It is said that you can’t judge a book by its cover but I wonder whether that’s true? I’m thinking of putting the first volume of my trilogy out on the web and have discovered that the business of deciding on a cover is more complicated than I expected. I do not anticipate that my small volume will set the internet ablaze but to kindle even the smallest ember it must have a cover. A cover should accurately reflect the contents so the reader isn’t disappointed, dismayed or disgruntled. On the other hand, it also has to pique, entice, draw in a potential reader, encourage him or her to enter a new world, experience new emotions and ideas. It seems like a fine line.
My volume is a modest story, about modest people, set in a modest corner of England – should it therefore have a modest cover? Or will a modest cover be trampled underfoot by the rampaging hordes of murder, incest and mayhem blazoned in scarlet and yellow ,titled in Braggadocio or Britannic Bold?
Our local library has a wall display for new acquisitions. It draws the eye with flamboyant designs and clashing colours but a few weeks ago the cover that drew my attention was plain: dark green with paler lettering and coppery brown design. That’s all. Just two colours – oh, and a perfectly round hole cut right through the hard cover: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Ms. Natasha Pulley, a first novel! What confidence the publisher must have had! I read the book three times in the two weeks allowed by the library and then bought my own copy. Each time I read it, I discover or understand something new, not only inside; a closer look at the cover reveals all the elements of the story cleverly incorporated into the design: bombs, an octopus, a samurai sword and the tiny, intricate cogs that comprise a watch. That cover is a masterpiece of its own and David Mann should be congratulated. It was his cover that drew me to the book.
So there’s my dilemma: will simple and plain sell enough copies for me to go home and see my grand children and great grandson? Or will I need to join the noisy throng of psychedelic, high hyped covers – and if I do, will that be misleading my potential readers, who then may decide not to read parts 2 and 3 when they appear?
Writing the book was the easy part!