Debut Novelist One: Choosing a Book Cover

Nov 10, 2021 | Blog

Recently I’ve found myself in the delightful position of finalising the front cover for my book. After all the back and forth of contracts, files, acknowledgments, summaries and all sorts of words, it’s the first time that the arrival of an actual book with my name on felt imminent.

It’s not the first time I’ve been in print. Recently I received a beautiful copy of the Bristol Short Story Prize anthology and had the joy of seeing my big smiling face on the page underneath the words ‘third prize.’ But there’s something different about a whole, entire book, written only by you, with your name on it. Now that feels pretty special. But how do you make it look like something people want to buy?

We all judge books by their covers. Everyone knows that.

I don’t know how to design a front cover. I’m not even sure I know what I like in the covers I see. There are definitely some that I think are memorable, or interesting, or evocative, but it’s hard for me to pick out specific elements or things that make them good. So I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the process of sorting out my own.

Seeing as I’m working with a SRL Publishing, a wonderfully green and independent press, I have the advantage of having more say in the process. But I also have the disadvantage of having more say in the process. I quite liked the idea of some expert designer swooping in and doing something fabulous, while I clacked away at my keyboard. As it was, my opinion was sought, my ideas were courted. I felt thoroughly out of my depth.

My early ideas were something like this. Not quite right.

As ever, I turned to Twitter for help. In recent years I’ve made a surprising number of ‘friends’ on there. Writers, creatives, mums, people who are doing their best to keep their creativity at the heart of their lives. So, of course, I thought it might offer up an artist that would really ‘get’ my book and help me make it look all lovely.

I first ‘met’ Eli Allison a few years ago when I read her book Sour Fruit. Her central character is a brawling girl who refuses to be helped with anything, set in a dark and murderous dystopia. I loved it. Her offbeat sense of style (just look at the website!) and her brilliant illustrations gave me the idea that she might just be the person for my book.

This was my personal attempt on Canva. Yeah, I know.

Because, the problem is, it’s not that easy to define in terms of genre. The style is literary, while it has elements of crime and thriller. It’s a dark book about consent, but half of it is written from a male perspective, the other from a female perspective. You see the problem? So I was hoping she would be the person to swoop in and save me.

Which, of course, she did. I knew I wanted something striking and eye-catching, that I wanted something that gave the sense of looming darkness in people, about the idea of two stories being shared in one book, but I didn’t know how to do that.

So here it is! The gorgeous cover for my new book which is out in January ’22. I’m so pleased to be able to share it with you.

What do you think? Hope you like it. Head here for more info and to pre-order now!

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