Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Every Picture Tells A Story

It has been snowing all day in London, tentatively but with an aimless insistence that puts me in mind of the progress of the cover on my next book, The Magical Detectives.

This is not the one that I have just finished, since a writer is invariably one (or even two) books ahead of his publisher. This one was completed more than six months ago and there has been a long, meandering process of sacked illustrators and torn up art-briefs between then and now. Today, however, I have finally been sent a rough, black and white, pencil drawn cover

The cover, of course, is all important. It is what makes a customer pick up the book in a bookshop. If the illustrator gets it wrong, the book can disappear without trace. Most authors I know have mixed feelings about this. After all, the cover is somebody else’s idea of the story.

It reminds me of an occasion many years ago when I was asked by a tv company to be a judge in a children’s writing competition. There was a lot of work and the money wasn’t spectacular but it seemed like a good project so I agreed. We had to make detailed comments about the winning entries and these had to be agreed with the show’s producers in advance.

All went well. We deliberated and made our decisions. Then about a week before the show was due to be broadcast, the tv company told us that it had been decided that we, the judges, who were after all only children’s writers, didn’t have the star quality the show needed. So instead, a bunch of celebrities would deliver our judgements and make our comments to the camera.

I didn’t particularly care. I have no hunger to appear on tv but it did grate when I learned that the celebrity chosen to deliver my particular comments was a tv presenter whom I had always found to be extraordinarily annoying. Everything about him irritated me but it was his voice that really got on my nerves.

It is much more difficult to bear when it's your novel that is being presented to the world in a manner that you find wholly unsympathetic. But as an author there’s not much you can do about it, except hope that it’s only you who finds the cover as attractive as an over-paid celebrity with an adenoidal voice.

Fortunately, in this case I am optimistic. I have seen a number of examples of the illustrator’s work and they all strike me as just right for my book. And the rough artwork looks promising, though colour and detail will make all the difference. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that when I finally hold the book in my hand I will be proud of someone else’s work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.