Gestation of a Book Cover

Jul 25, 2019

Books, just like kids, adapt and change their outside appearance as they grow to maturity. It’s still very much the same inside, but the outside goes through significant changes as they develop.  And that’s how it’s has been with my latest book due for publication mid-September 2019.

It started as Fairy Tales for Grownups, a title while still appeals a lot to me today. It may well transform into quite another book itself as it carries a mystery and intrigue more appropriate to other content and themes.

As the current book grew, it developed with sombre and serious themes. Trickery and Machiavellian methods in modern society surface and the concept of fairy stories, while still apt, was not as a sufficiently dark level to accurately reflect the plots and nefarious duplicity.

The title changed to Deception for Power and Profit – short, sharp and relevant.​

The material was turning out to be for more than anticipated. Once the research really got into gear, a great deal more than expected floated into focus and on to the page. This was going to be a door-stopper if it ended up as one book. And so, there was another change. It would be split into three sections, and these would be published as short-ish eBooks. A series of separate covers were developed, and these can be seen reflected in earlier posts in this blog.

All remained calm for a while. Little could be heard except for the clatter of typing keys and the swish of reference books. Gradually the mountain of words rose upon the page, finally finishing with fifty-four chapters and 120,000 words. That seemed to work okay – giving and average eBook for each section of around 40,000 words equivalent to something like 160 digital ‘pages’.

Then the editing began. Once again, I’m reminded of Mark Twain and his, ‘Had I more time, I should have written less’. Modern-day editors say, ‘Kill your little darlings.’

When you look at that splendidly massive heap of manuscript on your writing desk or screen, you’re much more likely to lean back in your chair and smile smugly, than you are to pull out your editing-sabre and start slashing. An author’s words are like children, and no one in their right mind goes around killing kids. That first glow of a finished manuscript is magical.

Like a young mother cradling her first child, you hold it in your gaze for the first time. Thousands of words march across the pages like battalions of well-drilled soldiers, those words over which you laboured for so many months, appear tinged with some mystical beauty. It’s a natural mystery which both writers and mothers are only too familiar: fulfilment.

Consequently, it’s a tad more than tricky even to notice our mistakes, much less draw razor-sharp red pens and cover the page in bloody amputations. It’s an unfortunate reality, however, that such bloodletting is just about the only way to prevent the predictably long-winded phrases, bloating, and general hubris that inevitably find their way into all of our first drafts.

This is the point it should quickly go to your editor. You are in no fit state to be in control anymore. You are very much ‘under-the-influence’ as the police would have it.

Nobody likes red-lines all over their work. You didn’t like it when your teacher at school did it, and you certainly don’t appreciate your editor’s efforts – after all, you are the one who’s footing that bill! After the initial shell-shock, you know they are right. Lingering author’s PTSD will never entirely disappear, but the remaining manuscript has undoubtedly improved. Hopefully, your ugly duckling has grown into a beautiful swan.

And so, it was, my 120k words were reduced by a third to just over 80k. Trimmed of stodgy fat, now fully fit, it was in full racing trim. But, there’s always a but, isn’t there – it was a mite short for a three-eBook series. Change gear again, the three sections remain but get merged into a single one book, both in digital and print format. This means those book covers go out the window – more darling atrocities.

While it was all passing through the torture-mill of editing, I’d begun to have doubts about that title. There was always a tagline: What You Don’t Know About What You Think You Do. A sneaky little thought popped into the back door of my brain, could this be a better main title? No, of course not, much too long. But the thought wouldn’t go away. There was only one thing to do – market research. It got trotted around friends, on and offline, and the upshot was the title and tagline got flipped.

The new cover for the single book started to form. It was a significant improvement on the earlier series versions. Focusing on the print version first, I ended up with the one still seen on this home-page of this website. I still like it today. But it would never work in a digital version which would eclipse Pinocchio and lose the surprise as a potential print-book reader switched on to the front and back cover-connection. Ebooks don’t have back covers, back to the drawing board.

The latest incarnation is what you see at the beginning of this post. It still has a lot of the mood from the earlier print-book version along with the essential asset of being suitable for digital. So, there you have it, that is where we are today. Tomorrow, who knows?

There could be something very different about you as an author or your book if, during gestation, it never changes. Sometimes such metamorphosis is dramatic. This should not worry you. It’s quite normal and, as I have found, even healthy. Let your work grow. Listen to its vibes.

Both of you will be the better for it.

1 Comment

  1. Ginny Stipton

    Strange, isn’t it? When we first come up with something we think is worthwhile, we feel it couldn’t be improved. Yet when you take another look at it first this next day you can see all the typos, warts and all. No wonder there are so many misunderstandings with email. Good luck with the book. It looks interesting.

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