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  • The Publishing Post

Cover Evaluation: British Book Awards 2022

By Lucy Roberts, Megan Coote and Juliette Tulloch


For this issue, the Cover Evaluation team have decided to breakdown our favourite designs from the British Book Awards 2022, from both the winners and shortlisted works!


Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson


Open Water is Caleb Azumah Nelson’s award-winning, debut novel which tackles issues of romance, race, and art in modern society while telling the love story of two Black British artists. Winning the Costa Book Award for First Novel in 2021, Nelson’s novel moved on to win Debut Fiction Book of the Year in the British Book Awards 2022. The cover design depicts the love affair of the two artists as neither look at each other it is clear each has their own separate lives outside of their relationship and also the journey each must go on to find one another. The use of photographs rather than an illustration provides a face yet no name. Nelson’s protagonist remains nameless throughout the novel but his passion for photography is made clear before we even realise we don’t know what to call him. The protagonist’s eyes look out from the cover while his lovers cannot be seen, reflecting Nelson’s daring choices in his storytelling; the prose is in second person, providing an intimacy with the protagonist while his lover is held at an arm's length from the reader. The use of sectioning the front cover into two, with the characters on either side and the title split in two, creates a mirroring effect, or reflection. The novel acts as a reflection of what it means to be Black in Britain, the constant stereotyping and unending violence faced each day. By using close shots of the couple, the cover reveals their vulnerability and humility as there is nothing hiding their faces aside from the title itself. The colours of not only the background and title, but the reflections off the characters’ skin, creates a depth and variety of colour much like the depth and variety that exists in Black British culture and art, which is mirrored throughout the novel with references to music and literature by Black artists.


A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins


A Slow Fire Burning was written by best-selling crime author Paula Hawkins and made the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller of the Year shortlist for 2022. The novel is a murder mystery in which a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat triggering questions about three women who knew him. The cover for the hardback edition is both simple and intriguing, aptly setting the tone for the thriller. The colour palette used for the design combines the classic colours of fire which ties in perfectly with the book's name. The eerie pale plumes of smoke to signify a burning fire are contrasted against an ash black background, with flame orange lettering. The bright letters make the title pop against the colourless background drawing your eyes to this at first which almost distracts you from the faces hidden amongst the smoke. Presumably these faces are supposed to resemble the aforementioned mysterious women who might be tied to the crime. The fact you might not see the faces at first glance lends itself well to the story as the police seek answers which may not be obvious at first. They give the impression of somebody lurking in the shadows and watching you which helps evoke a haunting atmosphere and sense of intrigue; a feeling which makes for the best thrillers and helps the reader get a sense of the genre instantly.


Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden


The stunning novel from poet Salena Godden was shortlisted this year in the debut category, with an intricate cover design that mirrors the dark nature of character Wolf Willehard’s story. As a troubled young writer, Wolf knows death well but has never met them in person. Mrs Death, a Black working-class woman, travels with Wolf so that she can write her memoirs for her. The cover design, courtesy of Gill Heeley, shows off that this a powerful debut by placing the name in the centre. The Wolf and the rabbit are entwined with the typography, central to the books themes on survival, loss, courage, grief and magic. The paperback mixes royal blue with gold with a background of abstract shapes, no doubt illustrating the fantastical yet dark elements of the storyline. Heeley’s overall style incorporates abstract lines, whimsical graphics, picturesque landscapes and bold colour palettes to accurately depict the authors stories. You can view more of Heeley’s work here.

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