Got a very serious book to sell on the dangers of drastic right-wing exaggeration? In book publishing, it’s the summer of the Sith Lord’s design palette. In the last two months alone, three new high-profile books: Kurt Andersen’s Evil geniuses (on the conservative movement since the 1970s), Robert Draper To start a war (on the invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration) and that of Julian Zelizer Burn the house (on Newt Gingrich) – all cut close to this same look. It features an imposing black background with a combination of red and white fonts, bold and sans serif. (As in an accidental homage to “Separated at birthAndersen’s Spy magazine column, New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix recently featured her and Draper’s books, nestled next to each other in the highbrow-gloss quadrant.) *
And next week, Michael Cohen Unfair, a indicative of his years of working for Donald Trump, will hit stores with a suitably low-end version of the same look.
This is not an entirely new trend. I’m working on the next season of Slate’s Slow Burn, preparations for the Iraq war, and during my research for the podcast, my desk started piling up with books whose covers also featured Dark’s favorite colourway. Vader. I’m starting to think of this loose pattern as “the Sinner cover, ”based on the biography of Dick Cheney by 2008 Pulitzer winner Barton Gellman, which has become a bestseller. There was the Draper book, and the 2007s Takeover: the return of the imperial presidency, by Pulitzer winner Charlie Savage, and Pulitzer winner by Joby Warrick Black flags: the rise of Isis. I started to notice Sinner-style covers everywhere. At Devil’s market, the # 1 New York Times bestseller by Joshua Green, about Steve Bannon. At Fascism: a warning, by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who also topped the bestseller list.
As for the look, a book designer told me that the colors are just plain eye-catching (“there’s only a limited number of colors we have… and these are just the more serious ones. that we have in the pencil box ”), and that kind of refined but daring style telegraph design ambition. Publishers, says the designer, still believe that a “big book should look like a big book.” Several of the Sith Lord’s books share the same publisher, Penguin Press, which publishes a lot of serious non-fiction, and the cleanest, simplest execution of the look seems to come from this house. The designer also suggested to me that Patient Zero for this oft-imitated design style was the 2004 Penguin Pulitzer winner. Ghost wars, by Steve Coll, who seemed to establish a visual language for the ambitious work of world journalism that 9/11 did. (Coll’s Book 2018 Direction S comes wrapped in another slightly more whimsical riff on the look.)
It makes sense that the Sith Lords palette took off during the Bush administration’s war on terror years and returned for good when Trump was elected. The colors are the American flag in mourning, the quieter blue erased by black. The whole look is a warning, a red alert. The red, white, and black color scheme echoes, in a less understated and streamlined look, some of the Resistance’s and less journalistically harsh barn burners of recent years, like Cliff Sims. Viper team or that of Michael Wolff Seat.
Meanwhile, on the whole, great Politics books of obama years-even those on the financial crisis– tend to come in more stylish packaging. Red beats black, blue appears, and white becomes the background rather than the font color. (An exception is the book by Jonathan Chait Boldness, which has a very Sinner-y vibe — but while it was In regards to Obama, it was published at the dawn of the Trump years, which seems to have cast a shadow. Still, there’s a hint of Democratic Blue.) That can, of course, just reveal the worldview of the publishers and journalists and readers to whom the books are marketed.
One of the most interesting twists of the Sinner the cover is Clinton Cash, the right-hand book that author Peter Schweizer (with his longtime collaborator Steve Bannon) intentionally and explicitly to be the kind of investigation that would not only go around the Fox News sphere, but also infiltrate the pages of the mainstream media. I wouldn’t be surprised if the choice of cover, in the visual vernacular of ambitious journalism, was deliberately chosen to aid this mission.
The book designer I spoke to told me that it was relatively common in an initial brainstorming meeting to turn to a recently successful book on a similar topic and try to make it. a new riff. For what it’s worth, Draper, Gellman, and Andersen have all told me their covers weren’t meant as a deliberate homage to another author’s book or as a reference to a certain color scheme. (“No one was fiercely defending the red / black motif,” Draper said, suggesting that instead it could have been – as Paul Wolfowitz said of weapons of mass destruction as a reason to go to war – the only thing “everyone can agree. ”)
I asked Andersen if there was anything boring about having a book that looks so much like others on the market. “No no! It’s the Zeitgeist,” he replied. ‘shelf looks like this other “… I think people are less aware.”
Correction, September 1: This article initially misidentified the two books with Sinner-style covers that appeared side by side on the New York Magazine Approval Matrix. These were the books by Robert Draper and Kurt Andersen, not the books by Robert Draper and Julian Zelizer. (Zelizer’s book was also in the highbrow-brilliant quadrant, but in a different week.)