According to consumer research conducted on what factors matter to people when they decide whether or not to pick up a book in a bookshop, the cover design comes out as most important. So this might be the stupidest thing we've ever done.
However ... Just over two months ago I was standing in the corridor talking with my boss about books, and suddenly we had a new idea: why not publish our favourite books without front covers?! And that's what we're doing. It's been a secret project with about seven people involved, and from the idea two months ago we now have six books that are ready to go into the shops and onto www.penguin.co.uk at the end of November.
In essence, we've started a new series because if the first six work we'll publish more. The series was named My Penguin by our rather marvellous Creative Director, who came up with the name after about two minutes. The tag line is 'Books by the Greats, Covers by You', and throughout the rush to design the (back) covers, get the right paper, and tell people about them, we've had a really great time. The covers are art-quality paper, and from internal Penguin efforts we know that they hold ink, paint, pencil and glue (see the first efforts here). Each one comes shrink-wrapped so the paper doesn't get dirty, and I hope people might give them as gifts. They're went round Penguin earlier in the week and we've starting an online gallery that will launch with staff efforts at the end of November (no doubt we'll talk about this here). All of the books talk about the gallery on the back cover, because we want anyone and everyone to send in pictures of their own covers so we can put them up too.
I love this project, because there are no rules, and what we want is for it to be fun.
Helen Conford, Senior Commissioning Editor at The Penguin Press