Celebrating 50 Years of Gollancz

A Special Message from Simon Spanton, Deputy Publishing Director, Gollancz

We’re proud of our list. It’s probably (though it hurts us to admit it) not perfect but it’s chock full of books we’ve all fallen in love with at one point or another. Whether commissioned in the first place or inherited or rescued from the oblivion of ‘out of print’ every Gollancz book is the result of a love affair between one person and a book. Gollancz’s fifty year history and our commitment to the Masterworks list means that there are a lot of love affairs on the list and some of them go back a long, long way. So how, when it came to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of the Gollancz genre list to mark that? Deciding to reissue some books was the easy bit. Deciding which books was harder. Which books are the best is an eternal question and can never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction. How about our favourites? Well that would be lovely but this isn’t really about us. It’s about what Gollancz has meant to you. So we decided to celebrate our 50th by asking you to choose your favourite books from a list of books old and new. The one proviso had to be that they were in print at the moment. Choosing the longlist was tricky. Discovering which ten books you’d voted for was a delight. Some of our favourites didn’t make the cut (but this is about you not us, remember) and some of your choices were real surprises. But the list brings in old and new and books from across the literary spectrum. The genres are broad, so was your selection.

So with the books chosen what on earth to put on the cover?

Look around any bookshop and you will be bombarded by a plethora of book covers. Nothing odd in that you might think – every book needs a cover, every book needs to look different from the ones around it. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ would never have entered the language if books all looked the same, right? We’ll you’d think so. But let’s look at this a little more closely. We’re talking about brand identity here. These days if you’re an author and you’re not a brand you’re in trouble. Doesn’t matter what sort of book you write you need a look that says ‘this is me’. Murakami and moody black and white photos, George RR Martin and iconic medieval ‘gear’ against a textured background. The author is a brand. But it’s not always been that way. Time was if you were good enough to be published by certain publishing companies you got to have your book come out and have it look remarkably similar to all the other authors published by that company. The most famous mainstream example of that was Allen Lane’s Penguin paperbacks – those broad orange and cream bands, the cute waddling Penguin. You might be Aldous Huxley, you might be DH Lawrence but you looked like a Penguin author. Because being a Penguin author meant something.

If you were good enough to be a Gollancz SF author in the 1960s your book came out looking like all the other Gollancz SF authors’ books: yellow jackets with magenta and black lettering.You might get a different font but either way your book looked like a Gollancz SF book. And generations of readers were grateful for that. Across bookshops and libraries people looked out for the yellow jackets knowing they meant great SF. So when it came to celebrating 50 years of SF genre publishing by re-issuing ten favourite Gollancz titles as voted for by you it was only natural to celebrate an iconic brand as well and bring fantastic authors old and new into a fantastic tradition.

We’re proud of your list, we’re proud of their yellow jackets.