A flurry of e-mails from the art department at Penguin has inspired today’s post, with various versions of the cover for the proof of There Is No Dog. The book title comes from the joke about the dyslexic atheist (if you can’t figure it out, google Dyslexic Atheist), which is not necessary to understand in order to enjoy the book, but still, I wanted a bit of resonance with God-Dog.  Here’s the cover:

You have to imagine it with all the folds folded and flaps flapped — otherwise it looks a bit like a dog’s dinner, with so much going on.

But I really like it. Really a lot. Which, as all writers know, is not that common. The cover conversation is one that writers never tire of reviving when there’s nothing particular to rant about, and always goes along the lines of “How could my deathless prose possibly sell with THAT COVER?” Ahem. I’ve even possibly been known to utter more or less those words. Fairly recently, in fact. Of course it was true, you see. So it doesn’t count.

Edward Gorey sums it up better than I ever could, in his hilarious and tragically accurate book, The Unstrung Harp: “Mr Earbrass has received the sketch for the dustwrapper of The Unstrung Harp. Whatever were they thinking of?  That drawing, those colours! On any book it would be ugly, vulgar, and illegible. On his book it would be all these, and also disastrously wrong.”

My most recent theory about covers is that nobody knows anything, as William Goldman so pithily said about the film business. Sales thinks they know what sells. Booksellers think they know what sells. Writers are certain they know what doesn’t sell. And everyone’s wrong. Some books sell, despite, because of, or with no reference at all to the cover. Of course, given that nobody knows anything, you might as well go with your gut. “I like that!” is as good a reaction as any.

While wandering around on the web one day, I discovered a cover I’d never seen before — it had been designed for one of my books by Clare Skeats, then an art department intern, back when my editor and I were still arguing about the title (second most common source of “discussions” with publishers). I love this cover, and finding it by mistake like that sowed the seed of doubt in my head, along the lines of “What wondrous pearls are those designers coming up with that they Never Even Bother To Show Me?” (Insert your own outraged tone of voice.)

Any day now I’ll demand to see all the sketches, notes, proofs, computer doodles, and stuff they throw away. Then I’ll know I’m completely, not just a little bit, mad.

p.s. I’ve posted an excerpt of Dog on my website. Don’t get too excited if you like it, after all, I was bound to choose a really good bit….


21 thoughts on “The god of cover art.

  1. Sue Hyams 8 years ago

    Love love love it! Starry dog and fish – perfect! And I’m dying to read it so will whizz over and read the really good bit!

  2. andrea seigel 8 years ago

    oh man, i am so excited about this. that it’s beautiful, that i’ll get to have it in my house after it comes out. beauuuuuutiful.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      You haven’t really given up on writing YA books, have you? Breaks my heart.

    2. andrea seigel 8 years ago

      i can’t think how you would know about this, but yes, i think should go back to adult trade.

    3. Meg 8 years ago

      Don’t blame you, given the marketing (ha) of Kid Table. I’ll read whatever you write next.

  3. Gail 8 years ago

    I love the cover, too. (And, from what I can see, your photo looks pretty good, as well.) Can’t wait for the book to come out over here.

  4. Vivian Oldaker 8 years ago

    Wonderful cover. I have been known to have the odd rant on this very subject; so it’s great to see a cover where everyone, including the AUTHOR, is happy! Looking forward to publication date; will now read extract.

  5. Nigel McDowell 8 years ago

    Love the cover Meg! Well done for getting there, and thanks for posting all those doubts/nerves/worries throughout the writing process: oddly and greatly comforting to read about the highs and lows…And very, very, very excited to read “Dog”!! Well done!!

  6. raych 8 years ago

    I want to eat this cover.

    When picking covers for my reviews I usually try to go with the cover of the edition I read, if only because seeing that cover later will bring me back to reading the book, but with Just In Case I deliberately didn’t and then my sister was reading it later and she was all, But my copy has the Justin Beiber cover. And I was all, So did mine… And then we had a sad moment. Justin Beiber ruins everything.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Couldn’t agree with you more.

  7. kokorako 8 years ago

    It’s lovely, but I do think Just in Case ought to be a bit jealous. BTW v excited for you about the film too. You (or rather all those around you) are doing an amazing amount of work. Congrats & happy new year. Nicola

  8. Bridget Strevens-Marzo 8 years ago

    God, the cover, not to mention the title are compelling! Desperately want to see what’s inside – and in The Dark Ages too which is a real thought provoker of a cover. And f I don’t like the cover I just can’t read the book. It’s a problem – means I miss some good writing!

  9. Amanda 8 years ago

    Dog what a lovely cover. Given the importance and comfort dogs give in your other stories, I am nervous about the bleakness of ‘no dog’ as a launching point.
    I thought the extract was delicious – a nice appetiser – but will certainly drool dog-like till the book is in my hands. (May also try some mournful chin-on-floor moping if it takes too long)
    Well done all – especially you, Meg

  10. Lorna Stallard 8 years ago

    I like it. I like all your covers.

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  12. Elle 8 years ago

    Shiny covers are good as they attract your vain readers such as myself 😉

  13. Kirsten Baron 8 years ago

    It’s a greyhound! Perfect. My daughters & I love your books and we love greyhounds. Sometimes it feels as if you’re writing just for us 😉

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      There’s a teensy problem, though, Kirsten. There really IS no dog in this book. Well, there’s a tiny cameo of a dog. But there’s something almost as good — a lovely penguiny creature.

    2. Kirsten Baron 8 years ago

      We’re happy with the one on the cover. Besides, you already wrote the best fictional greyhound, Boy.

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