Sunday, September 12, 2004

KING COVERS: Night Shift (1977)

How do you design the cover for a book that does not contain one story but, rather, a collection of stories? This is a problem that designers would have to deal with on more than one occasion with Stephen King, but 1977's "Night Shift" would mark the first time. And it shows. The covers are boring and uninspired. And pretty much the worst designs of any of the books we've covered so far.

Or maybe I'm just cranky because of this stupid cold I have. Whatever.

This first design -- from the original Doubleday hardcover edition -- shows one direction you can go when trying to design a cover to encompass all the stories in a collection: minimal. No graphics, just a big white background, big title, and a wee little drop of blood to ensure that potential readers know that this isn't going to be a boring collection of stories where nobody dies. A valient effort, but in the end it's just a little too minimal, a little too boring to be effective.

Approach #2: Use a generic graphic that tries to be appropriate to all the stories in the book, such as the images on these two Signet paperback editions. Oooooh, a pentagram. That's evil.

Approach #3: Pick a specific story from the collection, and use an image from it. The downside is that you run the risk of ruining the exciting climax of the story, which is exactly what this cover design did -- and it was one of the cooler climaxes in the book. The original cover -- on the left -- would open up to show the image that appears on the right, but later editions dropped the die-cut front cover and just went with the eyes-on-the-hand image. It's slim pickings for Night Shift covers, so the version on the left takes the blue ribbon for best design, by having what amounts to an appropriately creepy image, but with just enough suspense to make you pick up the book to see what's behind cover #1.

More examples of covers that pull their inspiration from the actual stories inside come to us from abroad. On the left is a British cover, with an image from "Children of the Corn"; in the center a cover from France, with an image from "Graveyard Shift"; and on the right an image from the story "Trucks" courtesy of the Netherlands.

Approach #4: Stick a picture of Conan on the front.

No joke. This is, I have been told, an image actually ripped from the cover of a Conan novel. I actually have a copy of this book, and I always thought it was incredibly bizarre, and probably inredibly rare -- the Conan Cover, the "Danse Macabre" title instead of "Night Shift" (only interesting because King would eventually publish a book titled "Danse Macabre"). As it turns out, not as rare as I thought, but still a bizarre cover design.

Coming up next is the book I've been waiting to do ever since I got my stupid cold: THE STAND.

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