Publishers have always tried to surprise the reader with the covers of their books. Through bright colors, enigmatic drawings or original formats, the cover is a cover letter that keeps the intentions of the story that is between its pages and is also key in the commercial strategies of publishers. In general, the big publishers look for a stable image and the small ones try to attract attention.
In Spain, publishers follow the style of the continental European publishing tradition, they have a very marked design in which they try to capture their mark. “In Italy and France, literary collections are very marked by the publisher,” says Silvia Sesé, editorial director of Anagrama. A technique with which “It is intended that the reader recognize the publisher in order to retain him”says José Hamad, editor of Sexto Piso.
On the other hand, other more commercial and large publishers follow the Anglo-Saxon trend, seeking that each book be unique by itself. “They do as in England, many times they don’t put the logo or their name on the cover,” adds Hamad.
Mark a design style: the importance of identity
Each publisher is used to proposing a type of design that provides an identity to each collection. “There really is a conviction that each one should have a direction,” says Silvia Sesé.
An example is the independent publisher Transitwho was always clear that he wanted the minimalist style was a “house brand”. Her books are characterized by having a matte background color with a small image on the right side, below the title and the author.
“Having such a marked style makes the books very recognizable, that the readers understand in a matter of seconds that what they are seeing is a Transit book,” says its designer Donna Salama.
In Anagramamong its most classic collections are panorama of narratives Y Hispanic Narratives, which follow the same design of its beginnings, and encourages readers to discover new authors. “It’s a way of telling the reader that an unknown author is in a collection that he has read before,” explains Sesé.
“Sometimes the illustration jumps out of the typical square on the cover“
There is also room to break the established guidelines. “Sometimes we break the typical square of the image and the illustration jumps out of that square,” says Sesé. So more space is used in the box, including the color of the background, as is the case with Curved time in Kremsby Claudio Magris, from the Panorama of Narratives collection.
Although this innovation has been from the first moment in the editorial. “At number one Narrative Overviewin Two very serious ladiesby Jane Bowles, there is already a way out of the square,” says the editorial director.
The collection Narrative from Sixth Floor has created its identity through a rectangular stripwhich contains the name of the author and the title, with which they intend a “discreet and recognizable” design.
ash in the mouthfrom Brenda Navarro, is proof of this style. In addition, they have achieved an “attractive and very enigmatic” cover, says Hamad.
Although sometimes the designs of this collection vary in the shorter books, such as with Life of Barbara Lodenby Nathalie Leger. “The same typography is respected and they don’t have the top stripe, but we try to remain recognizable,” says Hamad.
Covers without illustrations
Some publishers in certain collections omit any type of image on their covers to find a different identity and differentiate a literary genre.
In Sixth Floor this style is common in the set essayswhich is usually “entirely typographical”. In addition, they are usually made with another type of “more special” paper.
“The designer Joaquín Gallego has complete freedom and has made fantastic and very interesting covers in terms of their graphic design, only with typography”, comments Hamad.
Although there is always room for exceptions, in some cases they have included an image, as has recently happened with the publication of Feline Philosophy. Cats and the meaning of life. It is an essay with an illustrated cat, although typography continues to play a leading role.
In the same type of literary genre, Anagrama has a set of essays in which there is no image on their covers either. Is about New Anagram Notebookswhich rescues the old collection Anagram Notebooks from the 60s and 70s.
“They were the same size and they were also made in different colors,” says Sesé. With these books they intended to make a “nod to the format and colors of the first collection and renew it,” she adds.
The images: the great identity of the story
Most of the time, illustrations, drawings or photographs usually determine the design by occupying a significant part of the cover. In Sixth Floor, for example, the image occupies about 70% of the cover with which they try to “reflect the spirit of each book” between the editor and the designer jointly.
To do this, they are based on the content and the type of book: “Sometimes you need a more classic image, and you choose a painting or a classic work of art, other times it can be an illustration and sometimes we look for a photograph that fits the spirit of the work,” explains Hamad.
Sometimes they also call an illustrator for his style, as happened with proper nouns, by Marta Jiménez Serrano. the illustrator lara lars made a collage that had “a very good reception and was very striking for the public”Hamad says.
“Collage offers endless possibilities“
In Tránsito, they also bet on this technique: “the editor Sol Salama and I are lovers of photography, but we agreed that collage offers endless possibilities,” says designer Donna Salama.
Compositions with cutouts of images that allow telling the “deep and visceral emotions” that mark its narrative line. “The collage allows you to escape from the literal and be more suggestive and evocative”Salama points out.
In this way, on the cover of among the brokenby Alaíde Ventura Medina, plays with a torn image because the narrator takes a journey through her youth from the photographs.
The creative journey with each book is different. “I usually make a lot of notes while I’m reading and on many occasions the idea that ends up on the cover is born through them”Salama highlights.
The creation process can be long and complex and you don’t always agree with the result. with work The passengerby Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, the editor José Hamad and the illustrator Riki Blanco were left unsatisfied, so they did not expect the international reception that followed.
“We received proposals from international publishers, like in England and Greece, who wanted to use the same image, so we had captured the spirit of the book probably better than we imagined,” says Hamad.
In Anagram it is intended that “the object aesthetically represents what the content says”Sesé points out. A clear example is Masterpiece, by Juan Tallón, which deals with the disappearance of a work of art from the Reina Sofía Museum, which weighs 38 tons. “It is an empty cover, only the poster of the work of art appears,” says Sesé.
One of her latest designs that Donna Salama is most proud of is dirtyby Marie Darrieussecqa book that deals on the commodification and consumption of the female body. He considers it “a furious text but kind and tender at the same time”, so he has captured “the delicacy and the rage”.
To get the outline of the pig’s head, Salama put on a mask and took a self-portrait in the same position as the woman on the cover “to get a good composition” in the collage.
The importance of covers for bookstores
Cover design is an element that has a lot of power in traditional bookstores. “There is a very strong display and it is where we like customers to shop,” Hamad points out. Upon entering the reader sees thousands of covers, so it is necessary to arouse his interest. “The book catches your eye and draws the attention of the type of public with each cover,” explains the editor.
On the other hand, in the digital purchase the reader goes with a clear objective. “He gets there looking for somewhere else, not by flipping through several books,” he says. In addition, the advance of digitization has to some extent endangered the physical book.
“More than the fear that the digital book will replace paper, there are social networks, series and the continuous bombardment of stimuli to which we are exposed, and I think this poses a greater threatSalama points out.
“On the covers there is more need to stand out and distinguish“
These constant interactions lead to more competition, and “more need to stand out and distinguish yourself,” says Hamad. “In a sense, we’re moving more and more towards the cover as a spectacle,” he adds.
To compete in this difficult market, independent publishers are betting on more eye-catching designs. “There is a tendency to look for new formulas and more elaborate designs, to give more value to the roof”Salama confirms.
Surprising the reader and finding the right design is a constant job that publishers have done all their lives. Silvia Sesé maintains that care and innovation have always been and will continue. “People who make books really like to take care of the details,” she says.