and biceps as weak as that?. Could NOT survive a sustained fight, using such a thick blade, it is just simple physics. Even a man with greater mass and upper body strength has a limit to the mass of the sword he can swing quickly enough to stay alive.
    Given that she has trained long and hard, her arms wouldn’t be that way, and given she was anything but stupid, her sword would be thin, light and supple, she would play to her strengths, which would be speed and training.

  • Marco says:

    Looks like I’m the only one who doesn’t really care for the parchmenty covers. ::shoulder shrug::
    I really like the Heroes cover pictured above.

  • AO says:

    I can’t stand these covers, but I’ll give credit to your UK publisher for being intelligent enough to make BOTH covers available to the UK market, as there will always be at least some people who would buy one but not the other.

    It’s a shame that your US publisher doesn’t have such wisdom.

    What’s truly a shame is that the best version by far, the Wsaterstones editions, aren’t available to those of us outside of the UK. Afaic those editions are the only ones worth owning and I’d be happy to pay $50, $75 or even $100 to be able to have versions of Heroes & Red Country that I could be proud of.

  • Andrew says:

    Like everyone else my eyes are far too intelligent to enjoy anything with character.

  • Mike Hunt is Wet says:

    You introduced me to Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy some time ago. Do you have any book suggestions that are equally as impressive in any genre. Yeah, I’m lazy.

  • Hawkeye says:

    I actually prefer these covers that show the characters. That is Logen for me now, and Jezal. The Glokta one I still have a hard time with how handsome he is though. And I actually liked the first US Heroes hardcover that showed the three mains. I’m not as big on the picture of muscular arms alone. Give me faces!

  • goober says:

    The heroes has my favorite cover.gotta love a battle map.quite frankly though,none of the covers convey the sheer awesomeness contained within.

  • Mike L says:

    Are the covers really that important?
    Just because it says ‘beef’ on the label doesn’t make it not horse.

  • EdC says:

    I recently recommended the first law trilogy to an American friend who rejected them due to the (USA) covers.

  • Kevin B says:

    1. The longer I read fantasy (or maybe just the older I get), the more I dislike the generic fantasy covers.
    2. I really dislike book covers with photographed cover models.
    3. Nonetheless I really liked those American covers the first time I saw them. And I still do. They have a sense of dynamic and and power.
    4. I still prefer the hardcover parchment covers.

    (re: earlier commenter. The female model looks malnourished? Really? Obviously she’s not a professional sword fighter, but get some perspective please. My mother has played quite intensive tennis for over 30 years. Her arms look like that (though older now). She’s definitely NOT weak, even at her current age.)

  • AntMac says:

    Well, tennis rackets, OK, not really any more than an example of what I was pointing out, right?. Light, easy to whip around?. Ever held a sword?. And Monza IS a professional swordswoman in the book, not a tennis player.

    I have practiced Kendo and Iaido since I was 18, i.e. 29 years. None of the long time practiced women ( many of them Japanese and Koreans who START out with gracile forms ) I have practiced with have had gracile wrists and biceps that, flexed as in this shot, have ZERO sign of muscle definition, and shoulders that have ZERO sign of development.

    And that sword could NOT be swung by a person, male or female, with such light body weight, and such thin and undeveloped arms. Any of my female sparring partners could kill her without question, simply by being more powerful and swifter because having a sword in keeping with their reach/body weight.

    Just saying. You obviously have your own opinion of course. It is just wrong, that is all. 😉

  • Eric Sean is Hard says:

    You do know what ‘fantasy’ means AntMac?

  • Aleks says:

    Good covers, still I prefer original parchmentry style.

    By the way, speaking about covers, Russian publishers are finally going to publish Best Served Cold, this is Russian cover:

  • SgtPluck says:

    AntMac – your comment reminds me of the scene in The Full Monty where the guys are watching the Flashdance video, and one starts complaining that the welding she’s doing in it is rubbish.

    I prefer the parchment covers, but maybe only because I associate those with the FL trilogy, and they are so distinctive of Joe’s work now. I’ve seen the covers above up close, and I find them a bit too generic and similar to a bunch of other dark fantasy efforts out there.

  • AntMac says:

    Yes, just as I know Joe goes to a lot of trouble over detail in his narrative. Things even fantastic in his writing don’t have obvious flaws in their logic.

    He wouldn’t write a character who is a better swordsperson than the average, who trains harder then her brother, and fights in a melee more than once and survives, as a person who, arm flexed, has no noticable bicep, and a wrist something less than twice as thin as her swords blade.

  • Eric Sean says:

    I suppose so but it doesn’t really make any difference. Why is a chick with skinny arms wielding a big sword an issue when you have dudes talking to sprites or people getting magic powers from cannibalism. Why not point out that a people only diet isn’t balanced enough? Fantasy book covers are supposed to be fantastic.

  • Lestek, Cultural Icon says:

    Where are the “bubs” on the cover? Surely this would sell more copies …

  • Pure Aw Naw says:

    I am, and shall forever remain, a parchment cover buyer. I dislike the person with weapon picture thing, its been done to death (though they do look nice). Parchment stands out. It seems to say “I AM SERIOUS, THOUGH I AM FANTASY… BUY ME”.

    Stab, stab, stab…
    Sic Semper A-Format

  • Kevin B says:


    That’s all well and good, except that I wasn’t saying she looked like a sword fighter, in fact I explicitly said she didn’t.

    I just take offence at your completely ridiculous “undernourished” comment to describe a perfectly healthy human being. As I said, get some perspective.

    Also, don’t underestimate the upper body strength of a tennis player.

  • Soteris says:

    I’ll tell you why I don’t like the covers. It’s because I have my own vision of what a character looks like. The image of Monza looks nothing like what I had in mind. It doesn’t ruin the story for me but frustrates on the re-reads.
    Plus, the originals covers give the books a touch of seeming to be something special, almost luxurious.

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