by Marcus Sakey
What makes you pick up a book?
This question is weighing on my mind right now, as my publisher is in the process of designing both the mass market cover for THE BLADE ITSELF and the hardcover for my second novel (currently called AT THE CITY'S EDGE; click here to read about Title Hell). So as we're looking at concepts, I'm also watching myself when I go in a bookstore, because it's a competitive environment, and I want people to grab my book before they grab its neighbor. Actually, I want them to grab it, then rub it against themselves while humming the theme from Shaft. Does that make me greedy?
Here are a few that hook me:
I love this one. Clean, stark, moody. Grabby as hell.
The palette is tremendous. The typography is timeless but inventive. The photo seems like it should be everyday but isn’t--the graininess and the god rays from the cloud combine to make it skew our perception.
I'm lukewarm on Rushdie (brilliant stylist, but never seems to get anywhere) but I bought the thing the moment I saw it.
No way I could walk past this novel.
The image puts you right in the moment without revealing too much--maybe I’m a sucker, but a hand and a cigarette, a view through a window, and I’m hooked. The duotone scheme is dramatic, and the dominant orange is at once unsettling and compelling.
Also, I think that the uneven weighting of the title lends a nicely cinematic feel.
This simple cover pulls off mass-market tone with aplomb—there’s something hypnotic about it.
The photo is dynamic, conveying a sense of motion, but the soft focus leaves everything to the imagination. Again, it reflects the story—the police car, the dark city street, and two figures that suggest the two main characters.
Dig the diagonal orientation, also, the way it makes things seem just a little unbalanced.
I love white space, and the only thing better than a Swiss grid is one that’s been slightly busted.
I also love the way the desolate photo combines with the minimalism of the typography to evoke the story. ROBBERS is about two criminals on a disintegrating, nightmare run--something you can practically guess from the cover.
Phenomenal book that not many folks know about, by the way. Well worth picking up.
Atmosphere thick enough to choke. The railing and lights take on a larger character--they come to look like a parliamentary building or a factory, something imposing and moody.
I also love the treatment of the title and Bruen’s name. That kind of branding, built across multiple books, can make a big difference.
(These are all from my personal collection, but if you're interested in more great covers, be sure to check out The Book Design Review, a fascinating blog that analyzes the covers of new books with an emphasis on NYT Bestsellers.)
Anyway, how about you? Which books just leap off the tables at you? I'd really like to know. Especially if Isaac Hayes comes to mind.