Designing covers for children’s books

Responses by Radhika Menon, Publishing Director, Tulika Publishers
to questions from Kanika Sharma, for an article in Mid-Day, Mumbai, November 2013

Kanika: When it comes to book cover design, which are the key characteristics that you bear in mind?

Radhika: As our books are multilingual, our first criterion for a cover is that it should have space for the title in all the nine languages we publish in. In some of the languages the title can be longer – what is two words in English may become three or four words, or sometimes just one! So the challenge with every cover is to make sure that it doesn’t look too cramped or have too much empty space. Names can be longer in some languages, and we also have to make space for the translation credit on the cover.

The other big drawback for us is that we can’t use colour in the title or credits on the cover, or even inside on the title page for that matter. All text has to be in black because when books in several languages have to be printed simultaneously only the black is overprinted. Title and credits in colour make the production costs very high.

Very often a picture from inside is used for the cover, which is something we don’t do in our books. Our brief to illustrators is not to make the cover merely illustrative of the title – it should be suggestive, giving a glimpse of what the reader could look forward to in the book. Children do get attracted by covers and do judge a book by its cover. This has been the experience of groups who run reading literacy programmes – an interesting insight.

K: Are there any preferences when it comes to colour, tones or compositions?

R: No preferences. We like the covers to be as varied and different as possible.

K: In terms of experimentation, which of your book covers would you rate as the most challenging and why?

R: In terms of experimentation it would be Nina Sabnani's Home and Deepa Balsavar's Round and Round. For both, the author-illustrators had experimented with the form of the book itself, so the covers had to be designed differently too – but keeping all the cover requirements like the book blurb, ISBN, logo etc. in mind. Some titles like The Why Why Girl, And Land Was Born, Mukand and Riaz, I am Different and the recently released The Magical Fish also come to mind.

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