A whole week since my last post! What have I been doing all this time? Apart from braving the ice and blizzards to get to work, (not too arduous really as it’s only three miles away and mostly on gritted roads), and enjoying snowy walks in Sutton Park and roaming freely around the golf-course down the road, I’ve been partying with a wonderfully eclectic bunch of bloggers to celebrate the first anniversary of Nicola Morgan’s (aka The Crabbit Old Bat’s) brilliant blog: Help I Need a Publisher.
No, I’m not being offensive – this is her own boast: ‘I am proud to be the first google result for “crabbit old bat”. My aim to help good writers means I’m glad to annoy hopeless ones with my acerbity. I’m with Thomas Mann: “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” ‘
I love that quote – it’s a great comfort when the going gets tough! Before I tell you more about Nicola’s party – I’m posting a picture that reminds me that the sky hasn’t been a continuous murky grey over the last couple of weeks, and because it reminds me of spring blossom.
Also, I want to show you the back cover of Paper Lanterns before you get so enthralled by reading all the interesting comments (186 at last count) and then get absorbed into the maze of amazing links. I was swallowed up for the whole of Sunday and any spare time I’ve had since then.
So take a look at this picture before you scroll down to the link that’ll deflect you from my site (I’m not trying to get rid of you! It’s just that if you’re anything like me, you’ll forget to drop back here again to post a comment too.)
If you haven’t been following my previous posts about the design of my book cover, and how readers have helped me select my final choice, you might need to take a quick look at the recent posts below. It’ll help you to see why I’m so delighted to have this particular scene on the back cover.
And now for the Crabbit Old Bat – I’m going to let her speak for herself, which she’s always ready to do: (a shrinking violet she’s not) –
But before you gatecrash the party, start with the pathetic fallacy: “IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT” (13th January) then soak up the HUGE NUMBER of helpful hints in WHERE DOES A STORY BEGIN, (12th Jan)
and THEN you’ll have earned your right to pick your way through the clusters of streamers and deflating balloons as you open new links to the blogs of the guests at Nicola’s Party
Now that the designer has sent me the finished cover for Paper Lanterns, I can reveal which was the one that most people preferred. (If you’re new to this site, you might like to scroll down to the previous posts for information about the results of my Book Cover Design Challenge.)
As I’ve said in the post below, my own favourite was number seven. I loved the sea and the boats with the hills in the background (incidentally this part was based on one of my own photos from my recent visit to Lamma island, and a scene in Paper Lanterns takes place on this this beach.)
I liked the subtle way that the view of an English wood merged with the sea shore, while the tunnel through the trees on the bottom left gave the almost surreal impression that if you followed it, you might emerge on the hills on other side of the bay. (This was also based on one of my photos of a place that features in the novel.)
And here is a selection of what 23 other people said in support of my favourite:
- “ It is cleaner and crisper than the others but still conveys the Hong Kong angle and the green of mystery.”
-“I find number 7 interesting. If this book moves from Far East to England , (or vice versa), intends to take me down a tree-lined past, put me on a junk in some hidden bay -then the cover has got me fantasising. I shall read it anyway.”
-“cover seven is best for these reasons: a)Absence of sea shore in upper part gives greater sense of openness, freedom, mystery ,etc Also less cluttered (b) horizontal divide more pleasing (c) slight fuzzyness of transition also pleasing as paradoxically allows more distinction to be made between scenes (d) Nice vivid green colour in lower picture pleasing as gives refreshing feel of early summer”
-“ I think the colours work well and portray a bit more of the dark/light side of the book that you mention.”
-“I like cover 7 best, because it’s the most simple one – the text looks great and I do like the overall layout. “
BUT I COULDN’T IGNORE THE 84 PEOPLE WHO WANTED NUMBER 3 TO BE THE COVER FOR PAPER LANTERNS because:
-”I feel it stands out the most, very atmostpheric and sophisticated and covers most of the criteria you had stipulated.”
-“I think it’s probably because there is a tie up between the title and the picture that I don’t have to think about too much. In my experience, the average browser doesn’t have time to stand in a bookshop mulling over covers. They’ll go for the obvious. And no 3 is striking”
“I should go for number 3: honest, mood-evoking, promise of emotions not suspected…I’ll be looking forward to reading the book!”
-“I feel very strongly that no 3 is the best. I think it’s the clearest, most striking and it’s also quite reminiscent of Kate Morton’s covers (top half) and looking like a bestseller won’t do you any harm!”
-“…the one which to me is absolutely outstanding is cover number 3 - it is the only cover with lanterns on it; as there are 3 lanterns and your main characters are drawn from 3 generations, so there is symbolism in the imagery. Also the 3 generations of women in your story are central to the novel, and the 3 lanterns are central to the cover. For me, it far outshone the rest…”
-“….The lanterns allude to the title , but are not too much the red/gold/fringed chinese-restaurant-cliche type, which avoids your worry that the cover might suggest a more native-chinese theme. And the line they draw across the page reflects the separation of the 2 locales in a clearer way than the soft-focus divisions of the others.”
-“The lanterns are obvious… but …we view them from indoors. This suggests that we look past them to what is offered beyond the frame. I also like the trees better in number 3. You get a suggestion of ‘darkness to light’ and they look more quintessentially English than some of the others. You also get the contrast of the light and heat of the Orient with the more temperate summer weather in the other picture. This suggests different sorts of emotional intensity and experience…”
A big THANK YOU to everyone who took part in this challenge.
Although I still like number seven as a picture in its own right, I now feel that the one chosen by the majority is the best one for my book. But I was thrilled when the designer sent me the full cover version.
When you see the back cover you’ll understand why!
If you haven’t yet read about the Bookcrossers taking the winning numbers out of my hat, click here, or scroll down to read the previous post. (If you haven’t been aware of my Book Cover Design Challenge, you can find it in the Category on the right: COVER DESIGN for Paper Lanterns)
Before I’d set out on our publishing venture, Novel Press (click here for more info on this) I’d never paid much attention to the covers of books – I’d just assumed that I followed the general wisdom: ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Now I’ve learned otherwise. And lots of what I’ve learned about the importance of a book’s cover has come from the comments made by the one hundred and fifty (plus or minus) entrants.
As I’ve said below, there was one clear winner of all the seven on display, and this was the one that originally I’d liked least of all, and which has generated some of the most interesting comments.
In the time honoured manner of awards ceremonies, I’ll start at the bottom of the list of the chosen covers.
Cover Number 6 was selected by 3 people:
“ …it has a hint of mystery in the blurred woodland image, hinting at possible hidden past events, yet with the much clearer focus on the tunnel leading to light. We think it portrays an optimistic clear path ahead out of troubled times. The designer’s done a good job on all of them. I’m sure any would attract interest.”.
“I felt the 2 scenes contrasted yet merged better in that one.”
Cover Number 1 was selected by 8 people:
“I love the balance and the way it draws the eye, especially to the bottom left corner. This cover also feels more balanced with the book title just a little lower than in most of the other cover. Though cover 6 uses the same images, it doesn’t draw the eye in quite the same way.”
Cover Number 2 was selected by 10 people:
“I like the “strength” transmitted from the pushing of the central tree as if the light was the breaking of a new day/episode/a change in someone’s life.”
“Apart from the upper HK water vista - which does have beauty, peace and a sense of cover energy, it is the highest strength of the light intensity of sun beams through the trees in the lower half. A lit , wooded scene conveys both intrigue, an air of menace and loss but also, from the light intensity a real level of hope, peace and optimistic energy for the unknown ahead.”
Cover Number 5 was selected by 12 people:
“… number 5 like the perfume - I liked the layers of water and trees, possibly reflecting the complexity/combining of characters/cultures. I liked the sunshine/optimism of the trees too.”
“I think that this cover offers the best balance between both images and the forest scene looks far more magical than the garden scenes.”
“ it has a deeper sense of mystery in the image of the woods than the others (apart from number 2 which is slightly more cluttered”
Cover Number 4 was in 3rd place, selected by 21 people:
“4 avoids the ‘where are the lanterns?’ question but more importantly it hits the darker hints button best, matching the cover quote. The others seem too light to me.”
“Two worlds. Relevant detail leads on expectation.”
“Ithink you probably like 4 best as it has a stronger sense of moving between dark and light than some of the others, and the woodland scene is more English-feeling.”
“Beautiful without being too literal, I like the balance of colours and images.”
“Cover 4 – the others are too bright or too little contrast, the one with the black (3) is very literal but nevertheless would be my second choice. Cover 4 has subtlety and suggests a quiet dignity, with the small area of bright light in the centre contrasting to also suggest undercurrents of passion”
My next post will reveal the winning cover (which has been slightly altered) and some of the comments on this and on my own original favourite
If you’ve missed taking parting my Book Cover Design Challenge, you can still see the seven covers by clicking here.Even if you did receive one of the one hundred and fifty five I.D. numbers that I sent out to each entrant, you might want to remind yourself of the other pictures.
This afternoon I spent a happy couple of hours in Hudson’s Coffee House in the middle of Birmingham, drinking hot chocolate and chatting with a group of Bookcrossers. Because five of those I.D. numbers were going to be randomly selected, I wanted to make sure that all the entrants would know that everything had been conducted in a fair and proper manner,
so five of the group each drew one number out of the nice warm hat I’d been wearing:
From left to right: Matth3w, LyzzyBee, Heaven-Ali, Paraglider(that’s me!) Megmac and Nordie. (the little strips of paper they are all holding are the winning ID numbers)
With a big THANK YOU to Beckydore for volunteering to take this photo!
The winners (who will receive a free copy of Paper Lanterns as soon as it’s ready in a few weeks’ time) are:
ID no.16, Marilyn Ricci from Soundswrite, Leicester poetry group)
ID no. 27, Giles Osborne (from Cannon Poets, where I first ‘came out’ as a poet)
ID no. 51, Helena Brooke Carter (a friend from our long-ago school days)
ID no. 66, John Payne (latest book: The West Country: a cultural history )
ID no. 153, Sarah Jakeman, a gifted novelist and friend
When I set up this challenge, I didn’t want to ask people to vote for their own favourite, because I already knew which one I was going to use. Therefore, the only fair question seemed to be, ‘Which cover do you think that the author likes best?’
As an after thought, I added (truthfully) that I’d also be interested in hearing their views. Although I also said, ‘I might need to think again if enough people choose a different version!’ it honestly hadn’t entered my head that I might have to do just that!
Although I was delighted by the quality and thoughtfulness of the responses, I was becoming increasingly uneasy with each new entry – the cover which I had liked the least was leading the field from the start with seven out of the first ten entries.
I tried to convince myself that this would change as more entries came through, and I clung to that hope while 17 out of 30, then 22 out of 40, 26 of 50 and 32 of 60 consistently followed that preference. By the time the 100th came through, and 56 people had selected that same one, I knew I had to take notice of what was being said.
‘It’s your book, you should use the one you want,’ my friends said, but my brain doesn’t work like that. I can start off by being very clear about my own opinions on all sorts of things, but when I’m presented with other views on the matter, I look more closely at the basis for my decision in the first place and try to weigh up the various pros and cons.
In this particular case, one of the things I hadn’t fully considered was the importance of the instant impact: one of the main purposes of the front cover of a novel is to attract the attention of the viewer - either in the bookshop, where they’ll pick up the book itself, turn it over, read the blurb and the first page, or on-line, where they might scroll down for more information, and maybe click on Paypal, and add it to their basket.
I’ll be posting more soon about the different choices and comments, and why I had to change my mind, but didn’t mind it.
Friday 20th November UPDATE for my COVER DESIGN CHALLENGE!
(Lots of interesting responses so far - these are sent straight to my email and don’t show up on this site. CLOSING DATE: 31st December)
START of the orignal post from Tuesday 18th Nov
At long last I’ve managed to upload the seven versions of the front cover for Paper Lanterns,thanks to my sister, Jo.(Scroll down to the end of this post to see why!)
Enter this Challenge and you could win one of the FIVE FREE copies of this novel. All you need to do to, is answer this question:
WHICH OF THESE POSSIBLE COVERS DO YOU THINK THE AUTHOR LIKES BEST?
• Scroll down to see the information which I sent to the designer to let him know the kind of thing I wanted ( Ideas for the Designer)
CLICK HERE to see THE ‘THUMBNAIL’ SIZE PICTURES OF THE SEVEN COVERS. (To see slightly larger versions of each individual cover*, click on each one, OR click the small box on the top left where it says, Slide Show.)
• When you have selected the cover, you think I like best, CLICK HERE to tell me your decision (this will be sent direct to my email)
Please write ‘Cover Design’ in the ‘subject’ box.
In the ‘your Message’ box, state the number of the cover you’ve chosen and make any comments - Although I’ve got my favourite, I might need to think again if enough people choose a different version!
(*The text on the cover says:
“Certainties are shattered as past and present inexorably unfold –
a deeply moving and unusual novel”Crysse Morrison, author of Frozen Summer and Sleeping in Sand)
Ideas sent to Designer,(Ian Hughes at Mousemat Design) for the front cover design for Paper Lanterns:
“I’d like it to convey that the overall mood of the book is largely optimistic, in spite of the fact that each of the three main characters have suffered loss and disappointment in their lives. I’d want there to be a hint of darkness/sadness -maybe darker green+ brown, but moving towards much lighter greens and blues.
Although the majority of the ‘real time’ action takes part in contemporary Hong Kong, I don’t want the cover to give the impression that it’s about the Chinese – as the main characters are all British, with attitudes and lifestyles to suit.
On the other hand, as I indicate in the blurb, HK itself is an important element in the story – both the contemporary one, and her grandmother’s love story from the 1930s.
Because of the book’s title, it could be easy just to plump for some images of paper lanterns, but if possible I’d like something (either abstract or representational) which can also refer back to, or hint at a key event in Ann’s life (aged 15/16) that led to the break-up of the family. The nearby woodland/park , and English trees in general, are quite significant in this particular story line.”
To find out more about my publishing venture, NOVEL PRESS, scroll down to read the previous post, Judging a Cover by its Book
Why I’m grateful to my sister, Jo
I was at my mother’s house in Sussex last weekend, and Jo, who lives on an organic farm in Cornwall, was there at the same time. We don’t see each other very often, so it was lovely to catch up on all our news. We stayed up late on Saturday night and she very patiently showed me how to use to Picasa, a user-friendly photo management site.
Yes, it IS the cover that I’ll be inviting people to judge, with a chance of winning one of five copies of my new novel, Paper Lanterns. (More about this below)
I’ve been learning a huge amount about the nitty gritty of publishing since Novel Press was dreamed into existence by our talented writing group. We met each other on the M.A. Writing course at Nottingham Trent University in the late nineties and a small group of us still meet regularly to critique each other’s ‘Work In Progress’.
I was lucky enough to have my novel,The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, published by Transita. Unfortunately, after bringing out thirty-two novels in under two years, they had to pull back from publishing fiction, and focus on their other business, HowTo Books.
We began to realise that the state of publishing was even more restrictive than when my book was launched four years ago, and after much discussion we decided to retain our own authorial autonomy and start a publishing house, Novel Press. I won’t go into all that just now, because there’s more than enough material for several future posts, and at the moment, I want to focus on my new novel Paper Lanterns – or more precisely, on selecting on the best front cover for it. Click here for a sneak preview, written by Bookcrosser, Lyzzybee.
In her ‘ordinary life’, Liz has started a second career with her new Editing Service. She’s done a brilliant job, copy-editing Paper Lanterns. (more of that in a future post)
‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is supposed to be the accepted wisdom, but I must admit that if I’m presented with a range of books, cover-side up, it’s the cover that will entice my hand to reach out for it. Certainly, this is only the start: next, I tend to read the information on the back, and then flick through the first few pages, but if I hadn’t picked it up in the first place…
There’s lots more to be said about covers: the way they help to indicate genre is just the start of it. Beyond that, I’d never really given much thought to book covers in general. When Transita sent me the proposed cover for The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, I loved it (even though the window was the wrong sort), and if I’d been asked to suggest an alternative idea, I wouldn’t have known what to say. When it came out in a large print version in 2008, I wasn’t at all keen on that cover.
When I was in charge of every stage of the process myself (with a little help from my fellow writers at Novel Press) I began to look at the question of the cover in a different light. We’d chosen Mousemat Design, because they’d produced a majority of the Transita covers.
My task was to supply Ian Hughes with enough information about my novel for him to create the perfect cover. A tall order indeed. You can read a short description on My Novel page, but I felt that he would need to know more about what I was hoping for.
Within a very short time, he had emailed me three possible versions and I was delighted to see that he was heading in the right direction. Then followed three further versions, and finally, a seventh.
The Cover Design Challenge for readers is simple:
1) Keep an eye on this website to see when I’ve managed to upload all versions of a possible front cover (or follow me on Twitter or Face Book for updates.)
2) When The Cover Design Challenge is ready to go, all you need to do is to read the extra information that I sent to the designer and will post on my site together with the pictures, and then:
3) Look at all these pictures and answer this simple question:
WHICH OF THESE POSSIBLE COVERS DO YOU THINK THE AUTHOR LIKES BEST?
I’ll be very interested in your comments, and although I’ve got my favourite, I might need to think again if enough people choose a different version.
Each entry will be given a number as they arrive, and five of these will be drawn at random. The lucky winners will be contacted and will be sent a free copy of Paper Lanterns when it is published early in 2010