Saturday, February 9, 2008

a book by its cover...

I'd love to be in the room when artists and designers are brainstorming about some of these book covers. Just the other day Josh and I were discussing The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall which is soon to come out in soft cover. The American hard cover version gave you the choice of red or blue dust jackets each featuring an image of a ludovician "...a conceptual, unusual is a predator, a shark. It feeds on human memories and the intrinsic sense of self. " This image is formed of words strung together.

(Both US Hard Covers)

The British hard cover has a really neat illustration combining different elements of the story into an abstract ink blot akin to the Rorschach Tests which I think is just a brilliant visual representation of the story.

(UK Hard Cover)

(UK Slip Case)

Now, here's my problem - the American paperback is dull. While Canada, Australia and Germany all get fun new covers with the shark theme we watery looking words on black. Where's the design, the originality? This is a fabulously written account of one man on the brink of losing his mind and identity, literally, to a memory eating shark . It should have a cover that conveys the depth and creativity of the novel.

(US Paper Back)

(Canadian Paper back- more interesting than American)

(Finland's Cover)

(Australian Cover)

I believe that the design of a book cover needs to be true to the type of book it's representing. I know that we're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover but we all do and there's a good reason- we can't just judge a book by the blurb on the back. It's the combination of an honest cover, intruiging title and well written summary that informs the consumer and convinces him/her to take it home.

I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised when the paperback is released here in April.


carol said...

I agree with you, Emily. But part of this may be due to different national trends in cover art. For awhile there, parts of bodies were all the rage. You'd find headless bodies with a great concentration on the knees, or feet, or halves of faces. Do you think that Art Directors come up with similar images simultaneously, or do they really tend to imitate one another? And does this vary from country to country? I see a term paper here.

Lance said...

That's an interesting idea, but I'm not certain that anything as grand as a national trend influenced this. I like to snoop around the art department at work, especially when the publisher and managing ed. examine new covers. For some titles, they'll dissect the jacket for an hour; for others, there's not even a meeting. And still others, for whatever reason, get a quick and dirty job. Just today, I heard the art director wearily mention the font she had selected for a book: "I spent all of 20 minutes picking out a script for [x]." The other design guy looked on, waiting for more. "Eh, it's fine," she said, "ha, it'll do." Sometimes, I think people are just tired, and just want to go home, and just make ugly, simple, uncreative jackets like this one. It's a shame the Cannongate art folks didn't read this book - they might've cared more.

Emily said...

It's the other Emily! Great blog entry! I run one of the book groups at Skylight Books now, and somehow I always end up comparing the British covers to the American covers. It really is all about marketing, and whether it is here or across the pond, it seems that what matters is reaching a target audience. Have you noticed that sometimes the hardcover and the paperback have the same cover image? Does that mean that they are lazy? That they reached the people they wanted to? Or, conversely, when they change the cover, it seems that they are trying to reach an entirely different subset of people. Fascinating!

Emily H. said...

Thanks everyone for responding! What a wonderful welcome for our blog!
Carol: I'll have to look into those trends next time...but no term papers ok?
Lance: I'd like to think that designers aren't lazy, But in this case- the other covers are so RAD!! why not be lazy and copy one of them!
Emily: Awesome to hear from you across the country!
In respose to your coment did you see the paper back cover for Alice Munro's View from Castle Rock? Totally different from the hard cover- and a little miss leading.

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