On book covers


I feel like finding the right cover for your story is like finding the right shell. It's a home. It's got to fit.

I’ve been preoccupied with this over the last month or so, because it’s the funnest and most exciting step of re-releasing my first three novels, Raw Blue, Saltwater Vampires and Night Beach.  

So, in this case, we’re talking about a re-jacket, as they say in the biz. 

The person who is doing all the exciting stuff for me is Debra Billson. Debra did the cover for Summer Skin — which knocked my socks off the first time I saw it. My lovely editor at Allen and Unwin involved me in the briefing process for that novel. It was great — I learned firsthand that what I thought would work, did not work anywhere near as well as the thing Debra came up with off her own bat. (An aside, I also love Debra’s cover for Ellie Marney’s White Night).

I want to describe Debra for you in the briefest way possible. Debra does the work. That’s my big litmus test these days. I only want to work with people who do the work. (I also want to be a person who does the work — not easy!) 

Anyway, we are really close. I can’t wait to share the new covers with you.  In terms of learning, I’d suggest that if you are ever in the position to hire a designer, do your homework, find a designer doing work you love, and then TRUST  YOUR DESIGNER. 

I don’t know why I shouted that last bit — I am sure you will. Especially if you are confident you’ve got someone who knows their stuff. 

Three real life examples of what I mean: 

  1. For RAW BLUE, I had mucked around with an approach that I liked. Right down to the photo I wanted to use. I sent it through when I sent the brief. Debra really liked it. I wasn’t sure, because I know nothing about design. She ended up designing several other concepts, but in the end we circled back to our starting point. She then refined and improved my original ideas, and I absolutely love what she’s done with it. I also know I couldn’t have ever done what she’s done with it myself. (I feel like cover design is kind of like going to a really good restaurant. When I eat out, I don’t want to be served up something I could have made at home. You’re paying for EXPERTISE.) Here’s the thing: I love the fact that Debra was open to using it. But if she had said she wasn’t, I would have been cool with that, too. Point is, I trusted her. 
  2. For NIGHT BEACH and SALTWATER VAMPIRES — I didn’t have starting concepts. I tried and it was all too hard. I had a couple of ideas — a font treatment and some elements I thought might work. What Debra has done is so much more. She’s somehow captured the mood of each story. She did a great job with my starting points and has taken both covers somewhere better.  
  3. Don’t drive yourself, or your designer, mad. It’s like over-drafting your work — beyond a certain point, you are just pressing the humanity out of the thing.  What you’re hoping to capture is an energy. Trying 45 different tiny tweaks to your title isn’t really make or break. 

Okay! Onward :)