The Genesis of a Book Cover

Sometimes you look at something that was fine the day before, and then realise that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t as fine as you first thought. This turns out to be the case with my second novel, Leonard Bliss & the Accountant of the Apocalypse. I’m happy with the book and I’m happy with the cover… but I wasn’t sure that the cover really reflected what the book was about.

20130312-131845.jpgAt it’s heart, Leonard is a comedy, a little dark in some places, a little weird in others, but a comedy nonetheless, and so it needed a cover that was less severe; something a little more whimsical but just as striking as the original. So where do I start?

Well, the cover should also tell the story in my opinion, or at least part of the story. And a story is  about the characters, so I knew that I wanted at least one of the players to feature on the cover. I chose Magdelena because, contrary to the title, the story is really about her and her life (if you can call it that) as the most senior female executive in the HereAfter.

I made another couple of odd choices fairly early on in the process: I wanted the cover to be a completely original piece of work – no stock photos, no composites. And I also wanted it to be a painting. Somewhere between being a prostitute at the time of Christ and  becoming the CEO of Purgatory, Magdelena was an artist, and so  I wanted a book cover that she herself might have painted.

Okay, this is all starting to sound a little bit odd, so let’s get back to something a little more down to earth: the internet; that’s where any search for a cover artist starts these days. Type ‘book cover artist’ into Google, and you will find yourself snowed under a mountain of search results, galleries and site links.  But from a pretty daunting list,  I found I could usually discard most cover artists simply because I didn’t like the website. I binned the next round because they were quite specific to a particular genre, which my book doesn’t really fit into.

So a few days trawling the web, and reading recommendations from a fair number of eBook sites, led me Scribbleleaf, a small outfit (two women, I think) who specialise in  book covers crafted by hand.

And this is where the hard work started, not for me; for Janet who accepted the challenge of painting a new cover for my book.


Now, this sort of design is hard work for both the author and the artist. You start off not knowing exactly what you’re looking for. Ideas are sketched out, discussed, discarded and the process begins again. There’s really no point in being a passenger in something like this; it’s your book so the foundation of an idea has to come from you.

The problem is that once an idea settles in your head, it quickly becomes frighteningly solid, and where once you only have a vague idea of what the cover should look like, now you have a photograph stamped inside your noggin that’s accurate down to the brushstroke. A good artist will understand this, and grit her teeth as you sweat the smallest detail: the position of the lion,   the fact that the telephone doesn’t have a keypad . . .

And it’s scary fun watching the picture take shape. I did wake up late one night, yelling, ‘EYE COLOUR!’

No problem; Janet was all over it. 🙂