I lived in Japan and Singapore during the time when Harry Potter books four and five came out. My friends and I were excited to get the new books, and wanted to purchase some of the older books. When we did, we noticed that the covers were completely unfamiliar to us. This was when I realized that the same books in other countries had different covers.
For the record, authors have very little say in the covers of their own books. Covers are meticulously designed and crafted by the publishing companies themselves. Apparently, the publishers feel that different covers would appeal to their home audiences. Let's take a look at some of these covers.
First, we'll start with the US Harry Potter covers.
Personally, I was never really enamoured with these. I never really felt that they portrayed what was inside (in terms of style of writing, not so much story). The only one I really liked was for the fourth book The Goblet of Fire. I can't really say why other than I feel it portrays the mood of the story best. I especially dislike the cover for the seventh book, The Deathly Hallows. I always thought it made it look like Harry was standing in the Roman Colosseum at twilight. Was Harry about to become a magical Roman gladiator? Well now having read the story, I know this is just the Great Hall and it's enchanted ceiling. In this case, I didn't feel it portrayed the mood of the book adequately.
Now let's take a look at the UK covers of the same books.
As you can see, these are very different. I actually own 1 through five (though my five cover is different - it is apparently the adult cover from the same book). I get double-takes when I tote these versions around the US. Each cover, unlike the US versions, was illustrated by a different person. I personally like 1 through four. I think they make the story look exciting and even a bit mysterious. By five and six I think they just ran out of ideas. And in my personal opinion, seven is just the worst cover I've ever seen. Even this larger image doesn't do justice as to how ugly it is.
It does ask the question, though. Why are these covers not suitable for the US market? Personally, I can't fathom it. The look less "kiddish" than the US covers, which would probably attract more readers. Of course, I still can't understand why they had to change "Philosopher" to "Sorcerer". Do they think we wouldn't understand?
Now, how about this? Here are the Japanese covers for books one through five.
It makes me wonder, are Japanese audiences that different that they would have such very different covers? With the exception of The Chamber of Secrets, which I think is probably the worst cover hands down out of all of them, I rather like them. The problem is, they strike me more of "this is Halloween Town" rather than Harry Potter. Yes, there are spooky elements to the books, but I don't think these quite capture the sense of fun and adventure of the stories - though I have to admit, The Prisoner of Azkaban cover is quite striking, isn't it? I wonder what The Goblet of Fire cover is supposed to convey - house elves at a table? Judges reading the names from the goblet of fire? I'm not too sure.
What do you think? Which covers do you like better? Do you think it makes a difference which ones they use?