In a recent post, I talked about the excitement of seeing the first hardback copies of my book. Another lovely part of the pre-publication process was finalising the cover design.
I’ve been surprised over the past few months by the number of people who’ve asked if I designed the cover myself.
Once and for all, no, I did not.
If I had, the cover wouldn’t look like this: It would probably look more like this:
Authors generally don’t have much input at all into the cover design process, which is the way it should be. We don’t know the market the way publishers do, we don’t know what will sell, and I suspect many authors lack my artistic flair (see above).
I was apprehensive when I received an e-mail last July with the subject heading ‘Cover for THE VIEW ON THE WAY DOWN’. Thankfully, the attached image was gorgeous. Here it is, in its earliest form, the first version I ever saw:
Responsible for my cover design was Jo Thomson at Picador, aided by discussion with the rest of the Picador team, including my editors Francesca and Sophie. Francesca explained at the time that they wanted something beautiful without it looking overly whimsical, nor off-puttingly serious and bleak. I think they struck this delicate balance wonderfully. The darkness of the image chimes with the bleakness of some of the book’s content, but I like that there’s also a suggestion of joy in the soaring image of the boy on the swing – he’s on the tipping point between carefree and reckless, and I love the ominous silhouette of the tree branches reaching up towards him. Like the supervillain Two-Face, my novel has two co-existing aspects – sadness and joy – and I’m glad that the cover makes room for both.
But we weren’t finished yet, because now we come to the ongoing saga of The Font, also known as Fontgate. Please take another moment to appreciate the final cover image. ADMIRE IT. I don’t know how to get across the amount of discussion and agonising that went into choosing it.
The ‘handwritten’ font in the original image appealed because it fitted well with the parts of the book which are narrated through letters, but somehow its swirly, looping nature didn’t seem to suit the tone of the novel – it looked a little too playful or romantic. Next, the Picador team experimented with a couple of starker, bolder fonts (pictured below).
Then there was much debate, and canvassing of opinions from friends and family, as my agent Caroline and I tried to decide which we preferred out of the three options we now had. In the end, I got to a stage where all the fonts in the world were starting to look the same to me. Eventually I gave up, deciding to be guided by Caroline and Picador in what we chose.
Instantly, I adored it, and I still do. I love its jaggedness – it’s eye-catching and faintly unsettling, whilst still retaining the hand-written element. In the final version, the colours also became brighter and more vivid (I particularly like the yellow pop of the final cover).
I’m delighted to have a cover I love. I finally met the designer Jo at a Picador event a few months after first seeing the cover, and I’m pretty sure I was the more excited of the two of us.