Month: August 2014

Judging a Book by its Cover

newbookcoverIt is a truism that we make decisions based on first impressions and nothing is more true than with books. In the old days, when people stepped inside those strange shops that had shelves attached to every conceivable piece of wall space and loaded them with books, the wordy tomes could be opened and examined at random. A sense of what the book was about could be gleaned from fanning the pages, and by feeling the texture of the paper or gauging the weight and the quality of the printed article. An emotional attachment started to be made with the book and a desire to own it began, before it was reluctantly returned to the shelf because the price was too high or other priorities called upon the few pennies available in one’s pocket. However, everything other than the cover was secondary to the buying decision making process; the cover is what makes it a purchase or not.

With the Internet as the main method of book purchase these days, the cover has never been more important. We glance at a thumbnail and are either intrigued or not. If we are, a click of the mouse brings up a larger image and a value judgement is made. Is it the right one? Who knows, but the author is setting up a promise to its potential reader with the visual statement about what type of thing they can expect to find inside the book. It is that unwritten promise that influences the purchase to happen, or not.

It is interesting to note that once the book is purchased, the cover has finished its job. This is particularly apparent with ebooks for when you open your Kindle, for example, after downloading the digital file, the cover is not even displayed. Not only that, it is very easy to forget the title of the book altogether, for that is not displayed in the top left/right hand corner as it usually is on a paperback.

Although I have self-published my first book, Splidge the Cragflinger – The Royal Tournament and it is available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barns and Noble and at other on-line retailers, I have been reflecting about the cover art. The advice from the self-publishing gurus is not to do it yourself. ‘Get a professional to design your cover!’ they say and in general that is probably good advice. That said, not all professionals are to the standard you may desire and not all of them understand your book or produce art in the style you wish.

I have included illustrations on the inside of my book too. This is also deemed a no-no. The professional gurus have something to say about this too: ‘You must have a professional standard to keep the integrity of your book.’ I am not too sure about that. I wonder how much of this is simply the professionals protecting their industry and income rather than knowing what works with any particular book.

My reason for the last statement is this: Over the years, as a book collector, I have stumbled across sketches inserted into the printed text by the authors, (fiction books mainly), which has not been professionally drawn. However, to me, this adds something extra from the originator of the work of fiction. The author, although not a professional or necessarily a competent artist, is trying to add something to his manuscript to help explain what he sees in his head as part of his creation. I think it has a place.

Also, we are led to believe, beauty (and art) is in the eyes of the beholder. A professional artist brings the results of training, style and hours of learning and practice, which can be excellent and appealing, but they are not from the brain of the author. And to me, a novel in particular, is not the collaboration of more than one person, but generally a single individual’s perception, story and thought. And that is that what I want to see when I buy that authors book.

Does it sell books though if the author’s ‘art’ is on the cover? That, of course, is the million dollar question.

Anyway, I am playing with ideas for my first book’s cover. It is not finished, but you can see it above. I think I shall put the other central characters on the cover too. Will it bring in sales? The advantage of the self-published author is that he/she can experiment and test each cover and gauge how sales rise or fall by swapping covers over a period of time.

Splidge the Cragflinger is the first in a series about a twelve-year-old boy looking for his missing father. To save himself from ending up at the dreaded workhouse, he lands a job with the royal palace as a cragflinger and discovers that the national sport is very much dependant on him that year.

Ten Things You Don’t Know About The Author

Richard on his coracle

My coracle is a traditional style and fun to paddle.

I thought I would share ten things you may not know about the author of the Splidge books:

1. Richard owns a coracle and paddled it on the River Severn in Shropshire.

2. The first town featured in his Bald Explorer TV series is Lewes in East Sussex. It was chosen because of its proximity and its historical significance in Sussex.

3. In 1996 and 1997, Richard wrote, co-produced and starred in a children’s television comedy series on British television entitled ‘Snug and Cozi’. These were the adventurous mishaps of two crazy aliens who crash-land on Earth.

4. In the late 1980s and very early 90s, Richard appeared as a regular background police officer in the ITV series ‘The Bill’. There were three units filming on the same set which at times caused quite a bit of confusion.

5. In his mid-twenties, Richard attended  three courses at the Desmond Jones School of Mime in Shepherds Bush, London. This amounted to a year’s tutoring and he went on to perform mime plays and skits across the UK and abroad.

6. Richard has also learned a number of circus skills from which he made a living on the corporate entertainment circuit. These skills included, juggling, unicycling, fire-eating, stilt-walking, walking on glass, lying on a bed of nails, slack-rope walking and knife throwing!

7. In 2006, Richard caught a bug that began, over a four-year period, to destroy his left eye. It was Acanthamoeba keratitis, an amoeba which ate the cornea, resulting in three cornea transplants, each of which failed to take hold. At the end of July, Richard’s left eye was removed. He now wears a prosthesis.

8. Richard left Forest Boys school, in Horsham, at 15 in the late 1970s, with 8 CSEs (Certificates of Secondary Education). He worked for two and a half years as a reprographics printer before leaving to work in a recording studio.

9. Richard was one of the first four British podcasters in the UK and started recording and uploading a 30 minute comedy podcast show in January 2005. He maintained this daily for 500 shows, then continued with five shows a week until he reached 1800 shows. This podcast ceased in 2012. He won an award for the Best Sounding Tour from the Peoples Podcast Awards in 2005. He continues to record a daily audio journal podcast, a behind-the-scenes look at his life, called The Naked Englishman which commenced in January 2006.

10. Richard’s only vice is books, mostly secondhand history books. These mostly include British history and English social history. He cannot pass a secondhand bookshop without diving in and making a purchase.

Feedback to Book 1

My beta readers are busy digesting the first book in Splidge’s adventures and I thought I would share the results from very enthusiastic reader – aged 7!

I sent a questionnaire to elicit a response from my young readers and this is what one little girl said …

About you
Girl, aged 7

3 favourite books – she’s just mentioned 3 of the most recent ones which are: Crazy cow saves the world well almost (Jeremy Strong), Riddle of the Rajah’s Ruby (Enid Blyton adventure story), Narnia
In general she’ll read anything but loves the adventure stories such as the Famous Five and also lots of the more contemporary things like the Jacqueline Wilson and Jeremy Strong books.

About Splidge
Did you enjoy & fully understand it? Yes

Were there any parts that you felt were missing/ confusing – No

What part did you enjoy most? I liked the bit when Doreen was tied to the roof
Any that you didn’t enjoy? No
How does it compare to other books that you have read? Better (I asked her about this and she said that it was better because it was longer, there was more happening and it was more adventurous).

The Characters
Which characters did you like? King, Doreen and Splidge
Which didn’t you like? (she mentioned the Baron but then said that he was right for the story so although he wasn’t her favourite character you shouldn’t change him)
Was there anything that you wanted to know about? What was Doreen’s father’s name?

The Book
What do you think of the book cover and did it match the story? Yes

Did the blurb tell you enough/ excite you to read the story? I didn’t read the blurb (she never reads the blurb)

Did you like the layout and the font? Yes

What did you think of the pictures/ did they fit the book and would you have liked more? Would have liked more (I think that she’d have been happy without pictures too as many of the books that she reads don’t have pictures).

Were there too many big words or did you understand it all? Understood it all.