“Can you judge a book by its cover?” asks Tim Vicary. Of course you can - we all do. Whether we're in a bookshop or online, we do it every day: no, no, no, no, maybe, that one looks interesting, wonder what that's about ...
The cover matters hugely, so it's vital; to have a good cover artist - like the talented Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics, who has made covers for all my books and for many members of the Famous Five Plus. And one of the joys of being an independent author is that creating the cover becomes a shared project, which never happens in commercial publishing. I make suggestions, Cathy brings them to life - and if we don't get it right the first time, we try again.
The cover's main aim to attract the reader - not just any reader, but the sort of reader who is likely to enjoy this type of book. The image has to make sense, to appeal instantly in that brief flash of attention the uncommitted reader is likely to give to it. But it also has to tell you something of what the book is about. Tricky, eh?
Here are two very different covers for my book Cat & Mouse. Both made by Cathy from ideas I suggested (so we're both in the firing line here!) Look at each of them for a moment - a few seconds, that's all - then before reading any further, decide
a) what do you think the book is about?
b) which do you like best?
c) is it your sort of book?
(Honest answers in the comments section would be much appreciated)
The first cover is made up from an original British suffragette poster made in about 1910. You can see it here.
I liked it because it was unusual, dramatic, authentic, and - I hoped - eye-catching. It was the first cover I used for the book, which is a historical drama based around the story of two sisters, one of whom is a militant suffragette in
in 1914. (the answer to questions a) above) London
But after a few months, when the book wasn't selling particularly well, I had second thoughts. This image doesn't have instant appeal, I thought. Most readers won't understand it. If they don't get it immediately, they'll just look away.
I also noticed an endless, and rather depressing, number of historical romances which tried to sell themselves on sex - particularly pictures of young men with rippling chest muscles and no shirt. Hm, I thought. Buyers of that sort of book are not my ideal target reader, but still ... there is a certain amount of sex in my book, in fact it's about a crucial moment in the battle between the sexes. Hence the second cover.
Why did I choose this? Well, because it's about a key incident in the story which takes place in the first chapter. AND it's based on a real life incident. The image on the cover is the Rokeby Venus, by Diego Velasquez - surely one of the most beautiful paintings in
National Gallery. But in 1914 a militant suffragette called Mary Richardson
walked into the National Gallery and proceeded to slash the painting to ribbons
with a meat cleaver. Really! Here are two photos - one of the original picture,
and a photo of what the painting looked like after her visit. London
So you see it's not just a sexy picture, it's highly relevant to the story. Cathy Helms has done a great job by adding just a few key details: the picture is in a frame on a wall with a wooden floor in front of it, as it would have been in the gallery; and the mirror in the cherub's hands no longer reflects the woman's face, but another image of womankind entirely.
If you like to read a longer blog about this cover look here
Cat & Mouse
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