The art of a good book cover is a tricky thing to master, partly because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s art is another person’s pavement pizza, and what draws all of us to pick up a book is subtly different. So as I worked on designing the cover for my next book, Sunrise, I thought I’d have a look back at some of my favourite, iconic book covers, and see what I could learn from each of them.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be revealing the cover to Sunrise to readers on my mailing list, along with details on how you can pre-order the book. If you’d like to be among the first to see the cover, why not sign up, and I’ll send you a free copy of my first novel, Blood on the Motorway, completely free.
But before that, without further ado, I present my top 5 favourite book covers.
John Wyndham – Day of the Triffids
This may have been the first book I ever fell in love with, and part of the reason for that was this amazing cover. As a young boy, reading all these books in school that had drab, classic covers, this was so vibrant, so shocking, so colourful. It was evocative, too. You couldn’t help but look at it and know what you were about to get on the pages inside. I read it because it was handed to me by a (remarkably brilliant) English teacher, but if it hadn’t had that cover? Who knows what my life would have been. Not many covers can say that.
Stephen King – It
Another author I was drawn to on the strength of their covers, my love for the King started at a (possibly inappropriately) young age, and I became obsessed with collecting the old classic King covers of this era and style, right up until some idiot version of me in my twenties decided to bin them all.
I tell you, if I ever run into that guy down a dark time-alley, I’ll be having very strong words with him. Like all these covers, this is ridiculously creepy, with a font to absolutely die for, and an image that still gives me the creeps every bit as much as Tim Curry did.
That said, you can take your various iterations of Pennywise. I don’t think any of them freaked me out as much as those eyes did when I got the book.
Douglas Coupland – Generation X.
It’s funny how many of these book covers are linked to the books seared into my brain and consciousness.
I read this book as a kid who’d only ever read genre fiction but obsessed with the cultural moment I was just a few years too young to fully enjoy, and picked this book up based on nothing more than that name, and that cover.
It’s so striking and bold, and at a time when I had yet to unlearn the homophobia instilled in every young person in Britain at the time, how daring and bold to be caught reading a *gasp* pink book. It was unlike anything I’d ever read, and made me a lifelong Coupland fan, despite his more recent efforts to disabuse me of that idea.
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – Good Omens
Oh look, it’s another transformative book from my childhood. I used to love reading movie tie-in books as a kid, usually by Allan Dean Foster or David Seltzer, and I remember sitting in my dorm room one weekend and ploughing through all four Omen novelisations in one weekend, having watched all the films some time before and wanting to dive into them in more details. I was getting my first big yearning for tales of the apocalypse even then, and I remember going to whatever the bog bookshop was in Canterbury at the time and seeing this on display and thinking what an amazing cover it was, how enticing, curious.
As someone living in the grounds of a cathedral, the sheer blasphemy of it was enticing. It kick-started a love for both authors that survives today, and remains one of my favourite ever books.
Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr Ripley
One not from my childhood now – I’ve only gotten into Highsmith’s wonderfully arch murder mysteries in recent years – the covers for this series are gorgeous. Not only are they bright and bold, the hand-drawn typography of them is wonderful, and very evocative of the tone of the books. Not only that, but the card they’re printed on – a rougher, earthier pulp than most modern paperbacks – is a delight to hold. If I were to ever entertain the notion of a traditional book deal, it would be for this reason, to get my book properly printed.
That being said, the newer POD versions of the Blood on the Motorway covers still look pretty delicious, should you feel like picking up a copy.
What do you think? What are your favourite book covers of all time? Leave a comment below.
Paul Stephenson is a writer of horror and science fiction novels. Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining the mailing list or reading along at Wattpad. Oh, and he’s got a Patreon. Sign up for free books, a free weekly short story, and much more.