Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water, the double bass notes from a sinister cello sound and it's time to sort out the cover copy for Book 3. This is the bit that gives me the biggest headache, OK, maybe not as big as the book itself, but it's still... And maybe not as big as the whole title debackle -- bloody, sodding, bleeding titles* -- but it's on a par with the cover thing... well, slightly less than the cover, but it's still up there in the Top 4 Things That Cause Stuart Grief When It Comes To Books.
I know I'm a bit obsessive about getting stuff like this right, but darn and twizzle, it's important. What's the first thing a new reader sees -- the cover. Has to be good enough to make them pick it up (this is assuming that they've not already heard great things about you / your book from their friend / lover / goat) and read the title. And if that sucks, the book goes back on the shelf. Next up is the cover copy and the reviews. And only after you've passed all those tests will they venture into the depths of the actual book.
Which is kinda odd: the most important thing should be the quality of the writing on the inside of a book, but most of the burning hoops have to be jumped through by what's on the outside. And those are the bits that your average writer has the least control over.
Take the US cover for Dying Light -- it was going to be red to start with, then they showed it to booksellers and a certain huge chain that begins with the letter B said they'd take 'X' amount with the red cover. But if St. Martin's made it blue instead they'd take 'Y'. Where 'Y' is a number a hell of a lot bigger than 'X'. So St. Martin's said, "Can do!" And quite bloody right too -- the cover is there to sell copies, and if they'd changed it to neon pink in order to do that, I'd have no problem with it.
This is why I become such a pain in my publishers' backsides when it comes to packaging the book. I want the thing to sell as many copies as possible, because it means more people are reading the stuff (which is incredibly cool), and the publishers get a good return on their investment, and maybe I get to play at being a write-ists for a little bit longer.
There are those who say that writers should be above all that, that your job should be to make sure the book is as good as possible and that's it. Well, by the time the packaging is going on, the books already done. Bar the odd tiny tweak -- which I'll keep making right up until the wire, because I'm a nuisance -- that sucker's done and dusted and come away in, you'll have had your tea. And if you're not prepared to stick your finger in the pie you can't complain about what comes out the other end. Let's face it, we've all seen books that look like the other end they've come out of belongs to a dog.**
So, today I shall be mostly wracking what little brain I have and trying to come up with the kind of cover copy that will make the angels themselves weep, like the big, sissy, girls' blouses that they are. That and wait for the boiler man to come round and give it a good service. Ooh, you like that, don't you, you're a dirty central heating system! Spank me, spank me!
* I've recently met authors who are so fed up of fighting with their publishers' marketing departments that they now just call their books, "Book 8" and let the Marketing Monsters come up with a title if they're so damn clever. That'll teach them.
** Much like that sentence.