Saturday, 15 August 2009

Cover to cover

I had a long telephone conversation with Helen Szirtes today about the amendments to The Dead of Winter. We were doing the last bit of tweaking before it goes off to be proofed. As I have said before - this is such an important stage in the life of a book. It is vital to have a good working relationship with your editor and vital also that you take this part seriously.

Inevitably we occasionally wandered off piste and during one such diversion I was pointing out that we seem to me to be in a real high point of paperback book jacket design in this country - which was certainly not the case a few years ago. I could chose lots of publishers to illustrate this, but I am going to pick on Vintage (part of the Random House empire).

Look at the wit and spark these covers have. Doesn't it make you want to buy the lot? More importantly, doesn't it make you want to read the lot? Go into a book shop and browse the fiction section and you will see jackets as good as these or better.

But you will need to be in the adult fiction section.

I know that these books would not work for children. They are too knowing of their subjects. They are almost in jokes, relying on the purchaser to have some prior knowledge of the book. They are books designed to be re-read. The Frankenstein cover for instance would be baffling to anyone who thinks they know the story but have not actually read the book.

But isn't the wit and the ingenuity of design transferable? Do children's books have to be quite so obvious?


  1. I really want to read that torrent of lovers anguish that is Frankenstein! After eight years in book selling I’m a firm believer in judging a book by its cover. I’ve been sent proofs I’ve picked up instantly because of the cover and some that I have on my shelves years latter still unread and yet every time I’ve seen the finished book in store I want to pick it up and then I remember I already own a copy. The other way to a book is to be recommended it, which in my opinion is the best way. Puffin have recently rejacketed their classics series with some excellent covers but they are more a shorthand for the story than a suggestion.


  2. I couldn't agree more. I find it really hard to buy a book with an awful cover, even when I know and like the author. And you are right to say that Puffin's rejacketing of their classic series is a bit of a departure. Bloomsbury did something a bit similar with very colourful cut-out designs for children's versions of Frankenstein and Treasure Island among others.