Anatomy of a design car-crash, or, why authors still need publishers

Anatomy of a design car-crash, or, why authors still need publishers

Much has been made of the ongoing ding-dong between publishers and agents over certain agents' decisions to publish their clients work directly in electronic form. In March, Sonia Land, agent for the Catherine Cookson literary estate, pulled a flanker on publishers Transworld and Simon & Schuster and announced she would publish the books directly.

Let's remind ourselves what she said to the Daily Mail at the time:

"I haven't told either firm about the deal and I am sure they are going to kick up a fuss about it. But at the end of the day, what can they say? They do not own the electronic publishing rights to the works. In recent years, they have shown little interest in marketing or exploiting the Cookson brand. It is a wake-up call for the industry."

Yesterday it came to my attention that the books have now hit the Amazon Kindle store - and the e-book covers are shockingly, ten-year-old-with-a-copy-of-Microsoft-Paint, bad. Consisting of a ropey line drawing of the author, bathed in a heroic glow, her signature and the book's title over a varying range of pulsing backgrounds, the only way these jackets could look any worse would be if the designer had used Comic Sans for the book titles.

To give credit, there is a kernel of sense in what this set of covers are trying to do - to have a cost-effective, formulaic approach (there are 99 books requiring jackets), easily recognised by the consumer and eschewing those elements of a physical book jacket which are not required in our new digital world. Unfortunately, the baby of design credibility appears to have been thrown out along with the bathwater of 20th century book design, to give a result that it's hard to imagine anyone finding appealing.

If these jackets aren't an argument for what the creative team(s) of Cookson's publishers could have brought to the party, thus earning a share of the royalties for those publishers, then I don't know what is. Experience the full range for yourself (you may want to find yourselves a pair of sunglasses first).