Cover Story – Evie Gaughan

When my publisher asked if I had any ideas in mind for the cover of my new book, I’m not sure they were prepared for the Pinterest board I’d been adding to steadily for over a year!  I had eleventy-million ideas and couldn’t begin to think how they could all be distilled down to one strong design.  Being a self-taught artist, I knew I was going to be something of a back-seat driver and just hoped that I wouldn’t be asked to step out at the next stop light!

Urbane Publications are renowned for their collaborative approach to publishing, so I was keenly aware of how fortunate I was to have any input at all into the cover design.  I have lost count of the authors I’ve read about and chatted to who have been left disappointed with their covers.  It can be especially difficult for female authors whose covers often represent their gender rather than their genre.  Some publishers can be quite traditional, and this often results in a lack of originality when it comes to the design.

Why are book covers so important anyway and what is their function?  We all know the cliché of judging covers and it is a cliché because it’s true.  The cover is the first connection we make with the book, so it has to stand out.  The prevailing wisdom is that a reader will decide whether or not they’re interested in your book within 8 seconds.  EIGHT SECONDS!  It sounds incredulous, but then we’ve all done it, online or in the bookstore.  Half the time we don’t even know why we are drawn to one book over another.  So your design needs to address the question, ‘What’s it about and what’s in it for me?’

Cover designs should read like a kind of shorthand for your novel.  Within moments, the reader should be able to determine the genre and the general style and mood of the book.  In essence, it’s the siren call to pick the book up, turn it over and read the blurb.  It’s the hook and without it, a potential read could just float on by to something more appealing.

It’s hard to define what makes a good cover, as there are so many components that need to work together – font, composition, proportion, perspective.  Just like a piece of art, a cover design needs to engage the reader on an emotional level, which is no mean feat.  Not everyone will respond in the same way – some readers flat out refuse to pick up a book with a face on the cover.  In a way I understand – it can influence how you view the protagonist and the unique thing about reading is that the reader can create their own imagery from your words.  This conflict is clearly evident when books are adapted to film and fans become a little obsessed with the casting!  I suppose that is why we have so many covers featuring models with their backs turned, or covers revealing only body parts that hint at the character’s personality.

While there have never been more ways to create your own cover, there are rules that govern design which can get lost if you take a short cut and do it yourself.  As authors, we all want that show-stopper of a cover and can spend hours drooling over the latest trends (or is that just me?!)  However, each cover needs to be very particular to the story it envelops.  It can be difficult, after two years of writing to suddenly let go of it and see it wrapped in someone else’s idea of what it should be.  On the other hand, collaborating with someone who has your book’s best interests at heart can be a really rewarding experience.

Coming from a self-publishing background, this was an entirely new process for me.  Seeing your book through someone else’s eyes can be transformative.  After numerous impressions, rough drafts and iterations, the idea kind of grew organically through trial and error.  So many things in this business are about following your gut feeling, and when I saw this cover, I just knew it had all of the elements we were looking for… an impressionistic style with a dreamlike quality.  We’d found ‘the one’.  Yet, ultimately, it is the reader who will decide.

So, my book now has a face to greet the world, hope to meet you soon!