It’s a book cover, Jim… but not as we know it
Some of my favorite books I’ve chosen primarily for their covers. My favorite example is “The Day of Creation” by J.G. Ballard — I had just read his famous “Empire of the Sun” and knew who he was, but when I was standing in the bookstore the cover of his new novel appealed to me directly above all other books. It featured a rough boat, steaming smoke, sailing across a jungle river that could have come directly from the imagination of Joseph Conrad or the movie “The African Queen”. I loved it immediately. In retrospect, it remains doubtful whether the author J.G. Ballard would have approved of this particular cover, for he often disapproved of his publisher’s choices.
So as an author I am painfully aware of the problems I face when designing my covers. This is not about pleasing myself, it is about appealing to my readers. Not only do I want to draw their attention with my title and cover, but I also want to be true to the book they are about to read. Because my radio detective series is, in my own words, “light crime”, my covers need to differ from the usual genre cover, that’s dark, foreboding and promising violence. My books are “light” because they are shorter, because they are funnier, because their is less focus on ultra complicated plots and more focus on people, and because there is not so much cursing going on and beause I keep out bloody violence. On the other hand, there is adventure and action — so how do I put all that in a cover?
I’ve developed a disctinct style that’s fresh and simple and that leans heavily on the title. So while working on my fifth radio detective novel I found myself heading in the wrong direction. What do you think? First, here are my previous four published novels:
And then I got started on the cover of my fifth, upcoming novel. I usually make a few tests while preparing the synopsis of the story. I was satisfied until I had started the actual writing. Feedback from my peers told me that there was something wrong with both the title and the design. Here’s the temporary cover:
• Why use a title that produces no tension? The answer: I was too busy with the guest character, who plays an important part. I had to get back to telling a story WITHIN the title itself.
• Where does all that black come from all of a sudden? The other covers are light and fresh. The answer: because the title was not really telling you anything, I was trying to compensate by putting in darkness and the red of blood.
Once I had accepted all this, I could think of a better title and design. So here it is, and while it is still temporary — while I write the story — I believe it is a better addition to the series. The cover has that same lightness, which is honest because that’s what the story will be like. Plus the title is more in line with the other novels: it suggests a certain swift action, an adventure story, especially when you include the image:
So I end with my favorite blog line: see what you think. And… let me know what you think. I really love to hear your opinion!