Monday, August 30, 2021

Getting good coverage

Let's talk book covers.

Very important thing, your book cover, because it's the first wave of the flag for the story you have laboured over, sweated over, wept over, perhaps even done over, for months, maybe years.

I'm not an expert on such matters. It takes a particular skillset to know how to create an image that will do the job. My publisher asks for my input but generally I draw a blank or give such a vague non-answer that I might as well as saved my breath. I trust them to do the right thing. After all, my job is to string the words together in some semblance of order - the packaging and selling is their area of expertise and I am no salesman, I'm afraid. I learned that the hard way, by taking a job as a salesman.

Your cover has to draw the casual bookstore wanderer sufficiently to at least pick it up, read the blurb and then - praise be - part with their folding green.

It also has to somehow reflect the content of the book.

We all know that there are trends in covers. There's the woman facing away from the reader, perhaps in a yellow coat. Or a red one. Or a grey one. There's the man facing away from the reader, perhaps with a. gun in hi Han d. And wearing a jacket. Or a coat. Both generally dark. 

There are the covers where the title, maybe three or four words, is in a san serif face (like Bob Dylan, publishers have shot the serif) and the spacing between the words is large enough to fit in the author's name and then a catch line.

There are those with a woman's face in the foreground and some sort of cityscape in the background. Less common is a man's face in the foreground and some sort of cityscape in the background. In fact, I can't think of a single one.

Readers can respond to innovation but they take comfort from the familiar and trends in covers tells them immediately what they can expect from their selected read. Similarly titles - how many novels did we have with the word Girl or Woman in the title? As soon as we saw it we knew we were in for some psychological, domestic chills.

Of course, covers are part of your 'brand'. Each subsequent book in series will have a similar look, even down to how your name is presented.

That's happened to me with my Rebecca Connolly series. I have been branded, which sounds painful although they didn't need to rope me, throw me to the ground, sit on me and wield a red hot iron. Well, perhaps not for the book cover but there was that time when...

But no, let's draw a veil over that incident. I'm not proud of it but things happen when you're drunk.

The first in the series, Thunder Bay, had two covers. This was the original:

It was also used on the US edition and it looks great on the hardback. Even so, I liked it but when that first book became a series a new 'branding' was necessary so Thunder Bay was given a fresh look:

Looks good. Moody. Conveys the sense of foreboding and the general atmosphere of the novel. And my name is of sufficient size that my ego is satisfied. And it's that look that has continued through the next two in the series.

But then it was sold to other territories. As I said, Skyhorse/Arcade Crimewise retained the original cover for their release and a damn fine piece of work it is.

But the Danish and German markets went their own way. Here's the former:

Pretty darned cool, I think. And the title means 'The Rest is Silence', which also fits the subject.

The Germans went in this direction:

Again, eye-catching and reflects the subject matter. A slight title change - The Dead of Thunder Bay - which again fits. My name is not nearly big enough, though. (I'm joking, of course. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

The object of this exercise is to show how different publishers can approach the same book in various ways and yet still find common ground in their presentation. My hat is tipped to those designers and salespeople who know how to find the correct visual for each story.

I am thrilled that the books are available beyond Scotland and very pleased with the efforts every publisher makes to get the cover right. They are all experts in their field and authors just have to trust them.

Oh - and here's something else that thrills me - the idea that my book is in the wild (in bookstores) overseas. A reader, Carmen Thomas, sent me this shot of Thunder Bay's German edition in Vienna, Austria! 

I am, as we say in Glasgow, fair chuffed, so ah'm urr.

1 comment:

crimeworm said...

Fascinating stuff - thanks Douglas!