By Richard Jay Parker
Allison and Busby have just sent me the electric blue cover for the paperback of STOP ME. You can see it here. I’m very pleased with it because it feels like the paperback will be a different entity to the orange, large cover, trade edition.
This brings me back to last week’s discussion re covers and their importance. As a lot of you agreed, covers certainly aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to purchasing a novel. Covers are only part of the equation. If you’re an established writer I think they become less important because people are responding to a name rather than a catchy image. As a new writer though you need something on the front of the book that will take a curious reader to the next level.
It’s then down to that synopsis on the back. If the story doesn’t appeal or doesn’t raise its shoulders above similar fare then I think even the most discerning reader may pass.
The whole book buying process is amorphous, however. What about word-of-mouth for instance? I have a shelf full of great books with lacklustre covers that I bought because of a recommendation. Similarly there are a lot of books with great covers that stink. Thankfully, it’s the contents of the book itself that are the real test of a book’s durability. Celebrity books aside that is – see last Friday’s blog.
I know many writers are alarmed about file sharing - new e readers robbing authors of valuable income. But people have always passed on books they’ve enjoyed to friends, family and neighbours. And if that second person then enjoys the book it’s likely they’ll purchase another one – a book they wouldn’t have entertained if the first party hadn’t handed it on.
Of course, files are different to physical books and the ease in which this is done will be incomparable. However, people have only so much time to read and with greater numbers of books racking up in their memory does that friend sharing an ephemeral file rather than something as tactile as a book really have the same impact?
It all remains to be seen but one thing is definite – after a certain point, the process by which a book becomes popular is out of the hands of publishers and authors. If it has a great cover, some nice blurb and a good position in Waterstones it’s a good start but after that it’s down to whether the readers respond to the contents. And, as cogs of the publishing machine, it seems we should all be concentrating on getting that right.