Books and Covers and Judging, and All That
How hard can it be? You’ve done the difficult bit; you’ve spent hundreds of hours drafting and editing and proofreading, and editing again, and then proofreading again, and finally, you can more or less allow yourself to believe that the book is actually finished. All you need to do now is get the cover done, and that won’t take long, because you know exactly what you want, right?
It’s got to be striking. People - specifically in my case teenagers - have to be utterly compelled to pick it up off the shelf. But it’s not got to be over-played, not too literal, or obvious. It’s got to be subtle, atmospheric; classy even.
So you speak to your designer – in my case, my very talented brother, Michael Hanney – and he comes up with some images, and they’re good, amazingly good. They’re all variations on exactly the theme you asked for; all stunning in their own way, all a little different. So you begin to cherry pick. ‘Could we have that font on this one? ... Could we crop it just a bit but without losing those streetlights?’ And, ‘What if we had that image, but with the light more like it is in this one?’
So he smiles obligingly and goes away, and then he comes back. And there are more discussions, this time about those vital elements like the exact shade of blue the lad’s jeans ought to be, the precise distance the two figures should be apart, should the font be all uppercase, all lowercase, or just with uppercase initial letters, should it have a shadow, if so, how much, in which colour ...
He’s still smiling, but it’s looking far more forced now. Not because I’m being so particular, I don’t think ...? But because I am so very, very painfully indecisive. Because I just want it to be right – exactly right, and getting it right is hard.
But do you know what? I’m still thrilled to be doing this myself. My understanding is that many publishers give their authors only limited input when it comes to cover designs for their books, and for a control freak like me, that would be tricky. If it was along the lines of what I had in mind, then great; I’m sure they’d make a spectacular job of it. But what if it wasn’t? It’d belike someone dressing your baby in clothes that you hate, you having to look at her all day long, and take her out in public, and explain to everyone you meet that it wasn’t your choice.
And so my bother and I will keep on tweaking and looking and thinking, and we will come up with the perfect cover image for Someone Different.
And then, when that’s done, I will very quietly and very tactfully remind him, that we still need to do one for Watermelon ...