The book cover: telling and compelling

You may have gathered that since the ms. of my third novel in the trilogy went to the editor last month I’ve been thinking about the details of publication. This past week, driving around the flat wintry landscape Manitoba, Canada, I’ve been watching the colours of sky and snow and thinking about the cover image that will make my new book jump off the shelf or the page saying ‘Read me’ and, better still, ‘Buy me’. This is the image that will appear on my Amazon page and Twitter and everywhere else, and it has to be both telling and compelling.

One of the great things about self-publishing is that you get to make these decisions for yourself. Writing a book is such a personal endeavour: it’s always bothered me that someone else – or worse still a ‘committee’ – should decide what the finished book actually looks like. I don’t want to use images of people: the reader should be able to imagine what characters look like from the text, or from inside their own head. The cover of this new book set in such a wonderful location should reflect that place, and say something too about the events between the covers. In the case of ‘Fallout’ – yes, I finally decided to keep that title – the image could represent two central themes, the importance of the beach and its ever-changing light and tides, and the fire deep in the nuclear reactor burning red, orange and blue. Sunset over the beach could fulfill both of these hopes in one image, if we could find the right one and not have to pay too much for the copyright. If that sounds mercenary, it is. Self-publishing a real book, as well as an electronic one, is an expensive business, but it’s what I’ve chosen to do. I love books, the look and feel of them as well as their contents. Creating a book continues to be a real pleasure, and one that has to be paid for.

When ‘A Good Liar’ was published, the cover captured the key elements of what lay inside. There was a stunning image of Wastwater under a stormy sky, contrasting with a faded grey picture of rural schoolchildren, taken in the very year of the book’s setting. The cover of ‘Forgiven’ was a gorgeous photograph of a lush green Lakeland valley and a granite  wall, taken by my book designer John Aldridge, combined with a bright sky from a different location. This third cover, on the last book of a trilogy entitled ‘Between the Mountains and the Sea’, will focus on the Irish Sea of the West Cumbrian coast. Somehow I hope we’ll find the image that delights me and anyone who chooses to read the words inside. Let’s hope the bookshops will find the space to display the cover rather than the spine. I can’t wait to see it.

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