Creating a cover for a book

The cover, or sleeve as it used to be called, is a vital element in attracting the reader to a book. People, companies, are paid a lot of money for the most dominant and appropriate image.

Creating a new book cover for my novel, ‘Incident on the Line’ has been under discussion between Drew, my publicist, and I for sometime. I like the present one but does it create enough ‘wow!’ for those readers searching amongst the myriad of books online? It would be the exactly the same in a book shop, the ‘look at me’ factor is essential to encourage a sale. Whatever is inside a book, however good the content, or unless you’ve been compelled by great reviews to look for it, the cover is the first attraction.

Taste comes into it. My choice of the low-key railway lines with red title for ‘Incident on the Line’, I realise, in retrospect, does not shout at you ‘buy me!’ On the other hand it focuses on the main points of the plot and theme of the novel, death on the tracks, communication involving an uncomfortable scene and another encounter on a railway station, connections both mysterious and tragic. I felt it had gravitas!

How a cover came to be important

A book cover, as such. did not emerge until the 1820’s. Pages of print were bound by the bookseller and in some cases given a jacket of some material, often leather, for a particular customer. This continued during the 19th century with dust jackets becoming more ornate, made of paper or cloth, to cover the binding. Though becoming quite fashionable, these were often discarded soon after receipt. The dust jackets of the 1920’s, though, have become collectible, often decorated in the art deco style. Today the decoration on the solid card cover has become of vital importance to selling the product. Although most books are first published as a hardback, sometimes with a dust jacket, paperbacks have taken over most of the market with a professionally designed cover being essential.

A novel, which I would throughly recommend, ‘The Crooked Heart’ by Lissa Evans, I would not have read without someone else’s recommendation. The weird purple starburst, of what I can see now is the night sky during the blitz, created an initial negative reaction. Added to this the title font and the slanting orange of the author’s name are, I think, unfortunate. It is all too busy. Others may find this appealing; who am I to say. I borrowed the novel thinking to dip in and possibly skim read, and soon realised it was a book to love and keep.

The austere cover of ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney does not entice me in either. The plain lime green on the front with a sardine tin enclosing two people in the style of an engraving, and plain pink back would not have attracted me to buy if I hadn’t been bombarded by excellent reviews and an award. It has yet to be read.

The challenge of the Man Booker prize.

However the cover of ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns is glorious. The glowing pinks and oranges of a sunset with black walking figure outlined on horizon is most appealing. I was wary of reading this novel, despite the Man Booker prize and other accolades for its fine writing and subject matter, due to some protests with regard to its readability. All the latter wrong I may say. I am entranced by the clever depiction of the inner turmoil of the Troubles in 1970’s Belfast, Northern Ireland, the captivating voice. This cover, which directly contrasts with the way people were forced or coerced to think, the requirement to only view people and events in a certain way, is likened to the effect of denying the colours of a sunset. So relevant and eye-catching.

My other book covers I still regard with pleasure, except for ‘The Angel Child’. What I wished for was a Chagall painting or a dramatic rainbow. I would not have been able to obtain the copyright for the latter and although I found a perfect image of a rainbow on one website, we could not however locate the copyright owner. I’ll still keep looking.

There is huge pleasure in assessing the value, the enticement of a book cover. That publishers spend vast resources on creating that best image is not surprising. So watch out for the new release with new cover for ‘Incident on the Line’. 

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