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 Story of Alice

alice-front-coverIt goes without saying that this is a beautiful cover, made more so by the finishing touches, such as lovely endpapers, that Harvill Secker will be adding to the book.

What is most exciting is to see how the designer has produced something that at once works brilliantly on a hardback cover and meets the need of today’s digital environment — a clear, simple icon that will resonate even at the smallest thumbnail size.

Yes, this silhouette benefits from widespread recognition already. But how clever to use it in a way that futureproofs it for another 150 years while simultaneously creating such a desirable object.

The Nigella Collection

nigella-detailThis is a really smart piece of rebranding that instantly bestows contemporary classic status on what was a rather disparate range of books. It positions Nigella Lawson alongside high-end chefs such as Nigel Slater for the “amateur expert” foodie market – home cooks for whom the usual celebrity cookbooks are a turn-off.

The use of direct quotes on the back cover instantly give the reader a sense of the personal style that makes these books so different and shows off Lawson’s skill as a writer, while the understated but witty graphics and lovely finishes, as well as the new series name – The Nigella Collection – encourage display both at retail and in the kitchen.


These are books as decoration as well as for practical use; books you want to show off about owning. It’s a brave move, but one that has paid off beautifully.

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.

Pitt Cue Co. — Cookbook

pitt-cueThis is one of the great blurbs — indeed, we have even heard people talk about it at dinner parties. (Yes, those are the kind of dinner parties we go to…)

Why is it so noteworthy?

Because it consists of nothing more than a letter from someone who went to the Pitt Cue restaurant and was so impressed he wrote to the owners about his experience. He praised every detail, from the clothing of the waitress, to the quality of service, to the fabulous food.

The letter is laden with expletives and odd observations which give it a ring of authenticity that no clever copywriter could ever dream up.

It is worth buying this book just to read it.

Congratulations to the publishers for having the audacity to use it as their blurb. It is just a crying shame that they didn’t have the balls to use it on their Amazon listing too — if they had, it may well have gone viral.


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.


If you are going to launch a debut novelist with style, confidence and a cover that will get everyone talking, this is how you do it.
The subject matter is controversial anyway, but this witty, daring treatment will grab the attention of even those casual browsers who have no prior knowledge of the book — you can’t fail to be shocked and intrigued in equal measure.
What’s even more impressive is the care that has gone into the whole package — front, back and spine. There is a satisfying consistency and an attention to detail that show just how much faith Faber have in their new author and indicate that this is a book worth reading.
This book will cause much debate and will horrify many people. But it’s great to see bravery in commissioning translated so successfully to the look and feel of the whole object.