Hannibal and Me: the book jacket

Well, since Penguin Group (to which my imprint, Riverhead, belongs) has now made the cover jacket public, I figure I can, too.

I trust, as usual, that readers of The Hannibal Blog will not be coy about deconstructing it…

48 thoughts on “Hannibal and Me: the book jacket

    • “Simple and clear”. Agreed. Which is … “on brand”, as it were. “Imprinting”… = also good.

      Ok, that’s one reader. Let’s see what the others say….

    • It’s the damn tie and suit. That’s what I told them. Why can’t the guy wear jeans, for chrissake?

      Yep, I know, and that bothers me. But what can you do?

    • Actually, Andreas, I find the cover graphic to be interesting and I see no problem with the suited figure because of the sub-title’s words “success and failure”. I would say it is not simply aimed at the businessman but at the corporatist, the person trying to go from entry level to importance. That’s a wide field.

      The suit represents the uniform and “armor” of modern man. In contrast to Hannibal atop his elephant.

      In any event, the color draws the eye (or maybe I just like orange) and the image is odd enough to intrigue.

      I think you worry too much.

      I am sure that Hannibal, like all generals, knew his plans for conquest rested on the ability of his men to perform their jobs and not simply on his tactics. Perhaps he worried also.

      And congrats, Andreas, things seem to be moving quickly now.

    • The suited figure reminds me of Sloane Wilson’s The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (also available from Penguin Books) 

      But he seems a bit down, like Jack Lemmon’s Shelly “The Machine” Levene from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, the guy who couldn’t meet his sales quota.

      (notice the tilt of their heads)

    • “… the uniform and “armor” of modern man…”

      I like that, Douglas. Yes, my wife also said not to get “too literal”

      Jim M., I like the image of Gregory Peck.

      The tilt of my little guy’s neck is a great touch, I think. It shows a force, or impending impact…

  1. andreas,

    do you really want a deconstruction?

    from a graphic designer’s standpoint, i could offer it, but the matter is settled, so what would be the point?

    • Yes, dafna, I really want a deconstruction, and you can feel safe if you need to be brutal.

      The point, even if the matter is settled, is 1) the record, 2) wisdom for the future and 3) what the heck, it’s innaresting….

    • well, the little man in the tie told my twelve year old right away that the book was for businessmen, so the image did it’s job – since my son knows nothing about “hannibal”.

      the entire text plus image is center justified. which is not in itself “bad” but it lacks hierarchy. everything is equal distance and equal weight. (ironic, since that is the way i post) i post this way because “old school”, we first put everything equal weight, then assigned hierarchy.

      i am surprised CQ did not point out “the obvious” … since the title and the author are the same weight it reads “hannibal and me andreas kluth”, as if you are part of the title. are you? and if so, are you so famous that the average reader would care?

      the orange color is arresting, it was the first thing i noticed. assuming the orange is not as bright, it is a very nice color scheme.

      the retro 60’s illustration made me think it might be a children’s book. again this impression could have been avoided by improving the hierarchy.

      if one stops long enough to read the subhead (which is necessary) then it becomes obvious that it is not a children’s book.

      to answer CQ’s question about brackets – it gives the two lines of black text the same weight as one line of white text. in this case an undesirable effect. also the black sans serif is difficult to read.

      it has the right parts, but they are not in the right place nor in the right proportions for the reasons listed. a few tweeks and you might have had a more memorable cover – the point, correct?

      alas, how much easier is it to critique than to create 😉

    • For the record, I did notice the obvious, namely the equal size and font of title and author. Since the “Me” in a title’s “and Me” generally refers to the author (“Elvis and Me”, “Arnold and Me”), it makes sense for the combined message to read “Hannibal and Me, Andreas Kluth.” Who else would this “Me” be? If it referred to the reader, it would be “Hannibal and You.”

      The bigger danger, I believe, is that people will look at the cover and wonder whether “Hannibal and Me” is the title and “Andreas Kluth” is the author, or whether it’s the other way around. Sure, “Hannibal And Me” sounds like a funny name, but I do know a person in real life whose name happens to be Hannibal Means, so “And Me” could easily be a double last name, or “And” could be a middle name. If Hannibal Means ever writes a biography about Andreas and decides to simply call it “Andreas Kluth,” you can imagine the cover if both names are displayed equal size and font. (Might be a book written by Andreas Kluth about the means and methods employed by some Hannibal.)

      Alternatively, Andreas’s book could be one that features two short biographies, one titled “Hannibal and Me,” the other, “Andreas Kluth,” and people might turn the book around to search for the name of the author. I checked all the book covers in my room here, and all of them use a clear visual separation between title and author. While such separation doesn’t necessarily help in determining which is which in case both begin with a first name, at least one can clearly tell from such visual separation that both are shown on the cover.

    • It is entirely clear from the jacket that Mr Kluth is history’s greatest military strategist, amongst his many other accomplishments, of course.

    • Great deconstruction, dafna. (you seem to be a pro.)

      I also queried some of these points, especially those brackets, but then told myself that I let to do the Penguin designer do his/her job. Still getting used to it…

    • smart alec. It’s obvious, as plain as daylight, that this is a North African forest elephant, equidistant in DNA from mammoths and African elephants.

    • Yes, he is. Haven’t you noticed that every dramatist gives Hannibal that same outfit?

      You know why, of course: Scipio Aemilianus was so thorough in erasing Carthage that we haven’t the tiniest friggin’ clue what Hannibal (ie, Carthaginian generals) actually might have worn. We have Polybius and Livy on what the Iberian, Gallic, Libyan etc warriors under his command wore. But not a word on H. Pink knickers, for all I know.

    • Pink knickers are distributed in the British prison system as well as Arizona/US, but I can’t think they would have gone over in Carthage. I doubt even Dido would have worn them.

  2. I love it. That, is exciting.

    Yes, there’s a business guy. But it looks like he’s about to be trampled by the tribal guy.

    Andreas Kluth is the same font (equal weight), indicating who the ‘me’ is. (IMHO)

  3. I love the orange jacket (will go perfectly with my orange USA Trilogy second editions)
    I love the brackets [instead of a colon, thank god]
    I love the typeface and size
    I wish the elephant had more personality
    I wish the little businessman had a businesswoman by his side
    I’m so proud of you.

    • “… I wish the elephant had more personality…

      That’s what my parents said. They didn’t like the trunk being between the legs, in particular….

  4. Let me also add (for the sake of contribution) this Kafka quotation about writing.

    “My life consists, and basically always has consisted, of attempts at writing, mostly unsuccessful. But when I didn’t write, I was at once flat on the floor, fit for the dustbin. I once drew up a detailed list of the things I have sacrificed to writing, as well as the things that were taken away from me for the sake of writing, or rather whose loss was only made bearable by this explanation. If there is a higher power that wishes to use me, or does use me, then I am at its mercy, if no more than as a well-prepared instrument. If not, I am nothing, and will suddenly be abandoned in a dreadful void. My life is determined by nothing but the ups and downs of writing.”
    (Letter to Felice, November 1, 1912)

    • he he he… the same may well apply for designing jacket covers!

      glad this was not a trick question…”do i look fat in this dress?” to which the only correct response would be… “of course not honey” 😉

      i mistook the “lightheartedness” of the illustrated image for a children’s book. the illustrator has more talent than the graphic designer who was assigned to your book.

      i don’t agree with mr. c that it looks like the man is about to be trampled. it looks more like the elephant is bowing. the tilt of the mans head is effective in conveying the danger. the illustration is a great thing and maybe should have been enlarged or even slightly altered to convey the coy light-hearted feel that we know and expect from you.

      as a first time author, you were probably assigned to a designer, perhaps “junior designer” who was over-worked and under paid. i believe that even the untrained eye can tell the difference between “good and better” which keeps me returning to your blog – you are a very good writer.

      next time, i suggest you trust your instinct more… hire a graphic designer yourself and present the work to your publisher. most likely, if presented two options they would intuit the good from the better.

      congratulations and good luck!

    • “… as a first time author, you were probably assigned to a designer, perhaps “junior designer” who was over-worked and under paid…”

      Oh dear. Is it that bad?

      You see, what I had in mind was so utterly different that when I saw this I had cognitive whiplash. But I noticed that my wife and a lot of other people really reacted positively to it. I then began liking it myself (while aware that I was now “primed” to do so). So I made the decision to honor Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage: I do the words, and somebody else does the jacket. And I have to let that person execute his or her vision ….

  5. The image of the suited Businessman was a smart marketing move by your publishers, who would know that Hannibal, as a warrior, is someone the Businessman, as a corporate warrior, can identify himself with.

    Cheri, in her comment, said it would have been nice to have a woman standing next to the man. I’m not so sure. It would soften the overall image, which might put off the warrior Businessman to whom your publishers appear to be aiming your book.

    I wonder, though, if the the images of Hannibal and the elephant are bit too cartoonish. A prospective buyer looking at them might think that the book is a bathroom book of sorts. In the other hand, bathroom books do sell, so your publishers may just know what they’re doing!!!

    Having your name in letters as large and as prominent as the letters in the title is good. You are the author after all, and therefore the reason the book exists.

    As to the orange colour, perhaps it might be shaded more red, to make it a more blood-like, and therefore more congruent with the Hannibal warrior image?

    • “Cartoonish”: Yes, that was my initial reaction to the picture. I think it’s meant to say “light-hearted” and “accessible” instead. (Accessible the book is. Light-hearted, not always.)

  6. Is it a “Freudian slip” that your post about artistic misrepresentation of horses precedes your post of a book cover depicting a man perched precariously on the unsaddled  back of an elephant, instead of riding relatively safely on the nape of the elephant’s neck?

  7. Andreas, I love it. The colours are perfect together and have clarity. Also, there is hope is the colour orange.

    It exudes balance and lightheartedness that I find inviting. This would encourage me to take the book in my hands and give it a try.

    I know there is serious content in the book but the jacket’s job is to beguile.

    My response came in two seconds because I gave a quick glance only.

    Don’t fret. 🙂

    • Hey, that’s just how my wife reacted. Interesting.

      “lightheartedness”… “Beguiling”…. “take the book in my hands…”.

      Yup, you got the designer’s intent.

  8. “…You see, what I had in mind was so utterly different that when I saw this I had cognitive whiplash…” – your wife is your “first reader” correct? perhaps since design is a new and different area, you might have trusted yourself more in the case of design.

    in addition, it’s always good to show the design to someone “blind” to the topic and see if the image reads (which is why i asked my son “what do you think this book is about?”)

    of course it is not that “bad”. here’s an article to put it in perspective not bad, but not great

    i’m being unrealistic. few book covers reach catcher in the rye status -it’s an iconic cover.

    when i go to riverhead books “you’re buying” page, the only difference in the quality of your cover and those displayed seems to be hierarchy. btw, was it you that mentioned “practical wisdom” by riverhead? it’s cover works.

    you were afforded a unique illustration, either riverhead hired someone or had someone on staff -it’s a great illustration, not stock.

    i’ve since looked at some book cover “conventions” – the authors name is often displayed in the same weight or larger (stephen king) than the title, if it suites the purpose. but even in those cases, it is in a different color type, which made me think your designer lacked experience.

    a few tweeks and you would have had “great”.

    just out of curiosity – did you have any suggestions about the current cover that were shot down? if i’m not talking to myself at this point – i would love to hear your gut or nagging impressions.

    did you mind or notice that title and author were of equal weight?

    typically when you hire a designer, you are spec’d out two or three rough lay-outs of different “visions/directions”. once you choose a direction, you are allow one series of revisions, then any further revisions are charged hourly. of course sometimes the designer ends up with something they don’t want to be associated with, but the goal is that each party is satisfied with the outcome.

    it may work very different for authors, but i expect you were offered some options.

    • “Not bad, but not great” is a good post.

      In no particular order:

      “…did you mind or notice that title and author were of equal weight?…”

      I noticed, but had (and have) no particular opinion on that matter.

      “…typically when you hire a designer, you are spec’d out two or three rough lay-outs of different “visions/directions”. … it may work very different for authors, but i expect you were offered some options…”

      No, I was not offered options. I was offered this. then I commented on it. Basically I queried every detail and the concept as a whole to see whether thought had gone into it. I spoke to my editor at Riverhead, never to the designer (don’t even know his or her name). Riverhead keeps all that sort of information very close. I interface only with my editor and his assistant.

      If you had asked me a few months ago how I might imagine my cover, I might have said something like: black and white faces of the people in the book, spliced or blended together in a subtle composite.

      But I always realized that would be hard to do, or to do well.

      I would have signalled “literary”. This jacket, as the editor put it, is meant to signal “big new idea book”.

      Yadayadayada. Always remember: I did the words in it. Just the words.

  9. The title-author lettering, in a refreshing orange white combination, dominates; text over image. For the second edition I would let Hannibal’s cape be red. There is something about a little bit of red that…

    You have done well, very well indeed.

    Time did not allow me to indulge myself in your pages as much as I wanted to so I hope you keep your worthwhile Blog intact for opportune perusal.


  10. My cousin Dafna just showed me the book cover. I think that it is a very good one and it is tempting to read. The color is very good and this is the exact one I chose for my book, so this is a very good decision.
    Good luck with it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s