Though many deny it, the art on a book cover is often the reason people decide to buy a book. The design is what first catches our eye and intrigues us when we browse a bookstore or library, and what inspires us to crack open the book and read something from a new author or genre. This is what makes the best book covers stand out over time.
Book Cover Design
Book cover design is not selected without thought. Each design is painstakingly planned out, often before the author is even finished with a manuscript. This process begins anywhere from 15 months to 2 years before the publication date, when the designer begins working with the editor and publishing house. From there, the designer and publisher or editor collaborate to create a version of the book cover they all agree upon.
Though authors can submit suggestions and ideas to the publishing team, these requests can be ignored in favor of what the publishing house deems is more marketable for the genre and story. For example, David Foster Wallace requested a photo of Fritz Lang directing the movie Metropolis for the cover of Infinite Jest, but the publishing house opted for an image of clouds despite his behest.
After a first edition book is published, book covers continue to change over time for many reasons: it may be the anniversary of the book’s release or there could be a movie adaption on the market; an artist who loves the story may be asked to update the cover; or, the publishers may simply decide that the cover is due for a reboot. The reasons a book cover changes are countless, which is why those that have made a lasting impression are so compelling today.
There are many book covers that stand alone as a work of art, from The Great Gatsby to A Clockwork Orange. Learn more about the book covers you love and recognize, and the designers that brought their vision to life.
Over time, book cover design has evolved from commissioned illustrations to minimalist styles with bold typography and understated photography. For any avid reader, the range of book covers offers a way to collect your favorite book the way one might collect art. Novels like 1984 have inspired dozens of cover variations, making it a great way to not only build out your book collection, but track the art styles and book cover trends over time.