Creative control of my own work is a truly glorious feeling. Yes, it has its scary moments, but I trust my own judgement and that of the team I have assembled to bring my books to life. The editors, the proofreaders, the designer, the artist and the readers. I also trust the people who sell the book and place great value on their opinions.
I’ve published three paperbacks.
Book One, Behind Closed Doors, is my bestseller. Possibly because it’s a Zurich-set crime novel, and has the powerful support of local bookshops, which in turn attract Swiss bookclubs, who recommend it to their friends and so on. Word of mouth.
Book Three, Tread Softly, sells almost as well. This one, which deals with crime and corruption in Rioja country, found a curious market via the wine trade. Good job I took my research so seriously. I know from booksellers that the cover is a major attraction. People stroke it.
Now what has happened to Book Two – Raw Material?
The story works – the feedback tells me it’s a favourite – and the ebook is selling on a par with the other two. So why is the paperback selling 50% fewer copies than the others?
I asked questions. Readers and booksellers alike told me that the cover simply didn’t carry the same appeal. Now, I love that cover. I commissioned it from the same brilliant artist who painted books one and three. But whether I love it or not is immaterial. If it doesn’t appeal to readers, I need to make a change.
Thankfully, I can. No one else but me can decide what my books look like. I talked to cover artist James, and we discussed why the original image wasn’t sufficiently alluring. The dawn beach scene illustrates a moment from the book, although the majority of the story is set in London. My other two covers create an atmosphere – they don’t try to tell the story. The cover image should trigger the reader’s imagination, not replace it.
Because James is one of the coolest people I know, he took this in the same spirit as I had and threw his energy into finding an image that would work. We referenced the work of Edward Hopper and drew on the observatory nature of his work. The themes of Raw Material are all about watching, covetousness and interpretation. James has an incredible skill with light and shade, which also played into the final image.
We bounced ideas and sketches between Switzerland and California before finally agreeing on composition, colour and atmosphere. When he’d finished, I squeaked with glee and genius graphic designer JD Smith worked her magic in adding the final elements.
So here it is. The new-look paperback cover of Raw Material.
With heartfelt thanks to James Lane, whose video of the painting can be found here – 90 seconds of creative process to the noir feel of Gavin Bryars.