…which is why getting the cover right for a book is so important. It is, after all, the very first hook for a potential reader or, alternatively, an immediate sign that the contents is of absolutely no interest to them. When I published my first novel, ‘Counting the Ways,’ the few sketchy ideas that I gave the cover designer produced something I instantly liked and felt captured exactly what I was trying to suggest about the story and its tone. Job swiftly, easily done! ‘The Legacy of Mr Jarvis,’ however, my second novel coming out at the end of the year, is proving more difficult.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sent the draft cover that the designer had produced on the suggestions/very vague ideas I had submitted. It was wrong in every way! The colour, images and connotations of the design simply didn’t fit with the novel I have written. And the cover was not, to me, in any way appealing.
One of the challenges of producing an apt and appropriate design for the novel lies in the fact that one of its main settings is the south coast of England. So I want a beach, sea breakers/groynes, an overcast sky and a pebble beach. What I got from the designer was, exactly, this – and it looked so dreary, depressing and bleak that ‘misery memoir’ came to mind rather than the novel I feel I have written. It made me realise how hard it is to say something about the content and tone of a story through illustration and colour. And how important it is to get it right.
And something else.
That first draft of the cover was also wrong because it made no connection with the title – with ‘Mr Jarvis’ – he is central, a pivotal character even though he is only a physical presence for part of the story and my initial suggestions to the designer had not asked for him to be represented or subtlely suggested in any way.
So, after a couple of days of trawling through numerous images and photographs on Google, I submitted some new proposals and thoughts about design and colour and am now waiting for the next draft.
I’ve also been looking more critically at book covers and trying to define exactly what it is that makes one successful. Like everything else, there are fashions in book cover design – a ‘look’ that is popular for a while until replaced by something else. Obviously, if the writer is famous and revered – or even infamous – the book will sell regardless. For most writers, though, the cover is key – that initial reaching out to the hovering, wavering buyer/reader, saying quietly yet insistently, ‘read me, buy me – please.’
So next time you pick up a book randomly, driven not by the writer’s name, but by the look of the cover, ask yourself why. Why this book rather than one of the hundreds of others on the shelf? What does the cover of this novel promise me that another fails to provide?
And think of the agonising hours that the writer has no doubt spent trying to push for the right image, negotiating with publisher and designer for the appropriate picture that is as faithful as possible to the essential truths of their novel.