There's that old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But we all do it. I’ve bought bad books with beautiful covers, and I’ve skipped classics that are presented badly. A good cover doesn’t automatically make your publication into a bestseller, but it can help. A bad one doesn’t necessarily derail the book’s chances… but it can be like trying to drive your car with the handbrake on. A cover represents the book, its author and publisher in shorthand form. A good cover gives you a glimpse of what’s inside, it lures you in and it fires up your imagination.
Thumbnails as art
Now in these days of internet sales taking over from bookstore browsing, your artwork has to look especially sharp, and it has to ‘pop’ off the screen even as a tiny thumbnail. I personally remember the clamor that happened when vinyl lp’s were being replaced by those tiny cd’s. How on earth can you retain even a small percentage of the lovely artwork in such a small size? I’m not even going into the point Neil Young (among many others) made, about how going from analog recording methods to digital also made the music smaller. Analog was physical, organic, vibrant and alive, while digital compressed and compromised the signal. There’s a reason why vinyl is making a comeback today. Books are the vinyl of tomorrow. But I digress.
Utility or art?
Modern connoisseurs don’t only want a song you can listen to from the cloud. They don’t want merely the words you can let your phone read to you. Many of those sometimes spectacular works of art are on the brink of being forgotten until someone turns it into an object of beauty and resonance. Like a 180 gram hot pink vinyl or a smyth-sewn hardbound book with a french fold dust-jacket and vintage endsheets. That’s not something you have an automated digital printer spit out of its proto-ai controlled innards to be drone-delivered to your door. There’s a place for those books, but they’re utility. Not so much art.
So think of your book as a special edition or as a director’s cut. Imagine it to be a beautiful, meaningful object that grows with its owner, gathering wrinkles and scuffs and other signs of age, turning into something truly individual and consequential over time. Each copy, while similar, becomes unique in the hands of its owner. And the book cover is a major part of this process. It’s the first thing that you see (thumbnail or not), and however much you may think people don’t judge books by their covers… they do it all the time. There are book covers you don’t mind, that don’t bother you, book covers that are all right and okay and hunky-dory, but then there are those book covers that jump off the shelves, grabbing you by the eyeballs, followed by your mind, engaging you in a primal gut level.
We’ve shown some of our favorite book covers above. For more you can follow up by reading what our friends at Design Wizard did: a list of 100 spectacularly creative book covers. It’s a wonderful resource, intelligently compiled, and loaded with not just cool books, but chock-full of inspiration.
So if you have a book project cooking, give us a call and see how we can help you make it look and feel as unique as its contents are. We’ve been at it for a while. In fact, from the time the first major artist — David Bowie — made his whole back catalogue available as cds. We'd love to share our experience with you.
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