Go Set A Watchman

NGo Set A Watchmano pressure then…

Just design a cover for the biggest book of the year (decade?).

In design terms this was a cover that was never going to win.

It is already shrouded in so many emotions by so many people that the poor designer would have dreaded the brief as much as they would have begged for it.

So what did they come up with?

A cover that is deeply rooted in the design cues of the 1950’s.

In fact, from the colours, to the typography, to the illustrative style, this looks like a book that could have been published many, many years ago.

The fresh twist is the way the publishers have referenced the original novel (To Kill A Mockingbird, as if you didn’t know).

By creating a cover with effectively two titles they have shouted about this novel’s major selling point in the bluntest and boldest way possible.

It is a little clumsy and not particularly pretty — but it sure as hell will sell the book.

Job done.

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The pressure will have been on the publishers of Us.

After the outrageous success of One Day they must have approached the cover design of David Nicholls’ new book with trepidation.

Do they try to echo the bold approach used for One Day in order to jog the memories of the huge numbers who read that book? Or do they do something different as this book is not a sequel?

They chose the latter and actually have ended up with a nice cover but they’ve clearly wrestled with biggest issue that all publishers face in their quest to ‘build author brands’: How on earth can you build a brand when its visual identity is largely reinvented with every new product?

Authors who skip from one subject to another with every new book are a branding nightmare. What is surprising is how few publishers have created author name logos (like music bands do) or defined clear colour palettes for their writers.

Re-inventing the wheel with every new cover is hard work — not least for readers who are already struggling with issues of discoverability.

Periscope (new imprint)

At Fixabook, we’re a bit obsessive about spines. So we love Garnet for choosing to launch their new imprint by showing theirs.

This is a great way to make sure a new list of little-known authors gains traction in the most cluttered part of the bookshop — the shelves.

The bold colours and strong, consistent graphic may well encourage booksellers to display the range together. But if not, it doesn’t matter — even individually, a design such as this will draw the eye on a crowded, spine-out shelf.

Other publishers — look and learn. A simple idea that may make a big difference.

Half Bad


It feels like this cover belongs to a breakout book so it comes as no surprise that it’s exactly what it is turning into.

Its strength is its simplicity – it has the same boldness of purpose as the covers of Twilight or Gone Girl. It takes guts to strip back the design and remove the clutter of straplines and quotes. Usually that comes only with sure-fire confidence in the contents.

Nevertheless, the simplicity belies wonderful nuances. The swirls of red not only create a mysterious face but also remind us of smoke and of blood. Three very potent symbols in one deft splash of a single colour against a black background. That’s some  achievement.

The headline set sideways is also a bold move and adds to the ‘shelf pop’ (as American retailers call it) though to be fair, the version on the silver copies is cooler and much more arresting: half-bad-silver

All in all, this is a cover that deserves the iconic status it will achieve this year.

Ketchup Clouds/My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

kc-packshotThis book choice was not made by me. My ten-year-old daughter came rushing up, delighted, to show me these beautiful sprayed edges (a feature on both Annabel Pitcher’s exquisitely designed paperbacks). Most importantly, she was very clear about the message the book was sending her: “This must be a really good and popular author because the publisher has put a lot of effort into making this book.”


This is the ultimate goal of all those painful hours of covers meetings, design, finish discussions, copywriting and quality checking — to show our readers that we care about our books and our authors… and that they should, too.

Keep that goal at the forefront throughout the process and great things will happen — books that speak to readers of all ages and authors who feel loved.

The Bubble Wrap Boy

Sbubble-wrap-boy-jpg-largeome of the most innovative and eye-catching cover designs are to be found on children’s books at the moment — a much-needed response, perhaps, to the many other, very visual demands on children’s time and interest. The Bubble Wrap Boy is a fantastic example of a simple idea executed perfectly.

The use of collage gives this cover an unusual depth, even as a tiny thumbnail, while the juxtaposition of photography and sketch suggests a tension between growing up and staying a child.

What’s even more pleasing (and something that children always find particularly satisfying) is that the back cover continues this attention to detail, with a back view of the same boy acting as a holder for the beautifully designed blurb.
With examples like this, children’s book design should be studied closely by publishers across all genres and age ranges.

Chop Chop

chop-chopWe spotted this on Twitter. It shouted loudly amidst the clutter of  the new image-rich timeline, even on a small smartphone screen.

It’s a brilliant example of design for a thumbnail age — clear, bold and with crispness and definition. It creates a shape — an icon — that works even when the text is illegible. And, crucially, its uniqueness makes it a cover that everyone will want to share and discuss.

It’s also one of our favourite types of cover; one that isn’t afraid to be brash and — dare we say it — “ugly”. It’s the sort of cover that often gets watered down at jacket meetings, where the sensitivities of the reader and/or the customer are discussed in minute — and usually misguided — detail. It doesn’t try to explain itself and is unapologetically in-your-face; so much so that you can’t help but notice it.

This is the proof cover. We really hope that the final version stays just as confident. We expect to see it popping up on our timelines many times over the coming months, and hope that all publishers are making sure they produce striking designs like this that their authors and staff will shout about.


les-miserablesThe “Classics” shelf in any bookshop is normally a sea of red and black — so much so that I often walk past without really noticing it.

But this spine from Penguin Classics is a brilliant move that disrupts the genre and leaps from the shelf… without being too unusual or offputting for a more traditional reader.


Penguin have taken the conventional colour palette adopted by pretty much every publisher and made the most of this wider-than-usual spine to give Les Misérables the strongest possible chance of being noticed by even the most casual browser.

It’s clever and, most importantly, really beautiful — a gorgeous, gifty object as well as a commercially smart piece of design.

The Secret History

tarttWith The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt making such a big splash, it is no surprise that retailers are also filling their shelves with the paperback of The Secret History.

This is interesting because it serves to highlight the incredibly dull cover design for that book.

It was a classic case of a publisher relying entirely on the fame and hype that surrounded the original (and stunningly designed) hardback.

This version does nothing to feed the curiosity or imagination of the consumer.

OK so there is the ‘Bestseller’ line and a review claiming the book is ‘brilliant’ but frankly, readers know that half the covers in WH Smith carry those selling messages and the vast majority don’t justify them.

It is a shame when publishers decide a book is so famous it need do no more than simply identify itself to people. They miss out on using the cover of a great novel to capture entirely new audiences, safe in the knowledge that those consumers will be truly delighted with what they read.


case-2Many, many hours are spent at publishers’ jacket meetings debating front covers, but little or no time is devoted to the other features that can make the difference between an ordinary book and a special one – crucial weapons in the struggle for visibility.

Police demonstrates attention to detail in every aspect of the design. Far from resting on the author’s best-selling laurels, the whole book works hard to appeal to new and existing Nesbo readers.

The fact this is a new Harry Hole novel is given prominence on the spine, there is a black ribbon and the endpapers feature a hand-drawn map of Oslo.

And, finally, there is a surprise for the reader – stylish cover boards, which make the book even more attractive as a gift or self-purchase.

These extras combine to give a clear signal that this author is special to his publisher – a convincing way to encourage purchase.