Please Judge Books by Their Covers, I Beg You

Please Judge Books by Their Covers, I Beg You

There's no general platitude quite like "don't judge a book by its cover" to drive me batty. If you're like me, you’ve picked up a book at a bookstore or library and read it simply because you liked the cover art.

That's actually how I found one of my favorite novels of all time: A Partial History of Lost Causes. I'd decided I had to have it even before reading the summary on the back of the book. Seriously, just look at that cover art!

 [image description: cover art for the novel A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois. The lower part is a photograph of a street in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the sky is a mosaic of blue, yellow, and green squares.] 

[image description: cover art for the novel A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois. The lower part is a photograph of a street in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the sky is a mosaic of blue, yellow, and green squares.] 

My favorite imprint, Riverhead Books, is also particularly good at cover art. I love following their design adventures on Instagram

Book cover designers collaborate with editors and publishing houses to create a cover that is memorable and marketable. And it’s no simple feat! Often, the cover art is conceptualized up to two years before the book is even published. From there, it goes through many iterations and adaptations over time which is why those covers we remember are that much more impressive.

 [image description: The text of the infographic is as follows: To Judge a Book By Its Cover Every book’s cover has a story behind it, from the origin of its concept to the final iteration. Who selects book cover art? Publishers and Editors are concerned with finding a cover that communicates the story well. Sales and Marketing are concerned with determining how to  position the book in the market. What about the author? Authors have little input in the design process. Many are happy to defer to the experts who will sell their book, but if they disagree with the direction, the team will often reconsider. How is a book cover decided? The cover designer is commissioned by the publisher or editor. The designer communicates with the sales/marketing team to develop the concept. The designer presents “roughs” (three or four approaches to the cover) to the sales team before moving forward. The different teams cycle through feedback until a consensus is reached on the direction of the piece. 18 Famous Book Covers: You know the author, but do you know the artist behind these iconic book jackets?  The Great Gatsby. Print edition: 1925. Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Artist: Francis Cugat. Fun fact: After seeing the cover art midway through writing the novel, Fitzgerald decided to incorporate it (the eyes) into the book’s plot. To the Lighthouse. Print edition: 1927. Author: Virginia Woolf. Artist: Vanessa Bell. Fun fact: Bell, Woolf’s older sister, created the covers for all of her sister’s novels, something they agreed upon as children. Brave New World. Print edition: 1932. Author: Aldous Huxley. Artist: Leslie Holland. Fun fact: Holland dabbled in commercial art, producing posters for London Transport, greetings for telegram cards, and book jacket designs. The Grapes of Wrath. Print edition: 1939. Author: John Steinbeck. Artist: Elmer Hader. Fun fact: Hader made a living illustrating children’s books with his wife, Berta, which is how Steinbeck discovered his work. Goodnight Moon. Print edition: 1947. Author: Margaret Wise Brown. Artist: Clement Hurd. Fun fact: Hurd originally planned to join his father’s mortgage firm, but he dropped out of college and decided to become an artist. Death of a Salesman. Print edition: 1949. Author: Arthur Miller. Artist: Joseph Hirsch. Fun fact: Hirsch was an American realist painter who was an artist-correspondent during WWII. Catcher in the Rye. Print edition: 1951. Author: J.D. Salinger. Artist: E. Michael Mitchell. Fun fact: Salinger was notoriously picky about his book covers. Though he liked Mitchell’s carousel design, he refused to autograph a copy for the illustrator. Invisible Man. Print edition: 1952. Author: Ralph Ellison. Artist: Edward McKnight Kauffer. Fun fact: Kauffer’s work was influenced by cubism and impressionism. He is known for producing 140 posters for the London Underground.  Atlas Shrugged. Print edition: 1957. Author: Ayn Rand. Artist: George Salter. Fun fact: Salter defined postwar book jacket style with his calligraphic lettering and airbrush renderings. Psycho. Print edition: 1959. Author: Robert Bloch. Artist: Tony Palladino. Fun fact: Alfred Hitchcock, the director of the film adaptation, bought the rights to the lettering of this book cover. To Kill a Mockingbird. Print edition: 1960. Author: Harper Lee. Artist: Shirley Smith. Fun fact: Jarrod Taylor, the designer of Lee’s Go Set a Watchman book cover, is an homage to Smith’s 1960s cover. Catch-22. Print edition: 1961. Author: Joseph Heller. Artist: Paul Bacon. Fun fact: Bacon pioneered the “Big Book Look,” in which the author’s name and book title were in large print accompanied by a small illustration. In Cold Blood. Print edition: 1966. Author: Truman Capote. Artist: S. Neil Fujita. Fun fact: Capote hated Fujita’s first draft of the book cover, which featured a bright red hatpin.  The Godfather. Print edition: 1969. Author: Mario Puzo. Artist: S. Neil Fujita. Fun fact: Fujita’s imagery of the puppeteer’s hand inspired the film that’s based on the book. A Clockwork Orange. Print edition: 1972. Author: Anthony Burgess. Artist: David Pelham. Fun fact: The primary colors of this second edition cover were perceived as revolutionary given the violent nature of the book. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Print edition: 1997 (UK). Author: J.K. Rowling. Artist: Thomas Taylor. Fun fact: He created this Harry Potter book cover during his first illustration job at Bloomsbury Publishing. A Wrinkle in Time. Print edition: 1998. Author: Madeleine L’Engle. Artist: Peter Sís. Fun fact: Sís received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for his “lasting contribution” as a children’s illustrator. Everything Is Illuminated. Print edition: 2003. Author: Jonathan Safran Foer. Artist: Jon Gray. Fun fact: Gray pioneered the bold, hand-drawn lettering that became popular in modern book cover design.]

[image description: The text of the infographic is as follows: To Judge a Book By Its Cover
Every book’s cover has a story behind it, from the origin of its concept to the final iteration. Who selects book cover art? Publishers and Editors are concerned with finding a cover that communicates the story well. Sales and Marketing are concerned with determining how to  position the book in the market. What about the author? Authors have little input in the design process. Many are happy to defer to the experts who will sell their book, but if they disagree with the direction, the team will often reconsider. How is a book cover decided? The cover designer is commissioned by the publisher or editor. The designer communicates with the sales/marketing team to develop the concept. The designer presents “roughs” (three or four approaches to the cover) to the sales team before moving forward. The different teams cycle through feedback until a consensus is reached on the direction of the piece. 18 Famous Book Covers: You know the author, but do you know the artist behind these iconic book jackets? 
The Great Gatsby. Print edition: 1925. Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Artist: Francis Cugat. Fun fact: After seeing the cover art midway through writing the novel, Fitzgerald decided to incorporate it (the eyes) into the book’s plot.
To the Lighthouse. Print edition: 1927. Author: Virginia Woolf. Artist: Vanessa Bell. Fun fact: Bell, Woolf’s older sister, created the covers for all of her sister’s novels, something they agreed upon as children.
Brave New World. Print edition: 1932. Author: Aldous Huxley. Artist: Leslie Holland. Fun fact: Holland dabbled in commercial art, producing posters for London Transport, greetings for telegram cards, and book jacket designs.
The Grapes of Wrath. Print edition: 1939. Author: John Steinbeck. Artist: Elmer Hader. Fun fact: Hader made a living illustrating children’s books with his wife, Berta, which is how Steinbeck discovered his work.
Goodnight Moon. Print edition: 1947. Author: Margaret Wise Brown. Artist: Clement Hurd. Fun fact: Hurd originally planned to join his father’s mortgage firm, but he dropped out of college and decided to become an artist.
Death of a Salesman. Print edition: 1949. Author: Arthur Miller. Artist: Joseph Hirsch. Fun fact: Hirsch was an American realist painter who was an artist-correspondent during WWII.
Catcher in the Rye. Print edition: 1951. Author: J.D. Salinger. Artist: E. Michael Mitchell. Fun fact: Salinger was notoriously picky about his book covers. Though he liked Mitchell’s carousel design, he refused to autograph a copy for the illustrator.
Invisible Man. Print edition: 1952. Author: Ralph Ellison. Artist: Edward McKnight Kauffer. Fun fact: Kauffer’s work was influenced by cubism and impressionism. He is known for producing 140 posters for the London Underground. 
Atlas Shrugged. Print edition: 1957. Author: Ayn Rand. Artist: George Salter. Fun fact: Salter defined postwar book jacket style with his calligraphic lettering and airbrush renderings.
Psycho. Print edition: 1959. Author: Robert Bloch. Artist: Tony Palladino. Fun fact: Alfred Hitchcock, the director of the film adaptation, bought the rights to the lettering of this book cover.
To Kill a Mockingbird. Print edition: 1960. Author: Harper Lee. Artist: Shirley Smith. Fun fact: Jarrod Taylor, the designer of Lee’s Go Set a Watchman book cover, is an homage to Smith’s 1960s cover.
Catch-22. Print edition: 1961. Author: Joseph Heller. Artist: Paul Bacon. Fun fact: Bacon pioneered the “Big Book Look,” in which the author’s name and book title were in large print accompanied by a small illustration.
In Cold Blood. Print edition: 1966. Author: Truman Capote. Artist: S. Neil Fujita. Fun fact: Capote hated Fujita’s first draft of the book cover, which featured a bright red hatpin. 
The Godfather. Print edition: 1969. Author: Mario Puzo. Artist: S. Neil Fujita. Fun fact: Fujita’s imagery of the puppeteer’s hand inspired the film that’s based on the book.
A Clockwork Orange. Print edition: 1972. Author: Anthony Burgess. Artist: David Pelham. Fun fact: The primary colors of this second edition cover were perceived as revolutionary given the violent nature of the book.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Print edition: 1997 (UK). Author: J.K. Rowling. Artist: Thomas Taylor. Fun fact: He created this Harry Potter book cover during his first illustration job at Bloomsbury Publishing.
A Wrinkle in Time. Print edition: 1998. Author: Madeleine L’Engle. Artist: Peter Sís. Fun fact: Sís received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for his “lasting contribution” as a children’s illustrator.
Everything Is Illuminated. Print edition: 2003. Author: Jonathan Safran Foer. Artist: Jon Gray. Fun fact: Gray pioneered the bold, hand-drawn lettering that became popular in modern book cover design.]

Thanks to the good folks at Invaluable for letting me use that nifty infographic. 

Do you have a favorite book cover? Or do you love the cover art from a particular publisher or artist? Let me know in the comments below!

My Pride Colors are Ramona Blue

My Pride Colors are Ramona Blue

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