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The Undercover Cover Mission

Book covers are such a big deal. They are! And yet, most readers have no idea how a book cover comes together.

I am fortunate – most of my writer friends who work with big publishers aren’t even consulted about the look of their book. That decision is made by designers and sales teams and surprisingly, booksellers also sometimes have a say.

Now, my situation is different. I’m with a small independent publisher (https://www.cranachanpublishing.co.uk/) and everything there is about collaboration. The editing process is a two-way thing, as is anything to do with design. At the core of this whole publishing thing, for me, is a relationship where both sides work hard to achieve the best book possible

I am very lucky that in Cranachan, I have found people who are like-minded and excited about the same type of stories as I am. Here is how it generally works.

Step 1: As I write, I begin to collect images which may work for the story – I have a Pinterest board for Black Water. On it is all sorts of smuggling related stuff: horses’ hooves splashing through water, silhouettes of different ships, night-time shots of seaside views, barrels, muskets, flintlock pistols – you get the idea.

Step 2: This board is shared with the publishers and we begin a conversation. What is going to hook a reader? Which core image is going to draw them in? As covers really also have to work as a thumbnail, ideally you want a prominent title, a single image which is still recognisable as a shrunk-down thumbnail – and something attractive which conveys an atmosphere. WE decided that the stranded smuggling ship was going to be that image.

Step 3: The designer gets back to you with some option of the type of picture we could go for. A lengthy phone call follows. Invariably, both sides will have favourites. With my previous book, I needed a bit of convincing about the cover, but I love it now. The truth is, I trust their judgement. They tend to know what sells, and I need my book to sell.

Step 4: We agree on a basic option. In the case of Black Water, this happened pretty quickly. The slanted ship silhouette looked like it was looming over you, threatening you, as if you’re in the water like Henry, my main character is. A silhouette in itself is menacing and enigmatic.

Step 5: All that remained now was to decide on a backdrop. As with the original designs, I could have lived with several of these, but in the end, the top choice was unanimous between the three core decision-makers.

And you know what? I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! I love the sea colours and the black. I love the font. I love the circling gulls and I love the sea-spray, rendering the book a wee bit messy-looking – as if it’s just been plucked from an adventure.

Yes!That was the vibe we were after!

Thank you to Barbara for writing such an exciting post about the steps involved in choosing the cover of her book. Please continue to read for my review!

I took Black Water away for half term and was so pleased I did. It was highly readable and enjoyable. It was also short enough so I could devour it in one evening. It is fast paced and exciting, full of facts, legends and secrets.

Henry is brought up with a strict father who is intent on following the rules and keeping a firm hand on the smugglers that run in their area. Danger lurks all around them, with the swirling black waters, fear from his fathers hand and the unknown dangers of the smugglers and their weapons. As a reader my heart was in my throat waiting to see what would happen. The story is set over a period of a few days and Henry is sent from danger to danger trying to prove himself to his father.

Informants running wild, guns drawn and sinking sands ensure the story maintains its excitement, even when famous poet Robert Burns joins the hunt for smugglers. When a large smuggling ship is moored off the coast, it is up to the men to retrieve the items and capture the men on board. All does not go to plan!

It is an incredible story. I loved the history, the culture and the real life details included.

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