'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 15 October 2012

Publisher's Insider: Never Judge a Book By Its Cover!

I can truthfully say that if there’s one saying that nobody in book publishing really believes it’s ‘never judge a book by its cover’! More time and money can be spent on designing a book’s cover than on almost any other part of the publishing process. It’s also often the cause of the biggest arguments or emotional outbursts, as when it comes to covers, everyone has an opinion!

In theory, the process should run something like this:
  1. Editor consults with author/illustrator as well as sales and marketing and then prepares a brief for the designer.
  2. Designer reads brief and prepares four or five different cover concepts.
  3. Concepts are narrowed down to a couple of favourites that are then refined.
  4. Final cover is selected.
  5. Everyone is happy.

In practice, the process often looks more like this:
  1. Editor consults with author/illustrator as well as sales and marketing and finds opinions are completely at odds regarding what the cover should look like. Editor attempts to reconcile differing views in the design brief.
  2. Designer reads brief, panics and throws together four or five different concepts hoping one will miraculously make everyone happy.
  3. Everyone likes a different concept. No agreement can be reached.
  4. Designer is asked to start again from scratch. More concepts are produced.
  5. Steps 3 and 4 are repeated until print deadlines are so pressing that in sheer desperation the editor selects a bit of each person’s favourite cover and asks the designer to create a new composite one. Incredibly, this actually works and everyone is happy.

Okay, that might be a bit tongue-in-cheek and is probably fuelled by memories of a recent book (and its cover) that I’ve just managed to send to print!

In all seriousness though, an enormous amount of thought goes into a book’s cover. Apart from the obvious requirement that it reflects the overall look and feel of the content, nowadays publishers need to ensure the cover will not only stand out on a bookshelf but will also look good when viewed as a thumbnail image on an online retailer’s site.

And different markets like different things. It’s not uncommon for US, UK and Australian editions of the same title to have different covers, reflecting each market’s individual preferences — the Harry Potter covers for the US and UK are a great example of this.

So next time you buy a book, please spare a thought for what’s gone into creating its public ‘face’. Publishers around the world will thank you!

Anouska Jones is our KBR Editor. Mum to a gorgeous little girl, she has nearly twenty years' experience in the book publishing industry. A publishing consultant and editor, Anouska is obsessed by all things to do with words, writing and books.