Young Wizards publication history

by YWCom Admin


In the USA, the YW novels have had three publishers—Dell Publishing, which brought out the hardcovers under the “Delacorte Press” imprint, and the pre-digest “trade” and mass-market paperbacks as “Dell Laurel-Leaf” books: the SF Book Club, which has published both hardcover omnibus editions and hardcover single-volume editions of the books: and the current home of the series, Harcourt Trade Publishers (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), who publish hardcover editions as “Harcourt” books and paperback editions under the “Magic Carpet Books” imprint.

Use the tabs above to move through the English-language editions and their artists.

Dell: David Wiesner

Dell Publishing Company brought out Young Wizards novels in hardcover between 1983 and 1990, and the paperbacks between 1983 and 1992. During this period they appeared in a surprising range of covers for such a short period.

Still a new artist on the scene when Delacorte commissioned him in 1982 to do the cover for So You Want to Be a Wizard, David Wiesner is now a two-time Caldecott Medal winner and two-time Caldecott Honor Book designate for his work on such books as Frogs, The Three Pigs, and The Day the World Broke. In the early 80’s he was still doing work for other authors’ books, and having illustrated one of Jane Yolen’s novels for Dell, he was then brought in to do the painting for the first Young Wizards hardcover.

David Wiesner cover for "So You Want To Be A Wizard"

While the first hardcover edition of about 1500 copies sold out fairly quickly, the feeling at Delacorte at that point was that Wiesner’s color palette was “too subdued”, and that future sales would be helped by a cover with livelier colors. The art director decided to choose a different artist for the next hardcover, though the Wiesner cover art continued to be used on the large-format Dell “Laurel Leaf” young adult paperbacks until at least 1986.

The Random House Children’s Books edition (ISBN: 0385293054) and the 1986 Bantam Books edition (ISBN: 0440982529) apparently also used the Wiesner cover.

Wiesner’s association with the YW books does not end there. Wiesner’s beautiful work for a promotional poster for the Master Eagle Gallery in New York later inspired DD to write the Kit-and-Nita short story “Uptown Local”. An attempt was made to get a reproduction of the painting for the 20th anniversary edition of So You Want to Be a Wizard, but unfortunately the original painting had been sold, and Wiesner no longer had a slide. An excerpt from the poster image appears below.

A cropped excerpt from David Wiesner's Master Eagle Gallery poster

Dell: Darrell Sweet

Now a familiar name to science fiction and fantasy readers, Darrell Sweet was at the time of his YW work just getting started on a prolific career. Then busy with work for everything from Dell and Bantam Books to the Reader’s Digest, he went on to do covers for books by Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Stephen Donaldson, as well as one of the Tolkien Calendars (1982). He is now probably best known for his work for Del Rey Books. A gallery of his work (preserved at the Wayback Machine since Sweet’s death in 2011) can be seen here.

Delacorte commissioned Sweet to do the cover for Deep Wizardry in 1985. Two of his great loves — vivid color and unusual lighting — both show up in this cover. What’s a little uncertain in this rendition is the draughtsmanship, which betrays an early weakness which turned up in some of his other covers. Sweet’s characters’ heads sometimes seemed a little too large for their bodies. This problem, already fairly noticeable in his renderings of adults, became more noticeable in his paintings of children.

Darrell Sweet cover for DEEP WIZARDRY

Once again, after this cover the art director at Dell changed his or her mind about what kind of style was needed for the books. (Or perhaps the art director himself/herself was what got changed: it’s impossible now to find out what kind of personnel changes might have been going on behind the scenes.) At any rate, a decision seems to have been made at Dell that, for the YW hardcovers, anything even faintly photorealistic should be avoided. But —strangely—this choice seems not to have been applied to subsequent paperbacks. The first Deep Wizardry paperback featured work by another artist entirely.

Not shown here are covers for the Bantam Books 1998 paperback edition (ISBN: 0440200709) and the 1992 Random House Children’s Books editions (ISBN: 0440406587).

Dell: Neil McPheeters

The last of the Dell YW artists, Neal McPheeters was working on covers for books by such authors as George R. R. Martin (Sandkings) when he was commissioned by Dell to do the cover for the 1986 mass-market format paperback version of So You Want to Be a Wizard.

He later went on to illustrate such books as Jahnna Malcolm’s “Jewel Kingdom” series, and numerous books and short story collections by the writer Jack Ketchum.

His work on the So You Want to Be a Wizard cover was popular enough that Dell also commissioned him to do a cover for the 1988 mass-market paperback of Deep Wizardry

–and the 1990 cover for the hardcover edition of High Wizardry.

This last cover suffers somewhat in comparison with the other two, the paperbacks being in a style both much more precise and much more relaxed. The High Wizardry cover has problems with perspective which even McPheeters’ talent seemed unable to overcome. This may have been one of those situations in which an art director insists that an artist execute a vision that doesn’t quite work. The two earlier paintings for the paperbacks remain among the author’s favorites.

It would have been interesting to see what McPheeters would have done with the mass-market paperback edition of High Wizardry, but no Dell mass-market of that book was ever published. In 1992 a management reshuffle at Dell resulted in Delacorte dropping Diane Duane (along with many other much higher-profile writers such as Jane Yolen) and whittling their “author base” down to only what were then their best-selling authors.

Not shown here are covers for the 1992 Bantam paperback edition (ISBN: 0440406803) and the 1999 Bt Bound edition (ISBN: 0613127366).

UK: Corgi

Transworld Books published the Young Wizards novels in the 1990s…

…in the United Kingdom, and distributed them there as well as in Canada and the Australia / New Zealand markets. The covers were in line with early US covers: not much was spent on the cover art, and the results were uneven.

Some readers have pointed out that the publication dates of these books leave open the possibility that they might have been read by J. K. Rowling. DD suggests that while this is possible, it seems unlikely: the print runs were small, and the books’ profile in the UK was not particularly high.

Transworld published the first paperback edition of So You Want to Be a Wizard under its “Young Corgi” imprint in 1991 (ISBN: 0552526452).

Transworld Corgi cover for SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD


Another printing of this edition followed in 1993 and a final one in 1995. Deep Wizardry also had a 1991 printing, and at least one in 1995 (ISBN:0552526460).

Transworld/Corgi cover for DEEP WIZARDRY

High Wizardry (ISBN:0552526517) seems to have followed the same pattern.

A Wizard Abroad had its first publication anywhere in a Corgi mass-market paperback edition of 1993 (ISBN: 0552527440, and was reprinted in 1995 along with the first three books.

Transworld/Corgi cover for A WIZARD ABROAD

After 1995 Corgi allowed all the books to go out of print, due to a “change of management direction” at Transworld.

UK: Hodder

The other UK “Wizards” publisher was Hodder & Stoughton. They published the two books of the “Feline Wizards” sequence, starting with The Book of Night with Moon in 1997 (ISBN: 0340693282). This was a hardcover, with a handsome cover by the well-known UK cover artist Mick Posen. Posen was interested enough in the subjects of the cover to insist on being sent pictures of the cats on whom the “New York worldgating team” were modeled before starting work.

Mick Posen cover for the Hodder hardcover THE BOOK OF NIGHT WITH MOON

A paperback edition from New English Library followed (ISBN 0340693290). Warner Aspect Books in the US published the book two years later in trade paperback (ISBN: 0446606332), with a different cover by Robert Goldstrom. (This cover also appeared on the SFBC version of the book that followed in 1998).

Cover for the Warner trade paperback of THE BOOK OF NIGHT WITH MOON


The Book of Night with Moon was then followed in 1999 in the UK by the second book in the sequence,On Her Majesty’s Wizardly Service (ISBN 0340693304); Mick Posen once again did the cover.

Mick Posen cover for Hodder's first edition hardcover of ON HER MAJESTY'S WIZARDLY SERVICE

Warner Aspect in the US published the book as To Visit the Queen (ISBN: 0446673188), with cover art again by Robert Goldstrom.

Cover for the Warner Books trade paperback of TO VISIT THE QUEEN

SF Book Club

The Young Wizards books had a long-standing and friendly relationship with the US side of the SF Book Club. The first omnibus edition of the initial three novels, published as Support Your Local Wizard (ISBN: 1568650108) in the late 1980’s, set a record as the single offering most often chosen by new Book Club subscribers, with some 250,000 copies of the first omnibus printed. The artist on this first omnibus edition was Mark Ferrari.

SFBC omnibus edition cover by Mark Ferrari for SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL WIZARD

The second omnibus, The Young Wizards (ISBN 0-7394-1943-9), published in 1991, contained the first five books and is still in print. The cover was by Yvonne Gilbert.

Cover by Yvonne Gilbert for the SFBC omnibus THE YOUNG WIZARDS

Single volumes of the YW series have been published by SFBC as well. The Book Club published A Wizard Abroad in its first US edition in 1993, and when the book was in the early production stages, DD suggested that David Cherry do the cover.

David Cherry's cover for the SFBC hardcover edition of A WIZARD ABROAD

Brother of DD’s acquaintance, the best-selling SF writer C. J. Cherryh, David is well known for his art—both cover art for some of his sister’s books, and for numerous other projects such as The World of Shannara. …The SFBC also brought out a Book Club edition of A Wizard Alone in 2002.

The SFBC continued this tradition of publishing individual volumes with a new edition of Wizard’s Holiday, offered as a Featured Alternate in March 2004.


ETA: Some links in this section will come up as 404s as a result of our recent (July 2023) loss of our old ISP and the subsequent move to a new one. Our apologies for the inconvenience.

The best-selling children’s book author/editor Jane Yolen was another writer orphaned by Delacorte after it decided to cut back its YA booklist. She was recruited by Harcourt Trade Publishers in 1994 to begin another YA line there. This line, called “Magic Carpet”, became the new home of the YW books within months of its establishment.

Harcourt’s paperback editions began with So You Want to Be a Wizard (ISBN: 0152012397) in May of 1996. Deep Wizardry was published in December of 1996 (ISBN: 0152012400), High Wizardry in March of 1997 (ISBN: 0152012419), and a small-format hardcover edition of A Wizard Abroad in September of 1997. Covers for these editions were by David Bowers.

The reprint editions did so well that Harcourt then contracted with DD for the next book in the series, The Wizard’s Dilemma (ISBN 0152025510), which came out in 2001 and featured a handsome new cover format with art by Cliff Nielsen, the “go-to” artist for the Young Wizards series from then until now. The first four books were also repackaged to match.

Cliff Nielsen cover for the hardcover edition of THE WIZARD'S DILEMMA

(There were also “Troll Books” book club editions of these books, which used first the David Bowers and then the Cliff Nielsen covers.)

The Wizard’s Dilemma did very well in both hardcover and paperback (ISBN 0152024603), going back to press repeatedly in both editions. Harcourt then published book 6 in the series, A Wizard Alone, in 2002; book 7, Wizard’s Holiday, in October 2003, along with the 20th Anniversary hardcover of So You Want to Be a Wizard, in August 2003; and book 8, Wizards at War, in October 2005. The ninth book, A Wizard of Mars, was published in April 2010. Book 10, Games Wizards Play, was published in February 2016. Book 11 of the main YW sequence is in progress: book 12 is in the planning stages.

The only editions that remain to be mentioned are the digest editions of the first six books, designed in a different format for “entry-level” younger readers of the series, with covers by Greg Swearingen. These editions of So You Want To Be A Wizard, Deep Wizardry, and High Wizardry came out first, in 2002-2003, followed by digest editions of A Wizard Abroad, The Wizard’s Dilemma and A Wizard Alone, published along with Wizards at War in October 2005. Swearingen’s art also appeared on the twentieth-anniversary hardcover and digest paperback special editions of So You Want To Be A Wizard in 2003.

Wraparound cover by Greg Swearingen for the 20th anniversary edition of SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD







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