Cover story — Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman US cover is a slow train coming

The US edition has a lovely sparse graphic quality with beautiful 1950s-style typography and great overall balance.
The US edition has a lovely sparse graphic quality with beautiful 1950s-style typography and great overall balance.
This is the busy cover for the UK edition, which includes the unnecessary interspersion of thye title of Harper Lee’s previous book.
This is the busy cover for the UK edition, which includes the interspersion of the title of Harper Lee’s previous book.

The finished covers of Harper Lee’s eagerly awaited ‘new’ book, Go Set A Watchman, have now been released and the US cover wins my vote over the artwork for the UK edition.

The US edition brings all the elements together beautifully while the UK cover gets over-busy with big, condensed type and inserts To Kill A Mockingbird in the same size type between the lines of the new title.

This is the cover of the first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird.
This is the cover of the first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird.

You can see where the designers of the US edition, published by Harper Collins, got their inspiration from in the cover of the original edition of To Kill A Mockingbird, shown here.

The first US edition of To Kill A Mockingbird had a print run of just 5,000 copies when it was published in 1960 by JB Lippincott of Philadelphia.

The book was priced at $3.95 originally but good examples with intact dust wrappers can now sell for over $10,000.

With a reported initial print run of two million copies, Go Set A Watchman won’t be reaching those sort of prices on the collectors’ market.

mockingbirdukorig2
This is the cover of the first UK edition of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Several previous editions have also featured a silhouette of a mockingbird, as used on the UK cover, but the first UK edition (published by William Heinemann in 1960) featured a surprisingly adventurous and pulpish painted cover, shown here. The new book is also published by Heinemann, which is now an imprint of Random House.

No matter what the covers are, Go Set A Watchman is odds-on to be the year’s best-seller. The pre-order hardcover is No 9 on the overall Books Best Sellers on Amazon.com this week and publication is still more than three months away on July 14.

The hardback is being heavily discounted by Amazon. In the US, the price of the deckle-edge hardcover has been cut by 43% on Amazon.com from the list price of $27.99.

There’s not a great deal of difference between the hardback price and the Kindle price and it’s likely that most buyers will be opting for the print edition. The US and UK Kindle editions still feature the ‘draft’ type-only cover at present. To Kill A Mockingbird only became available as an ebook in summer 2014

On Amazon.co.uk, there’s a 53% saving being offered on Go Set A Watchman from a list price of £18.99 to just £9 and the Kindle price is £7.47 (which includes 20% VAT).

Harper Lee pictured in the early 1960s.
Harper Lee pictured in the early 1960s.

Go Set a Watchman is set about 20 years after the events of  To Kill a Mockingbird and features many of the same characters. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch — Scout — struggles with personal and political issues involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

There’s been a lot of hoo-ha since the book was announced, with some commentators questioning whether Harper Lee (a mere 88 years old) was being taken advantage of, and some people were even shocked to learn that Lee is a woman — another Southern author, Flannery O’Connor, had the same problem.