The old chestnut “you can’t tell a book by its cover” may be true enough. But to sell a book in today’s cluttered market (indeed in any market in which a visual is as important as the word), a gripping cover is essential. What is gripping for someone, however, may mean nothing for another. Therefore, book jackets dictated by marketing departments tend to be mediocre cliches.
Has this always been true? Of mass market publishing it has. But at the same time, even the most mainstream books have been sold because of spot-on cover aesthetics. What you see below are sample from sample book of cover proofs from Star Publishers, a 1930s-era reprint house. traveling book salesmen would usually show around 100 seasonal jackets would be bound together so that the bookseller could easily see the back, front covers and flaps in real time and size.
The titles are intriguing, and in some cases the graphic design is on the same par.