Monday, October 01, 2018

You Can't Tell a Book by its Cover - or Can You?

How do you feel about the covers of your books? What do you hope for, when you first get the image? Do you have a clear idea of what you want it to look like? Do you have any say in that, or are you content to leave it to the professionals?

I've just been sent the proof copy of the cover for my new book, Carrion Comfort, due out in November. It's always a bit of a crunch moment when the email with the jpeg arrives. What if I hate it?

There was no such problem with this one. I love it, with that clever, sharp lime green and the rather menacing landscape. I'm very lucky in that Allison and Busby, my publishers, have a particularly talented in-house designer (take a bow, Christina!) and they've always done me proud. The last one, Human Face (in the margin on your left and down a bit) was another big success and looks terrific when you see it lying on a table in a bookshop.

It's obviously important to establish a brand so that the books chime as a recognizable set, without being repetitive and boring. Not having an artistic bone in my body I wouldn't have the first idea how to go about that, so though I'm very graciously asked my opinion I'd never feel qualified to suggest anything other than very small changes.

What makes me particularly happy about this one is the scene there shows a cottage just like the one in the book. I know that doesn't matter. I do understand – it's been explained to me, lots of times, very slowly and patiently and without using any long difficult words, that book covers aren't meant to be an illustration of the story inside. They're meant to suggest the atmosphere of the book and to look inviting enough so that people will want to pick it up and find out more.

Still, it's a real bonus to get an image that's both stylish and referential. I will never forget the cover of my second ever book, written about the time when dinosaurs still ruled the earth. Oh, it was stylish, I have to admit.Slightly abstract, it featured a piano keyboard (yes, the detective did play the piano) with a long and lethal-looking steel poker laid across it. Yes, the murder weapon was a poker. But, as it said in the very first paragraph on the very first page, it was a brass poker with a big brass knob on the end. It did make it rather painfully obvious that the artist had only been given a vague outline of the plot and hadn't so much as bothered to open the book and read the first page.But maybe that's just wounded pride talking.

When the book comes out it's a bit like showing off your new baby. Of course you're proud of it anyway, but if the baby's particularly good-looking (as mine were, of course. Oh, yours were too? What a coincidence!) it does give a certain lift to your spirit.


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Sybil Johnson said...

Very nice cover.

Aline Templeton said...

Thanks, Sybil. It's always a relief when it works out well.

Rick Blechta said...

I agree that the cover is a very nice one.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Aline, I've been very fortunate with the covers of both my mysteries and my historical novels. It's a big relief!