Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Covers: What’s Hot, What’s Not

Are book covers a fashion item? David Middleton, January Magazine’s art director and a seasoned cover designer in his own right says, “Yes. I suppose you could look at it in that way. There is even an argument that the seasonal nature of the industry plays a part.”

Not coats or sweaters, of course: books don’t actually need to stay warm. But, like clothing and cars and other things highly influenced by sales numbers, “the visual vernacular is always being pushed towards change.”

Part of this, Middleton insists, has to do with a Holy Grail-style search for a cover that will sell any book anytime to anyone. “And, of course, everyone knows that bestsellers aren’t created by any single thing.” No sense, for instance, wrapping the proverbial sow’s ear in a silk purse. Still, “in an environment as competitive as contemporary publishing, every element is being pushed as far as it can go.”

All of that might explain some of what The Guardian’s blog is on about while looking at this year’s book jacket fashions. Some of it is plain fun. For example, they break down the covers of the latest books from some very popular authors and define the jacket style just as one would when writing about the newest offerings from fashion designers. For example, looking at a current trend to entirely type-based covers, The Guardian offers:
Look: pure text - just name and titleExample: Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieAlso worn by: Julian Barnes, Gillian FlynnWhat it says: bow down - author is such a god that usual visual accessories would be vulgar
Nine trends are examined in this way. And what’s not hot? The Guardian has that covered, as well:
On the way out are yellows and pastels; the curious short-lived vogue for showing only women’s feet or arms; images of furniture; ostensibly hand-illustrated covers (eg The Art of Fielding) - and the retro look in general has become passe.
Except of course, when it isn’t. After all, Middleton reminds us, all the book industry ever seems to need for a trend to start is a big seller. “I don’t think it would take very much at all to bring all those feet and arms right back.” ◊



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