Got something interesting in the post this week – the first in Fox Spirit Books’ new series of pocket anthologies. I’ve always been a sucker for pocket sized books, and this one comes in at exactly the right size, not only for slipping into a bag or a coat, but I reckon would fit into your back pocket too. Yeah, I know I have a Kindle app on my phone full of more handy, portable fiction than I could possibly shake any number of sticks at, but … I’ll always be fond of a nicely designed book. And these most certainly fall into that category.
Did I mention the cover design? How much I love it? No? Well I do. Look to your left. See what I mean? I reckon artist Sarah Anne Langton has created something truly iconic with this set of simple elements and limited palette. There’s something about it that reminds me of a specific series of books from maybe the seventies (spy novels perhaps? Look, if anyone can help me out I’ll be grateful, not being able to name the books this reminds me of is doing my head in). And the design concept looks even better when you see that she’s designed the covers for the whole set.
I’ve always been a fan of “book design” over “cover art”. For too many publishers – particularly independent ones with limited means – it’s easy enough to acquire a well executed piece of cover art from an upcoming artist and think that’s the job done. But too many then go and undermine everything with unsympathetic choices of typography and layout. I was thinking about this while touring the dealers’ room at last year’s World Fantasy Convention in Toronto. Most of the books on sale were from independent presses and there were some tables you came back to repeatedly to pick up and touch (and caress and fondle…) their books, while there were others you didn’t even want to be seen standing beside in case someone mistook you for being a couple (I mean, as if!). Invariably, the difference was in design.
I remember a conversation with a colleague a few years back who was disappointed with the cover of his book. For me it was an eye-catching, inspirational piece of design that stood out a mile in any room full of books, but he’d had his heart set on a piece of representational art based on a particular scene. He was wrong. Oh, so wrong.
That’s not to say that representational cover art is bad per se — it’s pretty much mandatory for THE fantasy (hooded dude with sword/wand/novelty bottle opener) and space opera (fancy space ship against planetary background), and it sells books to the kind of people who like those sorts of thing. But the kind of books that catch my eye are abstract, intriguing, and so almost tactile that they are unputdownable.
Which brings me back to these lovely Fox Pockets. I originally checked them out because they have some interesting new authors in them (and I’ll enjoy actually reading them once my mandatory reading period is over), but for now I’m pretty much sold on getting the whole set.