Since we relaunched the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series with a new cover style from designer Mark Ecob, we have received quite a number of comments from fans. Many have been positive, but it’s also fair to say there has been some less favourable reaction from those who are unhappy with the change in style.
When we first started talking about changing the cover style, we realised it would be a difficult decision to make. In many ways, it’s unusual for a long-running series to have maintained its original look for so long – and a testament to how good those illustrations were. Next year will mark a decade of Little, Brown and Abacus publishing Alexander McCall Smith’s books, and 15 years since The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency was first released. Quite simply, we felt it was time for a change, and that we needed to keep the series feeling fresh, and Alexander McCall Smith agreed.
The process for finding suitable designers and deciding on a new direction certainly wasn’t taken lightly nor in isolation – it was the result of over a year’s conversation and debate between ourselves, retailers and the author himself. Our aim was to create something fresh, vibrant and lively which showed the colour and warmth of the books, while also clearly reflecting the African setting, and we feel Mark’s designs achieve this brilliantly. Alexander McCall Smith himself said:
‘I am delighted with the new design, which has lovely humour in it while at the same time capturing the atmosphere of Mma Ramotswe’s world.’
There’s no doubt that they are very different from Hannah’s wonderful illustrations, and it’s easy to see why they might initially surprise those expecting the same approach on The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party and The Limpopo Academy for Private Detection.
One key thing we feel about the new covers is that they are designed to be part of a series, and we think it is when the whole series is viewed together that they really come into their own. In the end though, we know book jackets are a very subjective issue (we have enough disagreements in house every week to prove that point!) and we will never win everyone over. The most important thing is what’s inside the covers, and that remains unchanged – and as brilliant – as ever.