One of my favorite tasks at Abingdon Press has been the weekly titles and covers session. Designing book covers is a special art. A single image must capture the core essence of tens of thousands of words. It must be true to the book, but it must hook the target audience or buyer. It must be relevant as a design. Because it must hook the buyer quickly, it must be simple, but it can never be simplistic.
If a book doesn’t have a strong hook, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to find an awesome title and cover. You can’t go back and recook the meal with better seasoning. But ones that have interesting hooks become a design opportunity.
Here’s a list of ten books with great titles and covers – ones that capture and convey the essence of the book, that build intrigue and that make a promise to the buyer. Some of the links go to the inspiring and helpful bookcoverarchive.com.
1. Schulz and Peanuts. Designer: Chip Kidd. A biography of Robert Schulz and an amazing example of simple yet powerful design.
2. Drunk: The Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary. Another example of simple – and funny.
3. 10 Temptations of Church: Why Churches Decline and What To Do About It. Designer: Joel Anderson. One of ours. Foreboding Vines choke out the iconic country church while dark clouds hover. This book proposal came in as “Incentives for Decline.” I gave it a hook – people don’t want churches to grow, because they get a personal payoff in a declining church. The are tempted by church.
4. American Dream 2.0: A Christian Way Out of the Great Recession. Designer: Jeff Moore. This proposal came in as “MLK, Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama.” It was good stuff but limiting. My hook capitalized on the current economic angst and ongoing discussion about the American Dream. My colleague Jeff Moore captured the ethos and target audience with his closed-up, urban storefront.
5. Wide awake: A Memoir of Insomnia. Designer: Rodrigo Corral. The yellow assaults you. Interestingly, it is very similar to the Schulz in color scheme but creates a very different reaction. Why?
6. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Designer: Jamie Keenan. This made me laugh. I can’t imagine who the target audience for this book is supposed to be – med students? – but the cover is so good it almost makes me want to read it.
7. Guggenheim: Frank Lloyd Wright and The Making of the Modern Museum. Designer: Pentagram. This one captures the distinctive stairwell of the museum and is a good example of using the subject for inspiration.
8. Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority By An Authority in Question. Another Abingdon book, by Will Willimon, one of the most popular Christian writers of the few decades. The problem is that it’s a memoir of being a UM bishop. There are only 32 of those people – so who’s going to by it? We skirted this problem with a great subtitle (by Abingdon marketing guru Hampton Ryan) and by using a gamesmanship metaphor to hopefully expand the discussion to authority and leadership in general. The cover brought it all together.