Today I’m pleased to share a guest post from Katherine Webb, author of The English Girl, which was published on 24 March 2016 by Orion. Katherine discusses book covers.
Can you talk to us about covers – what are your favourites? Any international ones?
I’ve always hated that saying ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ – at least when applied to books Because if you don’t know the author or haven’t heard of the title, how on earth are you supposed to get a feel for it otherwise? The cover is hugely important, for all sorts of reasons, and so it’s often a bone of contention between author and publisher. In rare cases, I have read of publishing contracts being torn up due to arguments over the cover design.
An author often wants the cover of their book to reflect the feeling they had as they were writing it – they want it to embody the sense of it they carry in their head and heart, or at least to perfectly mirror the book’s content. The publisher wants the cover to sell the book. They want it to grab the eye of a weary shopper, and tell them what they need to know about its genre, style and spirit. When I was first published, I have to confess that I wasn’t mad about my books’ covers. They just didn’t look to me as the book had looked in my head! And friends and family muddied the water by saying things like ‘Well who’s that supposed to be?’ or ‘I hadn’t imagined the house looking like that’ – looking for a direct visual translation of what they had just read. I also fought against being marketed so exclusively for women, when I wanted people of all genders to consider picking the book up.
But, as time and sales were to show, while I was just starting to learn about being a professional author, I still knew nothing about marketing. Since those days I have come to the conclusion that there is a reason a lot of publishing contracts agree to consult the author about the cover, but not to offer control of its final look. Publishers are buying from the author the right to market and sell that book as they see fit, and most of the time, the author would do well to let them get on with it. Which isn’t to say it’s easy to let it go if you really think the cover is wrong. Publishers generally want their authors to be happy, and everybody wants to be able to feel great about the publication of a book, and from what I can gather from talking to other authors, there’s always room to negotiate.
Seeing the covers that my foreign publishers choose is always really interesting. Some merely adapt the English cover, some go for something completely different. A spooky thing happened with the cover of my third book, A Half Forgotten Song. The cover image Orion chose was of a sea view with a ramshackle cottage in the foreground. I went on holiday to Croatia with my sister soon after it was finalised, and we stayed in an apartment overlooking the same view – the exact same view. The photo must have been taken from the very apartment we stayed in! And then my American publisher chose the exact same picture…
Orion have recently taken my covers in a new direction, starting withThe English Girl, and I’m happy to report that I absolutely love the new look on the whole, and the new cover in particularly. It’s a cracker, and definitely my favourite yet. It’s always so much better when everyone is happy!
About the book:
“Joan Seabrook, a fledgling archaeologist, has fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Arabia by travelling from England to the ancient city of Muscat with her fiancé, Rory. Desperate to escape the pain of a personal tragedy, she longs to explore the desert fort of Jabrin, and unearth the treasures it is said to conceal.
But Oman is a land lost in time – hard, secretive, and in the midst of a violent upheaval – and gaining permission to explore Jabrin could prove impossible. Joan’s disappointment is only alleviated by the thrill of meeting her childhood heroine, pioneering explorer Maude Vickery, and hearing first-hand the stories that captured her imagination and fuelled her ambition as a child.
Joan’s encounter with the extraordinary and reclusive Maude will change everything. Both women have things that they want, and secrets they must keep. As their friendship grows, Joan is seduced by Maude’s stories, and the thrill of the adventure they hold, and only too late does she begin to question her actions – actions that will spark a wild, and potentially disastrous, chain of events.
Will the girl that left England for this beautiful but dangerous land ever find her way back?”