Friday, May 3, 2013

Interview with Peter Mendelsund

What makes for an unsuccessful cover design? 
I can’t stand covers which imitate other covers, or which slavishly look like whatever their designated genre is supposed to look like. I really dislike any cover that is a cliché, or that consists of clichés. There are visual clichés, tropes for every genre we publish—crime, chick lit, horror, history, science… even (or even especially) literary fiction… 
A new book needs first and foremost to catch a browser’s eye, and, in order to do so, the cover has to stand out in some way. (Things stand out, tautologically, by looking distinctive, different from what's amassed around them). I can’t stress this point enough. There are so many books published every year, and so many of their covers look alike. Don’t they? 
This is, of course, a product of a kind of insularity in the publishing business, the ways in which publishing is an echo chamber. But it’s also a product of a marketing culture that can exist anywhere, which can think of no better methodology than imitation. There is a fundamental fear that underlies many of the decisions made around book jackets; in this market, publishers want covers they think are safe bets—ie covers that are similar to other covers that have worked in the past. Unfortunately, by dictating that designers produce genre-ready, hackneyed, copycat covers, publishers are insuring just the opposite of their intent: they are insuring that a book will get lost amid the clones (or at the very least they are insuring that the jacket won’t be helping to make the sale). 
I prefer ugly covers to clone covers. At least ugly covers demand a certain amount of attention. 

Pearls of wisdom from an interview with book cover designer, Peter Mendelsund.

Read the full transcript at Porter Square Books Blog:

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