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.

comment No Comments


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.

Stolen Souls

stolen-souls-1-1Straplines… shoutlines… copylines… Whatever we call them, and whatever we use them for, one thing is consistent — the inordinate amount of time, energy and heartache we spend on them.

This is a really neat example of a publisher using a big fat spine to get as much value as possible out of a copyline. The horizontal positioning immediately breaks up the flow and catches the eye. It’s a simple question — “When you are alone, who will protect you?” — but it gives the book an extra hook in addition to the relatively unknown author. It also adds depth and intrigue to the title.

In a genre whose spines are dominated by spooky Shadow Men, this is a refreshing and intelligent approach.

The Night Circus

night-circusThe Night Circus looks like it will be a lovely book — striking, clean and something you want to pick up and feel.

It’s great to see that this principle of simplicity has been applied to the blurb, too. Rather than trying to explain a complex story, Random have gone for three short yet intriguing statements that convey magic, uncertainty and a certain amount of threat.

It’s a shame, though, that this compelling blurb gets lost in a sea of reviews.

There’s already a great quote from Audrey Niffenegger on the front cover — “This is a marvellous book”. We don’t need to hear from her again. This quote is also intensely self-referencing and, as a result, gives the customer very little insight, particularly if he/she hasn’t actually read The Time Traveler’s Wife.

The Tea Obrecht quote offers far more to potential readers by giving them a real sense of how the book will make them feel, yet this is tucked away at the bottom of the cover.

The blurb also suffers by being in a font and colour that are more recessive than the review above it. It becomes the second thing the reader looks at and has less impact as a result. This copy should be what draws you to the book; the review should be the confirmation that you have made the right choice.

We would recommend losing the Niffenegger quote and replacing it with the Obrecht. The blurb could then be beefed up in size and given more weight, so it talks directly and immediately to its audience.

The Snowman

snowmanThis is a very interesting cover. If you imagine it without the large yellow sticker, you are left with a rather flat image in dull colours (actually it looks like it has been shot in a passport photo booth) with a standard stock shot of a woman looking scared. (The kind of thing you see on Nora Roberts’ covers all the time)

This is combined with very boring typography and an author who most people have never heard of. Of course there is the compelling line at the bottom which reads ‘Over 5 million books sold worldwide’ but even this feels a little lost and somehow odd when you have never heard of the book or the author before.

No, the killer design decision on this cover was to slam a bloody great roundel on the front which screams ‘The Next Stieg Larsson’. Suddenly, the previously dull image of the girl triggers associations with Lisbeth Salander  and the 5 million books sold worldwide line carries much more weight.

This is a brilliant use of a quote. The genius was in rejecting the standard approach of placing it at the top of the cover in neat type and instead, making it the very centrepiece of the design. The Designers haven’t messed about with being subtle. They know that the message on the large roundel will meet a need in thousands of readers who have been left bereft by the end of the Millenium Trilogy and so everything else has been pushed aside.

There is no beauty here and that is what makes it special. Every publisher in the world is jumping on the Larsson bandwagon but few have been this brutal or bold in their communication.

Even the fact that it looks like a sticker that has been put on the cover by the retailer is a nice touch: It adds an extra layer of authority and credibility.

This is a clever cover because rather than try to create something distinctive and beautiful they have created something direct and commercial. Most people try to do all these things but it is very hard to pull off. Here, cold commercialism has won because the designers didn’t try to dress it up as anything else.

As all the best Designers say: Be clear before you are clever…

We, The Drowned

we-the-drowned At first glance, this cover has a lot of similarities to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet — beautiful, detailed illustration with sweeping lines and historical resonance.

But the overall design of this cover is much more successful, for two reasons. Firstly, it works really well even as a tiny thumbnail, due to the clear separation of text and illustration. The horizontal symmetry and clear white space allow the title and author name to hold their own against the busy image, which could so easily have become much too dominant.

Then, once you look more closely at the illustration, the tiny and intriguing details hint at the story within and draw you pleasingly into the world of the book. The small plane and boat are much more contemporary than the ship, for example, suggesting that this is a book that covers a wide historical sweep and many generations. There’s no need for any explanatory text at all.


1984-front I just love this.

It’s wonderful to see that time and effort are still spent on a book that already sells itself.  This design works by combining a retro font with an utterly contemporary natural finish to bring it right up to date for a new audience. The slightly faded effect emphasises its classic nature — this has been around a long time — but without going overboard. It also makes it feel like something hidden, secret and urgent — it’s been handled and passed around many times.

The eye device has, of course, been used many times before on this book, but usually as the main focus of the cover. I love the way in which here it is subsumed within the title as if peering through a hole. By doing this, the eye becomes more intriguing — it could be either Big Brother or Winston/Julia on the lookout. It also allows lots of space for the satisfyingly bold and simple typography.

The strapline is interesting, too. I’m not sure an introduction by Robert Harris adds a huge amount of value to such an iconic book… but the strapline here disrupts what could be a very blocky design without it, and  gives the whole cover movement and energy.

It’s rare that you feel compelled to buy another copy of book you own already — but this edition makes me want to do just that. Result.