Today Fledgling Press went along to the Edinburgh College of Art to see the students’ submissions for their book cover design competition. This year’s competition was focused on Dickson Telfer’s upcoming short story collection: The Red Man Turns to Green. It’s an old cliché, don’t judge a book by its cover, but this is exactly what we’re having to do with the students’ work. We have to look at the quality of work as well as how they have interpreted the brief. But we also have to bear in mind the commercial qualities of the covers. How will the submission look on a book shelf/computer screen/in a retail environment? How would it fare when sitting beside dozens of competitors, fighting for the customer’s attention? This particular book is an interesting choice because it is not a single story, but a collection of short stories and observations. Although the title is taken from one story, how heavily do you want to reference that specific story? Can the students pick out an underlying theme from the text they were given? And lastly, we have to contend with our own personal opinions. We’ll have the author, the CEO & editor and our graphic designer all looking at the covers. Each one has different ideas, expectations and experience they are using whilst judging the entries. One thing we have observed in the past is that known authors with an established reputation don’t necessarily have great cover designs. They can attract the customer on their name and the title alone, and so their series of books can follow a similar layout which is familiar. With new authors, this luxury is not available and so the cover needs to be very attractive in the first place. So, whilst the competition is about submitting a beautiful cover to the best of their ability, it is also challenging the students to think in a more industrial sense; to consider all the elements we have talked about above and produce a solution that ticks all the boxes. Don’t judge a book by its cover? Unfortunately it’s human nature, no matter how objective we try to be. Maybe next year we will have our designer work on the brief at the same time to compare submissions . . .