In search of the wow factor!

Here I am again, delighted to have completed my latest novel but wondering what and how I can create an eye-catching cover. It needs to highlight the focus of the story and, more importantly, grab readers’ attention. That I was inspired to write ‘The Greenhouse Legacy’ from a postcard of a painting by Eric Ravilious is not necessarily helpful.

The beautiful image which leads the viewer further into an eternity of greenhouses, is arresting to me for the surreal effect which creates a feeling that something strange happened in that haunting emptiness. What I see in this postcard reproduction would not seize a browsing shopper though; the colours are too subtle. More importantly, I’d be unable to reproduce this painting for copyright reasons.

In a previous blog on this site – ‘Creating a book cover’ published last February – I discussed the need to change the cover of ‘Incident of the Line’ from the initial rather drab photo of railway lines overlaid with red title etc, to one with more colour. Drew Westcott found this far more eye-catching image and, we believe, sold a few more books.

The greenhouse in the new novel is a sanctuary, a haven for lovers and the scene of a fight and a death. How can that all be encompassed in one image? At the same time if I’m ‘to read’ some of the latest ‘winning’ book covers, this should not be the case. One element of the plot, even an obscure reference might intrigue prospective readers.

The Hook

The cover for ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ conveys the most important part of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s argument. 

The title on this glossy white cover is black except for the words ‘White People’ which are merely impressed into the card, therefore barely visible. It is a dynamic statement. As the author writes; ‘Greg Heinimann, Bloomsbury’s design wizard, had, on reading my blog post, translated the words into an image that couldn’t be more suited.’ And ‘At the very least it says. “this has not been written by a white person”.

Colour zings

Trawling a few other more recently published and popular books tells me that bright is essential. A sky blue background featuring the colourfully clothed back to back couple for David Nicholls’ ‘Sweet Sorrow’.

For ‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty-Williams a woman’s braided hair and huge earrings, gold entwined, is featured either on a bright yellow or red background.

And again white writing is used for the title and author’s name on yellow, red, turquoise and black for Bernadine Evaristo’s ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, with a side profile of an extravagantly turbaned woman’s head.

Each is striking, unmissable, lying on a bookseller’s table, hard to ignore.  

Of interest too is Ann Prachett’s writing on this subject at the end of her latest novel ‘The Dutch House’. Books and Covers tells of her problems in finding an appropriate cover for her many novels. She tells us that when her first book was published, she ‘knew as much about covers as I did about cars’ going on to say that she recognised what appealed without knowing how they worked. 

 What she did know was that with all the books that are out there calling for attention, the cover must attract readers before they have read a word of the script, ‘as roses call to bees’. However she found that publishers rarely take notice of what the author wants.

With ‘The Dutch House’ she had a firm idea of what she didn’t want which was any suggestion of the actual house of the title. She chose an artist to paint the portrait which features in the novel. It is stunning and powerfully provokes the reader to want to look inside.

Author’s responsibility

Having said all this, a book is entirely the author’s responsibility down to the most minute typo and must therefore include the cover.

So with ‘The Greenhouse Legacy’ do I need to get my paints out as for ‘A Retrospective’?

Or my camera as for ‘Ladybird, Ladybird’?

There is a particular flower associated with a main character, Elspeth, in ‘The Greenhouse Legacy’. Fragile and pink, it may be difficult to work up into a dynamic cover. We will see, the search goes on.

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