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A book uncovered

Like appearances, book covers can be deceptive. But they are also a tome's first introduction, writes Anamika Chatterjee.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2006 16:25 IST
Anamika Chatterjee
Anamika Chatterjee

You have always been told not to judge a book by its cover. But a cover actually serves a big purpose — it is the first impression of the book a reader has when he holds the tome in his hands and tries to fathom the contents.

Have you checked out the cover of Vikram Chandra’s latest Sacred Games? Two figures (who are models), representing the protagonists of the book, do give a sneak peek into what their stories are about. For that matter, a cover can be anything — a painting or a photograph or an abstract imagery, to convey the theme of the book.

Write symbol: Designing a book cover is tricky because what the author has penned in so many words, the designer has to say through just one visual.

Says designer Atanu Roy, “A cover is almost like a poster for the book. The stuff should be noticeable from a distance as images attract buyers. And fiction books give ample room for abstract thoughts.”

Artist/ curator Alka Raghuvanshi who has written A Moment In Time With Legends Of Indian Art (Niyogi Books) on the stalwarts of Indian arts, also took charge of its cover. She says, “I went for a photograph of MS Subbulakshmi as I feel she embodies my perception of Saraswati.”

She adds that paintings as covers can be far more evocative than photos.

Author’s role: Do authors have a say in deciding what goes on the cover of their books? Up to some extent, yes. Talking about the cover of Jaswant Singh’s book A Call To Honour, publisher Kapish Mehra says, “The cover was designed after consultations with the author. We discussed the cover inhouse with a team of editors and designers. It was after due deliberation that we zeroed in on this particular cover, after evaluating over 18 options. It’s a water colour by Jean Jacques Berne-Bellecour, titled The guerrilla of Indian troop - March 1915.”

Vikram Chandra always knew what would make the best cover for his Sacred Games. “I had discussed the cover with a friend of mine,” he says. Vivek Sahni,who designed the cover for Manju Kapoor’s Home, recalls, “I had to show an image of a house in the ’50s which I shot in Bhogal. For a book to stand out, the cover has to be good as there are several books at a shop screaming for attention.”

That’s true, and most of us almost always judge a book by its cover.

First Published: Aug 31, 2006 16:25 IST