A book cover of books

James Jones’ cover for How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis neatly conveys the book’s own contents; namely, an examination of some much-loved favourites from the author’s bookshelves

James Jones’ cover for How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis neatly conveys the book’s own contents; namely, an examination of some much-loved favourites from the author’s bookshelves…

In the book, which is published by Chatto & Windus in January, Ellis sets out to reappraise her own literary heroines – from the characters of Lizzy Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and Katy Carr (What Katy Did), to writers such as Sylvia Plath. In doing so she examines what it is that makes a book a ‘favourite’ book, and why particular characters – in this case strong female protagonists – continue to resonate with us.

For the cover, Jones, a senior designer at Vintage, illustrated several of the books mentioned in How to be a Heroine. “The idea for the final illustration came from images the author sent through of her own ‘heroine’ collection, in pride of place on her own bookshelves,” he says. “Seeing all the books laid out, with their cracked and creased spines added a sense of love and well-thumbed nostalgia which I wanted to pay tribute to on the jacket.”

Front and back cover of How to be a Heroine

“I was also struck by the typography on the original covers,” Jones adds, “and I began by sketching the titles roughly and using them visually on their own. This was proving to be rather chaotic, and it was then that I decided to incorporate them into book spines.

“From then on the cover started to come together and once myself and the editor Becky Hardie had whittled down the different ‘book pile’ options, it was a case of using the extra colours to really make the cover stand out.”

In a nice touch, a copy of Ellis’ own book provides the text for the spine and bookends another stack of titles leading across the back cover. Some earlier versions of the cover, before Jones decided to divide up the books with different colours, are shown below.

Jones is also one of the founders of the CMYK blog which charts the design of various Vintage books. For more of his work, see jamespauljones.tumblr.com or follow him via @jamespauljones. How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis is published by Chatto & Windus in January.

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