Curly Covers; or, the Secret Talents of Authors

One of the fun bits of publishing that readers don’t usually see is the process of working up the cover design. We produce a design brief and the artist or designer will provide some rough ideas which we can discuss and also share with the author. Our forthcoming title The Ballad of Curly Oswald is set in a hippie commune in the 1970s, and the mix of domesticity and drug culture was one of the themes that showed up in the very first concepts.

BCO image1 BCO image3 BCO Cover Mockup v1

Ignoring our designer’s wayward spelling for a moment, this is the stage where we start to think what we do want by seeing examples of what we don’t – from this batch, we said no to the fonts but yes to exploring the idea of an abandoned caravan, which picks up the theme of the narrator, Curly Oswald, recalling his lost childhood, and the idea of an abandoned caravan that had been his childhood home waiting to be rediscovered in the depths of an English forest.

But then the mysterious author – we still have no idea who Curly is or where he or she is based – offered us some idea of her or his own. (We should perhaps have guessed they might be good, as the Curly character grows up to be a designer himself.)

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The left one perhaps falls into the ever-present trap of trying to tell too much of the story (what we call the Agatha Christie Cover syndrome – that’s for another post) but we simply couldn’t improve on the one on the right (save some tweaking of the title).  And you’ll be able to judge for yourself when the book is out next month. (Pre-order yours now!)

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Explaining Cameron’s Comeback: A Cover Conundrum

We’ve been working on another cover design conundrum. After each general election, Sir Robert Worcester – doyen of political analysis and opinion polling – joins with his colleagues at MORI to produce the definitive guide to the campaign and the underlying trends behind the outcome. The series dates back to 1997 and we’re proud to be publishing the latest in the series, Explaining Cameron’s Comeback, in January.

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But how to maintain some continuity with the previous four books in the series, while also coming up with a fresh and striking look? We wanted to keep the cartoon theme – but oddly, there are very few political cartoonists who have really ‘got’ David Cameron (and those that have caught something of his essence, such as Stve Bell, are a little bit too scathing – and rude – for our purposes)
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In the end, we’ve gone for a riff on the second design – a really bod, authoritative title, but with the cartoon – by The Times’ Peter Brookes – to reflect the way the content is very accessible and has wry touches of humour too. And we found a fun new font – Newsflash BB – to give the title a bit of distinction. And it always helps to have a couple of big names giving their endorsements on the front cover to round it off!

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First Look at the cover for Latitude North

Latitude North Cover A v3The midnight sun burns out over Spitsbergen in the dramatic cover for Charles Moseley’s Latitude North, due out this autumn. The original image is from a nineteenth century photochrom print entitled “Midnight Sun over Advent Bay, Spitzbergen, Norway”, and it captures the sense of difference and wonder that is part of the charm of the book itself. A couple of final tweaks (notice how we have spelt photochrom with an ‘e’ on the leaf!) and the book is off to the printers next week.

Robin Cook

Robin CookIt’s been an odd experience to be finalising ‘Robin Cook: Principles and Power’ against the backdrop of the Labour leadership election. Whether it’s Europe, or multiculturalism, or the situation in Syria, we keep thinking ‘what would Robin have said?’, or found passages in the text that resonated powerfully on these contemporary issues.

But we’ve avoided the temptation to speculate on who Robin, one of the great Labour leaders of the previous generation, would have supported this time round (or, had he lived, whether he might have become leader himself after Blair, or Brown – and whether history might then have been very different…).

Hopefully this hasn’t distracted our designers and proof-readers. We’re really pleased with the cover – when we came across this image we knew it was just right, and only needed a plain title (in Helvetica, with a hint of New Labour) to round it off.

Available for pre-order from 1 July, and published on 6 August.

Matt Kindt – Working on Worrals

Worrals on the War path - the original cover

Worrals on the War path – the original cover

The original illustrations for Worrals have a period charm, but we wanted something more contemporary and exciting that still respected the time when the books are set. So we were delighted when the award-winning graphic novelist Matt Kindt agreed to work with us. His own books, particularly Super Spy, showed he had just the right feel for the 1940s while using a much more dynamic and informal approach.

We started with Matt’s first pencils of how he thought Worrals might look. Once we were happy that he’d caught the character, we found six of the most dramatic scenes from the book itself and Matt came back with some prelim sketches. Matt also came up with a great design for the cover, including Worrals’ trusty side-kick Frecks. (Long-time fans of Worrals may not recall exactly this scene from the book, but we felt it was just the kind of scrape that Worrals would get into.)

Worrals of the WAAF-interior prelims  Worrals of the RAF prelim cover mockupWorrals of the WAAF - the new Matt Kindt cover

All this involved a lot of emails, but it’s surprising how you can still find the same wavelength as artists even without ever meeting (or in the case of other artists we’re collaborating with, without ever even speaking). Partly that’s because Matt is a delight to work with and a real professional. But also the Worrals stories are a joy – a project we all love to be part of. And we hope the final result will meet with the approval of Worrals fans, old and new.