A book cover is a complicated design project. It needs to be very straightforward and interesting, stand out on the shelf, and be a marketing tool for the book.
You might think a lot of science is applied to the cover design of a bestselling summer novel: bookseller data, perhaps, showing that romance covers with indigo script fonts have a 23% greater chance of getting to the top. list of best sellers New York Times , for example.
The reality is that book cover design is more about following prevailing trends and feelings. When you are designing the book cover for potential audience success, there are many visible feelings in the mix: authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, and so on, all with their own opinions on what makes a perfect cover.
So let’s explore a bit of the process of some of the books being sold in the United States.
How do you create a cover for an iconic beach reading? “Well, it’s good to have water in your jacket,” says Jeanne Reina, vice president and senior art director at HarperCollins Publishers. “That’s what makes a beach read, right?”
Reina is not completely kidding. THE best author – sellers of New York Times, Dorothea Benton Frank excels at beach readings, and probably 70% of them feature women around the water on the cover. In the case of Queen bee, The last challenge was finding the right woman and the right water.
“It’s rare for us to go out and film something on site because there are so many things that can happen,” says Reina. “It’s easier to make compositions from different stock images… then mix them in Adobe Photoshop. ”
To the Queen bee, Reina looked for a picture of a woman who identified with older and younger readers. Once they found a model everyone could agree on, the rest quickly came together, up to the title’s elegant script (Hoefler & Co.’s Requiem Display).
“Cover design is subjective, you know?” Notes Reina. “There can be a lot of disagreement about, say, how blue the ocean should be and what that means. So even simple covers can take a year to assemble. It only took a few months, which was cool.
THE LAST WIDOW
“For suspense, you want a close up of a woman on the cover,” says Reina. “That’s the trend.”
From this perspective, it is difficult to imagine a cover more about the trend than The Last Widow, from Karin Slaughter. The latest in the Will Trent series, The Last Widow creates your unique visual feel by applying a prism effect to a photography model.
This is all done in Photoshop, says Reina. What you can’t see here are all the intriguing printing effects applied to the reflective metallic paper on the cover, which give the Last widow an almost holographic glow.
THE LAST ROMANTICS
“For years, we rarely used illustrators for our covers,” says Reina. “But it’s starting to come back. I’m glad: I really enjoy working with cover illustrators. ”
In the case of The Last Romantics, by Tara Conklin, HarperCollins teamed up with illustrator and letterer Joel Holland to create a simple but dignified cover. He suggests some of the novel’s themes: the intertwining branches that create the bonds that bind a family together over the decades.
The finished cover, with its bold use of Futura, is almost Wes Anderson quality. It’s sophisticated, subtle and smart – a cover designed to lure a cosmopolitan feminist about to fly to the Azores and look for a read from the airport bookstore.
New novels by English historical novelist Philippa Gregory are events. Sometimes described as “the queen of British historical fiction,” the author of The Other Boleyn Girl has a fan base that will buy their latest invisible soap opera. “She’s a great author and knows what she wants,” says James Iacobelli, art director at Simon & Schuster, who prints Atria Books.
That’s why for the cover of Tidelands, Iacobelli and his co-designer Laywan Kwan chose to make Gregory’s name the dominant element of design. Produced in Mariel Gornati’s dreamy, sophisticated serif, New Ayres, the author’s name occupies almost 50% of the jacket. Oversized credit not only connects Tidelandsto the author’s biggest mark, but it also means that his authorship makes Tidelands a publishing event.
Gregory had a vision for the look of the cover: the marshy shores of the south coast of England, as lived in the summer of 1648 and described in vivid detail in the book.
The only problem? Since there were no photographs from 1648, Iacobelli had to compose a realistic view using photographs and hundreds of Photoshop layers. “Sometimes you get questions like this, where you have a great author with a vision, and it’s your job to execute it in such a way that it still works as a consumer package,” says Iacobelli. “In that case, I think all was well.”
THE CLOCKMAKER’S DAUGHTER
First published as a hardcover in September 2018, the original jacket by The Clockmaker’s Daughter, of Kate Morton, it resembled a grandfather’s watch. It certainly evoked the horological aspect of the title, but at the expense of the human element: the romance, mystery, and drama that Atria Books hoped would be moved like a summer brochure.
For paper reprinting, Iacobelli had two goals: Bringing the cover design more stylistically with other Morton covers, such as The lake house, while communicating the content of the novel more clearly. “We prototype over 100 covers for this one,” admits Iacobelli. “We struggled to find what we wanted, but we knew it had to be simple.”
The final design features the silhouette of a young model in the face of a fire-patterned wallpaper pattern, with the author’s title and credit elegantly conveyed on House Industries’ Neutraface Display. The new cover glimpses the idea that this is a story of mystery and intrigue, involving a woman emerging from the shadows of the story… and hopefully into the hands of a new audience.
“Contemporary fiction focused on modern women tends to have bold and bold colours,” says Iacobelli. “So the challenge is how do you participate in this trend and still do something a little different?”
For Mrs Everything, Jennifer Weiner’s novel about the dynamics between two sisters over fifty, Iacobelli sought out the illustrator Olga Garlic to produce a bold and flat design image that also explores the human element. Its design, rendered in Adobe Illustrator portrays the two sisters as iconically symmetrical but still individual.
“Overlapping the sisters was a way of showing the connection between them,” says Iacobelli. “We got the colours right early. One of the only changes we had to make was to adjust the numbers to look a bit more complete – we didn’t want them to be supermodels, but as real women, a broad spectrum of readers could identify. ”
To the jacket Mrs Everything, Iacobelli chose two different fonts: Neil Summerour’s Lust by the name of the author, whose outlines interact wonderfully with the fall of the two women’s necklines and hair, and Jeff Levine’s Payson by the title. By balancing a modern serif with a clean serif that evokes a simpler era, the jacket design subtly evokes the multiple time periods of the novel.
IT’S GREAT TO SUCK AT SOMETHING
When a book is tangential about surfing, you expect the cover to have an ocean, a wave, a surfboard. But for Karen Rinaldi’s influence on the liberating thrill of the blow, Iacobelli wanted to take a less obvious direction.
“This book is about how good it is to be bad at something, which Karen illustrates by discussing her own incompetent love of surfing,” says Iacobelli. “So for this cover, we really wanted to put together a package that beckoned to her passion for water, but that seems something broader and more mass-appeal than just another surf book.”
To make it work, Iacobelli was abstract. The cover of It’s Great To Suck At Something It’s almost a celebration of sucking, with a purposefully twisted type, presented at Mr Black of Hipopotam Studio. However, the surf element is still there, courtesy of blue lines at the top, in which a partially erased “at” rocks and floats.
“It’s hard to design something that evokes sucking without really sucking,” laughs Iacobelli. “Fortunately, we did it.”
THE SIXTH CONSPIRATOR
“For historical novels, you have to go straight in the middle, designing a jacket that appeals to fans of history without being so boring and stuffy that it drives fiction readers away,” says Cody Corcoran, creative consultant for Simon & Schuster, who publishes Post Hill. Press. For the cover of the historical novel The Sixth Conspirator, which deals with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Corcoran wanted a design with some of the thrills of old posters for the Ringling Bros circus. or Houdini.
There were ample photographs of the royal conspirators behind Lincoln’s murder, both highlighted in the novel. The man in handcuffs on the cover is Lewis Powell, a co-conspirator in John Wilkes Booth’s plot to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward, while the woman is Sarah Slater, the mysterious Confederate messenger and real-life spy.
Although the final design contains only two figures, “I composed about four different vintage photos in Photoshop for the cover,” says Corcoran. He then used a combination of American Scribe in Brian Willson and Taberna Serif Black by Jorge Cisterna to give the cover a dynamic quality. It is clear at first glance that the novel is a historical adventure, not a dry treatise on the arcana of the Civil War.
“For this one, the author came to us with an idea,” says Corcoran. “And the first thing I had to do was explain why it wouldn’t work.”
Author Philip E. Orbanes’s idea was a chessboard with the cover text scattered across the squares of the board. Although he does reference to subject matter Tortured Cardboard – Board Games – Wouldn’t Work “It’s hard to split a bunch of text into boxes like this,” notes Corcoran.
Instead of a book that looked like a game, Corcoran created a book that looked like a box full of games. Fittingly, the title appears to be written with a Bic pen on corrugated cardboard. To achieve this effect, Corcoran manipulated Font Emporium’s Crazy Killer in Illustrator, overlapping subtly distorted copies and applying custom masks and cutouts.
THE ECHO CHAMBER
Underestimating, though impressive, is a difficult specification to meet, but for Rhett J. Evans’s upcoming techno-thriller, The Echo Chamber, Corcoran nailed him with little more than a few shades of blue, some soft fonts (Claus Eggers Sørensen’s Playfair Display Regular and Acumin Variable Concept Wide Light by Robert Slimbach) and some hand-drawn circuits.
“The author wanted a clean, simple yet impactful vibe for this cover,” Corcoran recalls. “The challenge was to find the right elements to put it all together.”
“For the circuits, I researched a lot of stock images, but nothing worked very well, so I rebuilt them in Illustrator, then went through the typography so that everything had a reason for us to be together,” he says.
Designing book covers is much more about browsing photo libraries than you might think, and much of this research can be quite monotonous. But for Corcoran, search the cover of Selling Nostalgia Mathew Klickstein’s delight was a delight, allowing a self-described “baby of the 1980s” to explore the iconography of everything from Max headroom The Miami Vice.
“I jumped on the web and started pulling everything I could in the 1980s,” says Corcoran. “Then I wrote down all the design elements that made up the era – palm trees, neon, scan lines, and funky chrome fonts – and wondered, ‘How many of them can I put in this jacket?’
The answer, apparently, is “all of them,” which seems appropriate: the novel is about a protagonist with an unhealthy fixation in the 1980s. To bring these disparate elements together, Corcoran even referred to a retro device: in general, The cover from Selling Nostalgia It looks like an old VHS box.
Once satisfied with the cover composition, Corcoran added noise to it in Photoshop to give it a vintage finish. “It helped balance all the colours,” he says. “In my opinion, it was perfect.”
Corcoran’s favourite ringtone: “I love the word processor cursor that flashes in the caption,” he says. “These little things are the most fun for me because people never consciously notice them, but if they weren’t there they would stand out.”
So, would you like to know a little about the creative process of some of the hottest states’ books?