No, No, No, No, Yes: Book Design Uncovered: The title of a new book on cover design hints at the countless pieces of art that get rejected before a publisher lands on a final cover. The road to bestseller status is paved with dead designs.
The book is the work of David Dunn, editor and founder of D&B Books. It covers 25 books submitted by cover designers from all over the world, showcasing the final design of each title along with four rejected covers that are now being published for the first time. After all, both publishers and consumers do judge books by their covers–and the right design can be a major boon for sales. While it’s hard to put an exact number on the economic impact of great cover design, some surveys suggest that design can increase a book’s visibility by 50% online (it’s important in bookstores, too).
“I think there is definitely a quantifiable impact–books are now bought so much online that a cover has to look good and stand out when presented as a thumbnail or on screen,” Dunn says over email. He adds that Amazon and other online retailers have definitely pushed cover design and elevated its importance. He also believes that this market change means that books with great content but a poor cover won’t sell.
Dunn had the idea for No, No, No, No, Yes after attending a talk by British designers and book cover experts Jon Gray and Jamie Keenan. At the talk, Gray and Keenan showed a series of beautiful book cover designs that never saw the cover of a book. It was then that Dunn decided to publish a book honoring those rejected designs.
“There are all these beautiful book covers that never quite made it, that no one ever gets to see,” he told Design Week. “I thought, Wouldn’t it be great to show the world these covers?”
Dunn’s favorite reject is a cover design by British studio La Boca. “The cover for Things We Lost in the Fire has been my phone’s wallpaper ever since I chose to feature it in the book,” Dunn said. “I just really love the colors and symmetry of the design.” When he posted the alternative, rejected cover on Instagram, the book’s author, Mariana Enriquez, commented that she preferred it to the one that actually shipped.
This is not uncommon. The cover selection process doesn’t solely depend on the author–it’s a battle between the publishers and their marketing departments, too. As Dunn’s volume shows, this compromise often leaves the best work on the hard drive rather than the printing press.
You can see some of the rejected and final designs in the slide show above.