Things have been moving along quickly this week. We’ve been giving serious thought to the cover of Dear Isobel. Some parts of it are easy – I have a friend who is a photographer, and he, being a photographer, knows many other photographers. One of his photographer friends shared a photo on her facebook about four years ago and I knew the minute I saw it that I wanted it to be the cover photo for my book. I even went away and wrote a couple of chapters to tie it in. That part was easy. (Despite an overkill of the word photographer.)
(Yes, if I didn’t already mention it, Dear Isobel was started about a thousand years ago. It’s been a slow burn of a book.)
The good news is that my publisher and cover designer both agreed that this photo could work very well, and the even better news is that the wonderful photographer (who has now become my new best friend, obviously) has agreed to let us use it. I am both extremely grateful and extremely excited. I simply can’t imagine the book with any other cover photo (except perhaps one other that the same photographer took at the same time, that may, if I am lucky, grace the back of the book) and after a catalogue of panic where no one could actually find the original photo, and I was begging my photographer friends to restage the whole thing and shoot it again, the photo was retrieved from the depths of technology and is becoming my cover. Literally, as I type: it is currently with the cover designer, who is currently working on it. Right now! (I am a bit excited.)
(Please note that the photo below is NOT the cover, but simply a photo of photography. The cover will be revealed nearer the book’s release date.)
Challenge number one overcome.
And then I got a message from the cover designer: “So, what’s the blurb?”
Yeah right. I thought the frantic hunting down of the photo had been the hard part.
A blurb, as I am sure you know, is the stuff on the back of the book that you read to decide whether you will buy a book. Or not. I knew that.
I only recently learned that there is an art to it. A science. A rule book. This tiny little piece of writing is instrumental to making or breaking book sales, apparently. I suppose I knew that too – I’ve read blurbs and put the book down again. I’ve read other blurbs and taken the book to the till, handed over cold hard cash, brought the book home, and read it. Somewhere in between those extremes are the books of which I’ve liked the blurb enough to carry the book around the shop for an age, usually amongst a tottering pile of other ‘sounds interesting‘ books, but then discarded it at the final hurdle, usually dumping it down in the wrong place, ditched in favour of Better Blurb Book. Guess which option I want Dear Isobel (and all my consequent novels) to fall into. Yep. The one where the book falls into your hands.
A good blurb, I now know, must be no longer than 150 words. Readers who were tempted during the first 150 words will, apparently, change their minds and reject the book if the blurb goes a single letter over 150 words. Okay, I thought… no problem. I can do this. I like writing flash fiction. I’ve won contests for 100 word flash fiction, (published too, just sayin’). 150 words is, in the words of my students, easy peasy lemon squeezy.
In just 150 words, or fewer, but definitely not more, I must deliver the very essence of my book. I must tell you everything you need to know, but without spoilers, or excess baggage. I must hook you in, entice, lure, bribe, if I must, until that book is at teh till, being exchanged for aforementioned cold hard cash. I must boil down 70-something thousand words into fewer than 150. The rules are detailed. The first line should, ideally, include the main character’s name. Oh, great. My main character is un-named. Through the entire book. Another black mark against me producing a super-blurb. And then I need to introduce some high stakes – something the reader NEEDS to know, must find out the answer to, but again, without giving anything away. It’s like walking a tightrope, while juggling knives, while everyone watches. At the time I am bashing out this blog post, my publishing team are batting around ideas, I am batting around ideas, the other 2022 Debut authors I hang around with are batting around ideas, and, with any luck, some of our balls will collide, and one or two will not be hit straight out of the window. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
So now I know all this, I think maybe we SHOULD judge books by their covers after all – there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into getting a good one. I can’t wait to see what we produce for Dear Isobel. Remember, when it finally gets unveiled, that the image you see on the cover is bubbling with a whole overflowing bathtub-sized amount of work and effort and thought and love. And the overwhelming kindness and generosity of two photographers on the other side of the world, whose details I will share below. You know who you are, and youhave my heart.
Then, we have to do it all again for the next book.
Before you go…
Please take a moment to check out these great photographers from New Zealand and show your appreciation:
Because of their skill, generosity, and kindness, Dear Isobel will have the perfect cover photo.
The Covid pandemic has been rough on artists. Any appreciation and support shown will help ensure that we continue to have great artists, photographers, scuptors, writers in the world once this is all over. Thank you.