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Beneath the Covers

If you saw that title and started reading, hoping for some cheeky bedroom tales, then you're going to be a little disappointed. For I am talking about book covers here. Some, I grant you, may well be cheeky in nature and the content beneath them might match what such covers hint at. That's the point, isn't it? A book content should correlate in some way to the expectation that is set out by the cover.

Then we come to the often quoted phrase "You can't judge a book by its cover." Isn't that precisely what we usually do though? When we stand in-front of the offerings on the shelves in our local book shop, or scan through the equivalent online shelves, what is it that causes us to halt our search and consider a purchase? Most probably, it will be something about the cover that appeals to us and prompts us to engage further with the book in question.

Since becoming an indie author, I have learnt a lot about the processes involved in finalizing a cover and there is indeed much to learn and much that I am yet to discover. Luckily, I have encountered people within the #writingcommunity who have been ready to share their expertise and to give advice. When constructing a cover, there are so many elements to consider, from the type and color of the font to finding a suitable image for the genre and content, yet different enough to make it stand out from the crowd. There seems to be no exact science to this decision process and as many differing opinions of what works, as there are books in a library. I guess, like adopting my own style as a writer, I have used the advice and support I have received to develop covers that I am happy with. I can only hope that they do their job in hinting at the contents in a way that entices a reader to open the books.

With all that in mind, I thought I would share the story of what is beneath the cover of my latest release - Polaroids and Petals. This collection of poetry has these main threads running through it -

  • how nostalgia helps us to connect with positive energy

  • the contribution nature can have to our well-being

  • treasured moments shared with the people who matter to us become important memories in our lives

It seemed quite a tall order to capture all of that within one cover image but I think the collaborative effort that ensued has done a pretty good job. I have Rue Sparks to thank first, for molding the fragments of my original idea into a workable concept and later creating the design of the cover. Rue is one of those lovely people from the writing community, who reached out to offer help when I was brave enough to ask for it. I have been very lucky in that regard.

So, next I turned to family to realize the concept by creating the cover photo - from my garbled description into an image that encapsulated so much. A few weeks back, my daughter, Zoe, joined me in a rummage through a tin of old photographs that my mum keeps safely tucked away. There was a lot of conversation that afternoon. I'm sure you have had those moments - working out who some of the people in the fading photographs are, trying to recall the place, the time, the occasion. Some instantly conjured up a different pace of life, all contributed to that feeling of wishing I could just step into the photograph for an hour or two and have a look around, a conversation with those inhabiting the scene and experience a little of the lives they were living. So much material to choose from, but I had my daughter on hand with her artistic flair, to sift out the shots that would tell the best story.

The shots that made it onto the final cover, show 'Polaroid moments' across four generations. There's a family picnic with my maternal grandparents, mum and aunt sharing a rare day in the countryside, away from their London dwelling. It's hard to tell the age of my mum and her sister there, but the happiness of a day out is clear. There are shots of me as a baby, with my paternal grandparents, taking first steps and later on in my childhood. Then there is a snapshot of our wedding day from over thirty years ago and a favorite picture of mine, taken a few years back, where our children are walking along the shore on a beach holiday on the Isle of Wight. Picnics, holidays, school days, family past and present - so much across a few photographs.

My daughter arranged the shot and along with my husband, took many photos of the final arrangement before getting just the right look. The wood paneling in the background was a piece of my children's climbing frame that we have recently dismantled, following many years that they have been too old to use it. The petals scattered across the scene are from the rose we planted in the garden after losing my Dad. They fell softly around the photographs, metaphorically still gently showing his presence in our lives. I'm only sorry that he never got to see any of my books. He would recognize himself in much of their content. Finally, the camera in the shot belongs to my daughter. She has followed the example of my husband, and has the true creative eye of a photographer.

I hope you can see just how much this resulting cover photograph means to me, especially now that you know a little of the story behind it. Rue's chosen lettering add to the retro flavour of the whole and help to conjure up the sense of nostalgia that I was going for. I hope that readers like it, as well as the content once they open up the book. I'll leave it for them to decide whether it was worth pausing to look beneath this cover.

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