“A book cover is a distillation. It is a haiku of the story.” Chip Kidd, graphic designer.
While I’m a firm believer that the content of a book is the most important part, I do like a good book jacket. I love designs that set a mood, or capture certain times, places, moments. Even an abstract jacket through shapes and swirls can project the feel or tone of a book. In other words, the “haiku of the story”.
I think probably any author is nervous about what their book will look like. I know I am. So it is always a thrillingly terrifying moment when the pdf of your book cover appears in your inbox. With my latest book, Three-Martini Afternoons at The Ritz, I was sent three potential designs. I liked all of them, but one in particular stood out because for me it captured a very definite cultural moment. Both the front and the back of the jacket have visual prompts to the contents of the book and certain objects that appear in it. The hardback, in monochrome, conjures a particular feel and time.
Both Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were discriminating about their book covers. Sexton obviously got to see more of her own than Plath and loved some more than others. Plath delighted in the green blockiness of The Colossus (but was less delighted with the dreaded typos that slipped through).
Book covers tell their own stories. They set visual expectations. They create the wraparound environment of the book. Here is the book jacket for Three-Martini Afternoons at The Ritz.
(The book can be pre-ordered here: https://uk.bookshop.org/books/three-martini-afternoons-at-the-ritz-the-rebellion-of-sylvia-plath-and-anne-sexton/9781982138394)