Having spent fifteen brief years in advertising, I should know a thing or two about graphic design. In fact, I always thought I had a fairly good eye for design — or at least knew precisely what I liked and what I didn’t.
No more. Five years as a writer has completely scrambled my brain on the subject of book covers. Usually the ones I like are the ones the sales department tch-s over sadly, as in, “Oh that one. Disastrous. Didn’t sell at all.” Of course the problem I had in my former career was that I lacked any sort of common touch, which suddenly makes me doubt whether I’m capable of judging what should be on the cover of my books. I loved the American hardback cover of The Bride’s Farewell, but it was deemed too cold. All that black and white, maybe? But the horse, didn’t everyone love the horse? I guess not.
The new paperback cover is, if possible, even more beautiful (though sadly lacking the horse). Will it prove….too artsy? Too subtle? Too female?
And what about the two UK covers? The hardback is lovely, but I don’t like our heroine’s position on the horse (head thrust forward) — something probably no one else on earth would notice. And what about the paperback, which has turned Pell into a blonde? I dunno. I never saw her as a blonde, but who am I to judge? The wild look is certainly right, I just sort of wish she looked a little more as I wrote her. And yes, I’ve made a couple of changes in the text to allow her to be blonde on the cover.
Not that I want to be inflexible, but when my German publisher told me they’d put a golden labrador on the cover of How I Live Now, I commented (rather sweetly, I thought, for me) that perhaps they didn’t have border collies in Germany? “No no, came the answer. We just liked this picture of a labrador.” Again, appropriate changes were made in the text.
When faced with a roomful of people telling me that “the whole sales team swooned when they saw it!” the courage of my convictions tends to wobble. And I never really see myself as a wobbler. Except occasionally in the mirror, after a shower, and that’s a whole different story.
In bookshops, I’m always seeing covers I love. Covers I KNOW I love. I would fight anyone who told me that the cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is not genuinely brilliant. And I bet it sold well, too. I should know. I bought a copy for the cover alone.
Which was just as well, because in my heart of hearts, I thought Pride and Prejudice read fairly well without the zombies.