A novel is like a question – what happens when…? [UK publisher] Titan Books is focusing on what happen when a child goes missing. “There is nothing more terrifying than the loss of a child!” publisher Miranda Jewess says. Meanwhile, HarperCollins Canada publisher Iris Tupholme says, “Our focus in positioning the book is less on the missing child, though that is a key part of the story, and more on the tension and mystery for [the mother] Heike.”
The book was originally titled ‘I Remember You’ when it was sold to the publishers. But when de Mariaffi brought forward ‘Hysteria’ as an alternative, Tupholme loved it because it “suggests the book’s complexity … the story’s focus on women.” Jewess also considered the new title, but thought ‘Hysteria’ “sounded like a more gritty action thriller.”
Both covers do tap into deep-seated fear. But the different focus of those fears may speak more to a transatlantic literary divide, says Kate Pullinger, a Canadian novelist in Britain and professor of creative writing and digital media at Bath Spa University. She sees the two covers as responding to each market for fiction.
“In Canada, the popular writer can remain literary,” but in Britain, though there are exceptions, Pullinger says “literary fiction is increasingly devalued and invisible in the marketplace.” In her view, the British cover is trying to connect to the commercial market; it ties into the tabloid newspaper culture that screams for attention. “Scary Sad Crime Happened Here!”
I seem to spend a lot of time in my professional life trying to explain why titles and covers for Canada (and the US) sometimes need to be different from their counterparts in the UK. I even put together some examples for recent trip to London. So I don’t know that this is a ‘rare’ as Cameron supposes. But, in any case, enough people have expressed interest in this that I am trying to expand that original deck into a more coherent presentation for a few other clients. If I ever get it finished I will share a version of it here.
The show is the oldest continuous book design competition in the US, and I was lucky enough to join McSweeney’s designer Sunra Thompson in deciding this year’s cover selections. The book selections were made by designer Linda Secondari and writer Robert Bringhurst. You can see all the selected entries — books and covers — in this AUPresses slideshow:
The ABCD Awards are always pleasantly surprising. Every year the shortlists include at least two or three covers I have never seen before, and I find it strangely reassuring that the winners picked on the night are not always the covers I would’ve chosen — somehow that makes it feel more democratic.
The awards have a brand new website (designed by Joseph Bisat Marshall) where you can find this year’s shortlists and archive of the previous awards, but you will find all the winning covers from last week below…
Lots to see this month, including several YA covers (which I know will please some regular readers), some ‘big’ literary fiction, and a couple of confrontational nonfiction covers to round it out. Enjoy!
Aetherial Worlds by Tatyana Tolstaya; design by Stephanie Ross (Knopf / March 2018)
Although it pains me a little to say it, I think Amazon’s ‘book club’ imprint Lake Union are doing an impressive job commissioning appealing covers for their intended market. I would be interested to hear about the process from designers who’ve worked with them.
It’s interesting to see the UK publisher go in such a different direction from the US cover (designed and illustrated by Sandra Chiu) which, as I noted back in January, seems very on trend internationally to me.
For reference, I have a pinboard of contemporary covers that make use of Lydian, the typeface used here. It was designed for American Type Founders by Warren Chappell in 1938, and it’s very distinctive (those ‘R’s!), so it’s interesting to me that it suddenly has this kind of cult popularity.
Can anyone tell me if there is a term for this kind of semi dust jacket? It seems like more than just a belly band.
The upside-down ‘POLICE’ shield is an interesting decision. It gives the illustration a kind of authenticity (I assume it is based on an actual example), but it also subtly implies something about the contents of the book (as does the not so subtle decision to show a police officer in riot gear rather than more approachable attire!).
In an interview with Laura Owen Hazard for NiemanLab, Jason Kottke talks about 20 years of Kottke.org and the future of blogging:
Personally, I think I felt a lot worse about it maybe three, four years ago. I was like, crap, what am I going to do here? I can see where this is going, I can see that more and more people are going to go to Facebook, and to mobile, and to all of these social apps and stuff like that, and there’s going to be less and less of a space in there for blogs like mine. I can’t churn out 60 things a day and play that social game where you use the shotgun approach to spit stuff out there and see what sticks. I’ve got to do four, five, six things that are good, really good. Since then, though, I’ve sort of come to terms with that. I’m like: Okay, if I can just keep going it, just keep doing it, it will work itself out somehow. I don’t know why I think that, but I kind of do.
This might be a bit inside-baseball if you’re just here for the book covers and don’t care about blogging, but Kottke was one of the original inspirations for The Casual Optimist and so I tend to pay attention to what Jason has to say on the subject. I’m glad that he has found a way to make it work for him.
I’ve also been thinking more about the future of this blog over the past year or so. I’ve never done it for money (which is lucky because it’s never really been an option!), but I’m a slow writer at the best of times (too many thoughts in my head as a rule), and I’ve found myself blogging less and less in recent months.
And then The Casual Optimist turns 10 this year, which seems like… something. Is it finally time to call it quits? I don’t know…
I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love…in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.
She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop; design by Rachel Willey (Washington Square Books / February 2018)
Sunburn by Laura Lippman; design by Elsie Lyons (William Morrow / February 2018)
I included the cover of Sunburn and Elsie Lyons’s cover for The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (featured last month) in a recent presentation about the differences between US and UK cover design. UK editions of both books have a much more conventional genre covers. They signal very clearly to readers that they are thrillers.
The US covers on the other hand have a much more literary, sophisticated look. They both have a distinctive, individual appearance (although I suspect we may see covers copying the approach of The Woman in the Window very soon!) that suggest that these are not your average thrillers.
It is not that one approach is necessarily better than the other from a marketing perspective (although I can guess which designers might prefer!), but it is an interesting contrast.
Bloody January by Alan Parks; design by Chris Gale (Canongate / December 2017)
(I’m including this partly because I spend a lot of my professional life trying to explain the difference between the cover needs of Canada/US and the UK. This is a rare genre cover that — it seems to me at least — does a decent job for both sides of the Atlantic)
Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s better than the last one, eh? But before we finally bid adieu to 2017 and toss it onto the flaming garbage fire, here’s are some of the other lists that looked back at the year in book cover design…
We Are Okay by Nina Lacour; design by Samira Iravani; illustration by Adams Carvalho (Dutton / February 2017)
The Age of Perpetual Light by Josh Weil; design by Nick Misani (Grove Press / September 2017)
Spine Magazine were ahead of the pack — as they have been all year — with their eclectic list of 50 ‘Book Covers We Loved’.
The End by Fernanda Torres; design by Strick & Williams (Restless Books)
The Show That Never Ends by Dave Weigel; design by Tal Goretsky (W. W. Norton)
Designer and New York Times Book Review art director Matt Dorfman chose his ‘Best Book Covers of 2017‘ for the Times. Matt’s lists always have a lot of personality, and this one is no exception. I think it’s probably the list I look forward to most, and I suspect it’s also the list that matters most to many American designers too.
Hollow by Owen Egerton; design by Matt Dorfman (Counterpoint / July 2017)
To Die in Spring by Ralf Rothmann; design by Oliver Munday (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / August 2017)
At Literary Hub, Emily Temple asked 20 of her favourite designers for their picks for best book covers of the year. While Matt Dorfman’s cover design for Hollow byOwen Egerton was the top pick, Oliver Munday was the most popular designer with seven covers on the list.
Strange Heart Beating by Eli Goldstone; design by Jo Walker (Granta / May 2017)
All We Saw by Anne Michaels; design by Janet Hansen; photograph by Jouke Bos (Knopf / October 2017)
CMYK, Vintage UK’s design blog, also posted a short but sweet list of their designers’ favourite covers of the year.
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood; design by Rachel Willey (Riverhead / May 2017)
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa; design by Peter Mendelsund (New Directions / August 2017)
I contributed to two lists (aside from my own) this year. I gave Vulture my two cents for their list of the ’10 Best Book Covers of the Year’.
Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina; design by Tom Etherington (Allen Lane 2017)
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag; design by Luke Bird (Faber & Faber / April 2017)