Dave Eggers’ new novel hosts an experiment into the possibilities of the book cover
Don’t judge a book by its cover – unless that book has 32 different covers, and they’re all really nice.
- Dalia Al-Dujaili
- 15 October 2021
Dave Eggers, best-selling author of The Circle, has recently published his new novel The Every, a follow-up to his previous story, and with it come 32 new artworks to adorn the cover.
The story follows similar themes to The Circle – human nature, how we interact as a society under surveillance, and the technology of late capitalism. Taking cues from these themes, artists such as John Adams and Geoff McFetridge have designed and illustrated covers mostly featuring groups of people in vastly different illustrative styles. And circular, repetitive shapes which can be seen on certain covers aim to evoke notions of connection and interdependency, and are a nod to our immediate connectivity to one another through social media – a motif throughout the book.
Sunra Thompson, art director on the project, claims that the goal was to “do something surprising”. It became clear to him that the dust jacket printer could run several designs on a single sheet of paper and print dozens of covers simultaneously; this gave Thompson the idea to invite as many artists as possible to design covers. “So the book’s design, this idea of a book with a slew of different covers, was about taking a traditional book feature – a dust jacket – and exploring what a printer can do with it,” he says. “I’ve loved seeing how different artists interpret the same text in unexpected ways, and indie bookstores have been really excited about this golden-ticket-style experiment.”
Thompson’s Willy Wonka reference alludes to the unique distribution of Eggers’ new book: as a hardback, the book is only available at McSweeney’s (the author’s own publishing company) and select independent bookstores. The hardbacks are randomly distributed, meaning that bookstores won’t know which covers they’ll get.
“One thing that making thirty-plus covers allowed us to do,” Thompson tells It’s Nice That, “was play with all of the book’s moods and themes. Typically, the job of a cover is to home in on some aspect of the text – a mood or idea or something – and approximate it visually.” Because books can be about a lot of different themes, Thompson and his team wanted to play with many of the book’s ideas “without having to cram them all into a single image”. For example, Ivan Brunetti’s jacket, says Thompson, satirises the “goofy utopianism” of the tech company portrayed in the book, while Robyn O’Neil’s covers “hint at the book’s darker underside”.
When the usual design challenges cropped up during the project, they were multiplied by 32. Sixteen jackets designed by Eve Weinsheimer, with a logo design by Jessica Hische, acted as the cover for the first printing of the book. “Each of Eve’s jackets needed to have a unique colour combination, and the challenge there was to make each of those colour combinations feel distinct from one another,” explains the art director. Noah Lang from Electric Works, a gallery in San Francisco, connected Thompson and his team to the many artists who made the covers. “We were lucky that nearly every piece of art we commissioned was remarkably close to perfect after one or two rounds of sketches. Once the first few covers started to come together, we figured out what worked and what didn’t and the process became easier.”
When looking for inspiration for the covers, the artists Thompson worked with seemed to immediately grasp what they were after for the cover, so finding inspiration wasn’t so much of a challenge. Thompson accredits this to the world we live in today, one where tech companies are king and “we’re all sort of immersed in a world of their making,” he says.
“I don’t like bullies,” Eggers told The New York Times. “Amazon has been kicking sand in the face of independent bookstores for decades now.” The Every is available in paperback in book shops and online, but the hardcover remains exclusive to independent book shops.
Clare Rojas: The Every by Dave Eggers (Copyright © McSweeney’s, 2021)
About the Author
Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.