Katie Roden - AKA: Julia

When fixabook was launched, the founders  kept their identities secret in order to give the site time to stand on its own two feet. Now that it has established itself as the foremost blog on design strategy, the moment has come for them to reveal themselves.

Katie has taken part in over 1,000 covers meetings during her twenty years as a publisher – and only remembers a couple where no one got cross.  She has worked on some of the book trade’s biggest brands.

Katie is passionate about the importance of good covers and – most importantly – the way they make the reader feel. She knows how hard it is to get it right when designing by committee… and how easy it is to lose sight of the consumer when every department is clamouring for a say.

Fixabook will help you to get back in touch with your readers and rediscover the art of persuasion.

Katie’s Kiss

I know, I know — it’s yet another Katie Price novel. AND it has a headless woman on the cover (Fixabook’s pet hate). But this is a post in celebration of the author name and how it is treated.

There is so much to love about this stand-out piece of author branding; and it’s all down to the simple addition of that kiss.

It adds a cheeky confidence that deftly answers all the critics. It brings life and personality to the author’s signature. And — crucially — it tells fans that Price is welcoming them and bringing them into her world.

It’s brilliant … and has a lot to teach even the most high-falutin’ publishers.

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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 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.

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.

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.