Vote for your favourite Penguin special ‘Drop Caps’ cover design!

Twenty-six Penguin Classics books have been selected for a makeover! Penguin Drop Caps features 26 books that have “a specially commissioned illustrated letter of the alphabet” on the cover (refer below). These designs are the work of typographer Jessica Hische and Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley.

Most of the ‘Penguin Drop Caps’ covers

Here is a list of Title and Author chosen for ‘Penguin Drop Caps’ collectibles:

Alphabet Title Author
A Pride & Prejudice Jane Austen
B Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë
C My Anthonia Willa Cather
D Great Expectations Charles Dickens
E Middlemarch George Eliot
F Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
G Lord of the Flies William Golding
H Siddharta Hermann Hesse
I An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
J A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man James Joyce
K The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd
L Native Speaker Chang-rae Lee
M Moby-Dick Herman Melville
N Five Children and It E. Nesbit
O BUtterfield 8 John O’Hara
P Swann’s Way Marcel Proust
Q The Greek Coffin Mystery Ellery Queen
R Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie
S Cannery Row John Steinbeck
T The Joy Luck Club Amy Tan
U Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath Sigrid Undset
V Candide Voltaire
W Leaves of Grass and Selected Poems and Prose Walt Whitman
X Sky Burial Xinran
Y When You are Old William Butler Yeats
Z The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Out of the 26 covers, which one is your favourite design? Vote at this link by 12th of September. Three most voted covers will be selected for a giveaway. For updates, visit Penguin Books (Paperbacks) USA’s Facebook page.

Author-readers interaction: #4 Instagram

Instagram is another visual social medium that is rapidly gaining popularity. Since its launch in 2010, Instagram currently has an astounding 200 million active users worldwide and stores approximately 20 billion photos. For those who have never heard of Instagram, it is a fun photo-sharing mobile application. Users (also known as ‘Instagrammers’) can choose to edit the photos using filters and share them via other social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. They could also like other people’s photos by clicking ❤ , comment on the photos and/or follow other Instagrammers.

Similar to Twitter, one can find other book lovers by typing hashtags such as #bookstagram, #bookworm, #amreading. Bookstagram stands for the book community on Instagram. A lot of book-loving Instagrammers post photos of their book collection e.g. bookshelves, To-Be-Read lists. One photo catches my attention: an excited fan getting ready for a book signing session in her hometown in the Philippines (see below).

With so many social media available out there, how can authors benefit from Instagram? Here are some strategies that can be done via Instagram:

1. Market new books. One of the ways to do this is to reveal the cover of a yet-to-be-published book. In early July, Colleen Hoover revealed the cover of her latest book ‘Ugly Love’. The book, which is scheduled to be released on 5th of August 2014, is already generating buzz via Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads.

2. Organise a contest. To celebrate the release of Hoda Kotb‘s book, Simon & Schuster organised a photo contest titled ‘Ten Years Later’. To enter the contest, keen individuals were asked to upload original photos from ten years ago to Instagram, type the hashtag #TenYearsLater and tag @HodaKotb in the caption. Participants submitted wonderful now-and-then photos.

3. Give a visual glimpse of their personal lives. Amy Tan (author of ‘The Joy Luck Club’) shares pictures of her dog, travels, people she meets and fans posting with her newest book ‘The Valley of Amazement’. My favourite is a photo of her and Matt Groening.

4. Share behind-the-scenes of an author’s work. Jarrett Krosoczka, who is an author, illustrator and TED speaker, shares some of his sketches on Instagram (refer below).

So authors, why not create an Instagram account now? If you would like to read more on its benefits, visit these links: Maximize Social Business and Combined Book. If you are keen to find out more about book-related hashtags on Instagram, check out this brief guide and video.

Do you follow your favourite author(s) via Instagram? If ‘yes’, then ‘Like’ this post.

ps: This is a serial of blog posts about communication methods between author and readers. Check out previous posts – #1 (Twitter), #2 (Facebook) and #3 (Pinterest).

Writes of Passage: 50 books that will change YOUR life

The United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland celebrated World Book Day on 6 March 2014. To celebrate the glorious day, readers were invited to nominate books that have rocked their worlds. Votes were cast and a list of ‘Writes of Passage: 50 books that will change YOUR life’ was created. Using ‘Writes of Passage’ instead of ‘Rites of Passages’ for the survey/campaign… that’s brilliant!

Writes of Passage: 50 books that will change Your life

Writes of Passage: 50 books that will change YOUR life

Out of 50 books, 10 were chosen as the most popular books (see below). There is even a poster of the ‘top 10’ poster (click here to view).

Title Author Genre
1 The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins Dystopic, Science Fiction
2 The Fault in Our Stars John Green Romance
3 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Fiction
4 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J.K. Rowling Fantasy
5 Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell Dystopia, Science Fiction
6 The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank Autobiography
7 A Street Cat Named Bob James Bowen Autobiography
8 Lord of The Rings J.R.R. Tolkien Fantasy
9 The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky Fiction
10 Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë Historical romance

I am familiar with all the works (either by reading the books, watching book-to-film adaptations and/or visiting a memorial) except for ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’. I don’t usually read non-fiction but reviews seem good. Will read the book if my mood-for-something-different strikes.

Based on the ‘Writes of Passage’ list, is there any book that piques your interest? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

If you have read any of the 50 books, like the page. 🙂

Author-readers Interaction: #3 Pinterest

“A picture is worth a thousand words”.

I totally agree with that saying because I am a visual learner. That’s why I love using Pinterest, a social networking website that is slowly gaining popularity worldwide. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard where users can search for images and videos on the internet and curate them based on a theme. I manage a wide collection of pins ranging from social media and e-Learning to music, books and Michael Fassbender (yes, I have a board devoted to him).

Booklovers are amongst active Pinterest users. A perfect example is a board that appreciates Stephen Chbosky‘s ‘The Perks of Being A Wallflower’ (refer below) . The board is decorated with images inspired by the book, as well as stills taken from the film. What I love about this board is ‘Charlie’s First Mixtape’ pin (I love the music featured in the book).

I believe that authors could use Pinterest to their advantages. They could:

  1. list all their books. To do so, pin book covers from own websites and write a brief description of each book. If visitors are curious about the book(s) and would like to get more information, they could click on ‘Visit Site’ button.
  2. use visuals to make their stories come alive. For example, Jo Beverley has a Pinterest board on her novel ‘A Shocking Delight’. She uses pictures of London and Devon in the early 1800 to illustrate the setting of the story.
  3. create a contest. Roost Books recently held a Pinterest contest to celebrate the release of ‘Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Investors’ by Rachelle Doorley. The winner uses the most colourful and creative images that encapsulate ‘Tinkering Inspiration’ theme.
  4. have a fun interaction with fans. In the ‘Who would be a good hero in …?’ board, Susan Elizabeth Phillips shares fans’ pick of actors for her “imaginary” book-to-movie adaptations.

Even though majority of Pinterest users (80%) are female, male authors/fans should not be discouraged. I must admit that it was hard to find a male author that uses Pinterest… until I discovered James Patterson’s Pinterest account (cue a fist pump!). I reckon his Pinterest appeals to many fans especially young fans (there are six boards dedicated to young readers).

I hope I have presented a convincing case for authors to sign up for Pinterest. If you would like to get detailed Pinterest guides for authors, visit The Book DesignerWriter’s Digest and DIYThemes .

Do you manage or follow a book-themed Pinterest board? Click on the ‘Like’ button below if your answer is ‘Yes’.

ps: This is a serial of blog posts about communication methods between author and readers. Post #1 is about Twitter, post #2 is about Facebook and post#4 is about Instagram.

Father’s Day tribute: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Malaysia celebrates Father’s Day today so Happy Father’s Day!

I must admit that I tend to read more romance stories. I wasn’t sure how to write this post (I did search for ideas online) until I realised that I have read a father-themed book and marked it as one of my favourite books. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, what else! Atticus Finch is my role model. He is the best fictional father of all time.

The copy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ that I own has this cover design.


Racial injustice

I love how he fought for racial injustice in a time where people were judged based on their skin colour. Mr Finch was appointed to defend a black man, who was accused of raping a white woman. He believed in his client’s innocence and did the best to his ability despite the disapproval from the townsfolk.

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”


I also enjoy the interactions between Mr Finch and his children, Jem and Scout. Despite the big age gap and the death of his wife, he raised them well. He was affectionate yet firm with them. At times I feel that Mr Finch treated his children like adults. He did not give watered-down explanations to Scout.

“Do you know what a compromise is?” he asked.

“Bending the law?”

“No, an agreement reached by mutual concessions. It works this way,” he said. “if you’ll concede the necessity of going to school, we’ll go on reading every night just as we always have. Is it a bargain?”

“Yes sir!”

The aforementioned themes are my favourite takeaway points from the book. There are other life lessons that you can learn from Atticus Finch.

What do you think of the book? Is there any other father-themed book as good as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’? Share your views in the comment box below.

ps: My dad actually asked for the DVD as a gift. He really enjoyed the film 🙂



Romance Festival 2014: Q & A with book cover designer

At last weekend’s Romance Festival 2014, I participated in a Q & A session with a book cover designer. Mr Mark Ecob has designed covers from children’s books to coffee table books. You could view his portfolio at

I would like to share with you some parts of the Q & A session. Texts written in bold are questions/thoughts from the participants.

Do you read the books which you design covers for?

As a rule, absolutely – I think you owe it to the author. there are times when rewind it is a bad idea, you can get too close to it, but I would say the former is better. Briefs from my clients can fall short of what you need as a designer, I’ve never found the perfect one, a lot of them think its just ok to paste cover blurb into an email which is just lazy.

Are there stages when creating a book cover?

Sure, it starts with reading it and being briefed by a client, you submit rough covers to them which are then tweaked until everyone has a cover they’re happy with, and then you prepare it for print or its online outing. That’s a huge simplification, but generally covers it. It can also be a very complicated process, or a very simple one. Overall I think its best to let designers do their thing, that’s what their expertise is. The trick is choosing the right one for your book.

How long does that take? Also how long does it take you to create a cover?

Getting the right cover can take a day or a year! I once worked on one that took three years and still wasn’t right in my opinion (long story), but generally a month is a good rule of thumb. It should not be rushed.

How do you know when a cover is right? What cover(s) are you most proud of?

That’s a difficult one, I’m proud of them all in different ways. Recently, my work on Iain Banks has been the most rewarding.

How do you decide on a cover whether title, author name or image is the most important factor?

It’s a mix of factors, it depends on an author’s track record, whether they’re new or established, but I would say overall that if an author is a good name with rising popularity, then we focus on that. Sometimes a quote can be the most important point of focus on a cover.

Jojo Moyes's The One Plus One

The book cover of Jojo Moyes’s The One Plus One

Are there current cover design trends that are phasing out or overdone?

It’s like flares coming back in fashion, each trend has a cycle in my experience and can come back any time. Good design can be about nodding to what’s gone before or blazing a trail – depends on the situation. In women’s fiction, there are still amazing examples of illustration, I was commissioning women’s fiction illustration form artists still working in this area now, when I started in 2001. I would say that you need to be aware of the commotion but not ape it, if you look at the latest Jojo Moyes from Penguin, it straddles all of the trends for me – strong central type motif where you can still read the author at scale, a touch of illustration but kept simple, feminine but not teenage/pink colour palette. Dare I say it, I would read that one.

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight

The book cover of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight

I notice more and more books in erotic romance genre tend to be show provocative poses. I am from a conservative country so reading those in paperback would make me self-conscious. I’m getting tired of seeing those. I’d rather like a cover that is figurative e.g. Stephanie Meyer‘s Twilight

A publisher will go for the majority in their market, so if the provocative images sell to more people than not, that’s what they’ll go for. You raise a very interesting question though. I think its impossible to create one global cover that would appeal to every market, but publishers have an obligation to listen to readers.

The take-away point from the session: book cover design is a key element of book production. There are many people involved in the process – designer, author and publisher – and they should all work together to get a cover everyone’s happy with.

I end this post with a lovely quote from Mark,

“Good design will help you buy a book, bad design won’t. It’s just like any packaging you’re sold as a consumer. In my opinion, I think you should judge a book by its cover – if its designed right, you should be proud to be seen reading it.”

If you would like to read the full Q & A session, look for this post on the Romance Festival 2014 Facebook page