Judge a Book by its Cover?

In a world saturated by visual noise, the book cover is perhaps the single most important piece of marketing collateral worth investing in. At cover meetings editors, art directors, and sales VP’s fawn over fonts, discuss paper choices, embossing, image rights, and foil stamping. Authors rarely have final say, and each detail (what quotes and blurbs to use) is carefully considered. Here are a few covers that stood out from our increasingly cluttered bookshelf.

Cover design by Domini Dragoone. Cover image by Veer/CSA Printstock

Cover design by Domini Dragoone. Cover image by Veer/CSA Printstock

GIRL IN NEED OF A TOURNIQUET: A Borderline Personality Memoir by Merri Lisa Johnson  (Seal Press)

Cover design by Ben Wiseman. Cover illustrated by Silja Goetz

Cover design by Ben Wiseman. Cover illustrated by Silja Goetz

STRINGS ATTACHED and DOUBLE BOUND by Nick Nolan (Amazon Encore)
Both of Nolan’s books were released this year with new covers and we couldn’t be more pleased. The new covers are a complete departure from the average bodice-ripper covers in the Gay Romance category. And it’s working.

Cover image by Niki Smith

Cover image by Niki Smith

DIANA COMET AND OTHER IMPROBABLE STORIES by Sandra McDonald (Lethe).

Simple. Beautiful. Thoughtful. Reviewed by Christian A. Young.

Cover design by Eric Hanson

Cover design by Eric Hanson

ROLE MODELS by John Waters (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

Not only has Hanson’s work graced the covers of magazines like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and The Atlantic, but his fiction is published in McSweeney’s as well. It’s a shame our reviewer didn’t quite fall in love with the book itself. Reviewed by Tom Eubanks.

Cover design by David Wardle

Cover design by David Wardle

MOZIPEDIA: The Encyclopaedia of “Morrissey” and the “Smiths” by Simon Goddard (Plume)

Custom fonts anyone?

INFERNO (A POET’S NOVEL) by Eileen Myles (OR Books)
Always an innovator, Myles allows readers to choose between two covers. This makes perfect sense in a world of digital publishing and print-on-demand. Will other publishers follow suit? We hope so! Reviewed by Julie Enszer

Cover design by Marina Drukman. Illustration "Querelle" by Andy Warhol.

HATE: A ROMANCE by Tristan Garcia (Faber & Faber)
One of the sexiest covers we saw all year lacked the pecks and abs we’re accustomed to. Who knew?

Cover and interior design by Natalie Olsen and Kisscut Design

SMOKED By Garry Ryan (NeWest Press)

One of the most engaging covers of the year is also one of the simplest. Sometimes, it’s what is not shown that really draws the eye in. Mystery novelists take note! Reviewed by Wayne Gunn

Cover Art: Self by Ivan J. Fortushniak (oil on masonite; 11 x 12 inches). Copyright © 2003 Ivan J. Fortushniak. Used by permission. Cover and text design by Lane Stiles

SIN EATER: POEMS by William Reichard (Mid List Press)
Visually stunning, this cover is as poetic as the contents inside.

Cover design by Laurie Dolphin

ALCESTIS by Katharine Beutner (Soho Press)

This cover is best enjoyed in person. Soho Press utilizes the some of the finest paper stock we’ve beheld all year. Reviewed by Andrea Lawlor

Cover designed by Don Joseph

Cover designed by Don Joseph

TOSS AND WHIRL AND PASS by Shawn Stewart Ruff edited by Msr. Claude-Albert Saucier (Quote Editions)
Author byline? Who needs it. It’s a risky move, but this cover works as is.

Cover design by Mel Odom

Cover design by Mel Odom

THE LOST LIBRARY: Gay Fiction Rediscovered by Tom Cardamone (Haiduk Press)
Hauntingly beautiful.

Rodrigo Corral Design

Cover designed by Rodrigo Corral Design

TELL ALL by Chuck Palahniuk (Doubleday)
Designed by the same guy who designed Jay-Z’s Decoded. You can’t tell from this image, but this book literally sparkles—it’s covered in a translucent glitter-like varnish.

Cover illustration by Raymond Pettibon

Cover illustration by Raymond Pettibon

THE PETTING ZOO by Jim Caroll (Viking Adult)

Cover illustration by Gustave Dore, Cover design by Jason Booher

Cover illustration by Gustave Dore, Cover design by Jason Booher

OF LOVE AND EVIL (Songs of the Seraphim, Book 2) by Anne Rice (Knopf)
Earlier this year Rice made headlines when she publicly quit Christianity via a series of Facebook status updates: “I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist.” Religion aside, this is one of the most eye-catching covers of the year’s bestsellers.

Cover illustration by Catherine Opie, "Ron Athey/Pearl Necklace" (from 'Trojan Whore'), 2000. Polaroid, 110"x41" framed. Courtesy of Regen Projects, LA.

Cover illustration by Catherine Opie, "Ron Athey/Pearl Necklace" (from 'Trojan Whore'), 2000. Polaroid, 110"x41" framed. Courtesy of Regen Projects, LA.

GAY SHAME edited by David M. Halperin & Valerie Traub (Univ of Chicago Press)
What can we say? We’re huge fans of Catherine Opie. Also, any photograph that shows a tattooed rear extruding a pearl necklace (in drag!!) has to be the queerest image we’ve seen all year. Reviewed by Sassafras Lowrey

Addendum

Cover design by Chip Kidd

Cover design by Chip Kidd

No book cover discussion would be complete without mentioning Chip Kidd. He’s perhaps the most well-known art director in the industry. The New York Times called his cover for Imperial Bedrooms, “traffic-stopping”—though the reviewer went on to pan the book itself. Kidd also redesigned the cover for Less Than Zero (both shown here) which was reissued this year as well. What can we say? Kidd is a master at what he does.



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  • Ron Fritsch

5 Responses to “2010 in Review: Best Book Covers”

  1. Sally 1 January 2011 at 10:43 AM #

    I love the cover for DIANA COMET – so clean and simple, yet elegant. This is the first I’m seeing of the GAY SHAME cover, but I must admit it’s extraordinarily beautiful.

    Only cover I would add to the list is Portia de Rossi’s Unbearable Lightness – it’s beautiful and sensual, but exposed and vulnerable at the same time.


    • Antonio Gonzalez Cerna 3 January 2011 at 6:05 PM #

      Hi Sally! Thanks for writing. Agreed, de Rossi’s book cover is very beautiful. We’ll have a review of that book up soon.


  2. […] 2010 in Review: Best Book Covers — Lambda Literary […]


  3. […] a cover I designed last year for independent publisher Lethe Press was on Lambda Literary’s 2010 in Review: Best Book Covers in very good company. The book is DIANA COMET AND OTHER IMPROBABLE STORIES by Sandra McDonald, and […]


  4. […] cover of Smoked was recently acknowledged as one of Lambda Literary’s best book covers of 2010. (Residing humbly in the list among some really impressive work by Rodrigo Corral Design, Jason […]



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