Surprise me: starting the book cover design process


Two weeks ago, I went to Faber & Faber’s beautifulBloomsburyoffices to meet the team, who are all absolutely lovely. It’s very odd when reality is so much better than your most fanciful daydreams.

I now understand a little bit about rights and exciting things like the fact that cover design (at Faber, at least) starts about a year before the book comes out. I can’t wait to see the options for my book (my book!).

Everyone at Faber is so nice they even asked me if I had any particular views about what should go on the cover. If you can’t remember any Faber covers, have a look. They’re gorgeous.

So, although of course I’ve got ideas about what could go on the cover, I’m keeping them to myself. I’m excited about the opportunity to be surprised by what the fabulous artists at Faber come up with.

Having worked in the theatre for so long, I’m pretty laid back about the whole thing, but I know a lot of people aren’t. In the theatre, you get used to the fact that lots of different people want to make their mark on the show. That’s what theatre is about: each creative is an expert in a different area and needs the scope to do what he or she does best. Now, obviously, it’s vital to have someone with a level head to say ‘no’ when an expert is totally off base but a lot of the time it’s just like the writing process.

Each creative goes away and does his or her thing (just like writing a first draft). Then people get together and pool their ideas, trying to create a cohesive whole (like re-writing the first draft with some feedback to make the whole thing hang together). Next, everyone polishes what they’ve got (advanced re-writing with input from your agent). Finally, you get a preview audience in and some experts (submitting to the publisher and working on their feedback).

You can’t work effectively in the theatre if you can’t let go a little. Despite the famous line from The Producers – ‘I am the author. I outrank you!’ – this approach doesn’t work in practice. Sometimes writers need to accept that they’re not the ultimate experts in every aspect of their show… or their book. There are times when other people really do know better.

I’m actively excited to think that I’m not controlling every aspect of the production of the book. I want to see what artists come up with, just from reading the book. There will be time to have my say later on as I’m sure the design process is just like the writing one: there will be initial choices to be made and then lots of scope for refinement. I want to be involved but I also don’t want to interfere too much: I’m not the expert in cover design. I want to fall in love with my cover – and I’m sure I will – but I know my best chance of doing that is not to get in the way but to be a helpful participant in a group process.

I just can’t wait to get started! Roll on May!

Have your say: reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s